Sunday, June 21, 2009

My talk at my mom's funeral June 18, 2009

A little more than a month ago, I had the great blessing of speaking
in church on Mother's Day with my mother in the audience. She loved
the talk, of course she seemed to love everything I did. Still, since I
didn't have much time to prepare and I know she approves I'm going to
give much of that talk today. And I can see so clearly in my mind's
eye the memory of her sitting in a church much like this, beaming up
at me.

I want to begin with a poem about a parent's love by Robert Hayden.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices.

My mom loved this poem because it reminded her of own father, who
built fires in the morning to warm their cabin. I love this poem
because I relate so well with speaker, who as a child didn't
appreciate his parent's sacrifices. I love the line "What did I know,
what did I know" Like most kids, I took my mom for granted. Not until
I had my own children did I begin to have a glimpse of what an
extraordinary task it is to take care of a baby. Suddenly I was in awe
of my mom. What did I know of the sleepless nights, the physical toll
of pregnancy, the worry, the absolute loss of freedom--all for the
love of child. What did I know, What did I know.

It's been almost 12 years now since the birth of my first daughter and
I've become more acquainted with "love's austere and lonely offices."
In fact that has become sort of a catch phrase in our home. Whenever I
have to do another undesirable chore for a child--such as cleaning up
bodily fluids in the middle of the night--I say to myself just another
one of "love's austere and lonely offices." I find the phrase a
comfort because it turns menial work into an office of love. I feel
like I belong to a special order of those who love and indeed I do. As
followers of Christ we should all be well acquainted with "love's
austere and lonely offices." When he was on the earth he said, "A new
commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved
you." John 13:34

My mom was a woman of great faith. And she lived out that faith in
service. She knew well "love's austere and lonely offices." She
sacrificed so much. Whether it was getting up early in the blue black
morning to drive a daughter to swim team, or staying up late waiting
for a son to come home. My mom almost always made nutritious homemade
meals and we almost always complained--loudly. She planned and packed
for fun vacations with educational side trips and we whined that
we couldn't be like everyone else and go to Disneyland. My dad worked
long, long hours and she really had to do most of disciplining, caring
and teaching on her own. She was a worrier and yet, she put aside her
worries and actually pushed her children to go out into the world and
grow. One of the things I'm most grateful for is that when I turned 18
she made me move out. She said it was an important part of growing up.
I really didn't feel like moving out, but I did and I loved it. It was
an important move that gave me much needed confidence. She hated it,
only later did I realize how much she missed me. But she gave up what
she wanted, for what was best for me. That's what she always did. I
cannot possibly list all the sacrifices she made for her family and
many, many others who were dear to her.

When I spoke on Mother's Day and had the great blessing of publicly
thanking my mom, I thought I was beginning to understand a little of
my mom's love for her children. But really, I hardly knew. I think for
the last few years she's been in a good deal of pain. But rather than
inconvenience us she mainly suffered in silence. In her last few
weeks as her body grew weak and her spirit grew stronger, I could
just feel my mom's love. I'd sit by her bedside and she would hold my
hand and look at me with such adoration. I was and am overwhelmed by
her love. I realize I never even understood how much she loved me.

I cannot help but think that my mother's love is like God's love and
even those of us, who believe and feel God's love and care daily in
our lives--we don't really understand how dearly, dearly we are loved.
Indeed, the ultimate of "Love's austere and lonely offices" occurred
in Gethsemane. Elder Holland an apostle in our church spoke of this
recently he said:

"I speak of the loneliest journey ever made and the unending
blessings it brought to all in the human family. I speak of the
Savior’s solitary task of shouldering alone the burden of our
salvation. Rightly He would say: “I have trodden the winepress alone;
and of the people there was none with me. . . . I looked, and there
was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold [me].”1

One of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because
Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to
do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little
version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the
unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of
the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the
veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these
and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because
of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel.
Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never
be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are.
Truly the Redeemer of us all said, “I will not leave you comfortless.
[My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”20

I read that passage over the pulpit a little over a month
ago, scarcely knowing how important that message would become to me. I
testify that God has not left his children alone. My family has not
been left unaided. The comforter is real. Yesterday morning I woke up
with such a heavy heart I did not know how I would get through the
day, a day in which I was expected to dress my mother's body and
attend her viewing. But we went to the temple in the morning and we
were given such a great gift of comfort--an absolute outpouring of
peace and joy and the sure knowledge that the soul is immortal and we
will see our mother again.

I am so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ, because of the lonely
path he trod, I will see my mom again in a beautiful resurrected
disease free body. I am so grateful for the restored gospel of Jesus
Christ especially for temples a place where my parents were sealed so
that their marriage does not end at death but extends into the
eternities. And I am so grateful for my dear mom. It will be hard to
live the rest of my life without her, but death is not the end. I will
see her again. I so testify in the name of my Savior who made it all
possible, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen


Linn said...

That was absolutely beautiful Ruth. Thank you for sharing. I just listened to that talk by Elder Holland on Saturday. It is one of the most hopeful, amazing talks I have ever heard. I sob every time I hear it. You remain in our prayers.

Gina said...

So beautiful, Ruth.

Isa said...

Ruth, Thank you for sharing. Beautiful and inspiring. You are in our prayers. Much love.

Kathleen Noh said...

Thank you for sharing your words of love - they comfort and inspire.

denebug said...

Thank you Ruth. Not for making me cry (I hate crying), but for sharing your love and faith and a good poem that I will bring into my family.

brock said...

Thank you for sharing this, Ruth. I loved this talk the first time I heard it. Made me cry too the 2nd time as well.

Mollie said...

So glad you posted this Ruth. What a wonderful tribute to your mother. I left Utah just the day before her funeral, I would have loved to hear this in person, but this is the next best thing. Thank you for sharing.

Becky said...

A beautiful tribute to your mother. Thank you for sharing it with those of us who couldn't be at the funeral. I hope you are finding timet to take care of your needs during this time of so many big transitions.

Denise said...

So lovely, Ruth. Thanks for posting. I so wished to be there and thus reading your words is especially meaningful.

Teachinfourth said...

Ruth, your words brought a lightness to me in a time when I sit now at my own mother's bedside. She is dying of cancer and has little time left. I have sat here pleading with the heavens to either take her or heal her. It is so hard to watch her slowly ebb away in pain.

Thank you for your words, I fell like they were written for me.

Chrissy said...

Wow Ruth, I am deeply touched by your words. I have been thinking about you and your mom much this week. What a wonderful blessing for both you and your mom to have been there for her those last months and to have the opportunity to express your love in a beautiful talk given on Mothers Day. I wish I had known her better, but from all that I do know she was (is) a strong and wonderful person with a pure heart- much like you, Ruth. Her goodness and love is still felt by many through you and your family. My heart goes out to you and your family. Thank you for sharing such beautiful and comforting words with us.
much love,

Michelle Tall said...

I just want you to know that my mother was so incredibly touched by the talks given by you and your siblings.
She took notes, went home, typed them up and sent it all to me.
Ruth, I must tell you, my mom listened to every word...she told me again, just today, that she still can feel a lingering of the peaceful spirit that she felt at your mother's funeral.
I love you Ruth. I hope you felt my love through my mother as she was there in my stead.

Tasha said...

I loved that talk and your message helped me a lot. Thanks for sharing!

Marg said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mother. It's now easy to see why you make parenting look as if it's a piece of cake. It follows that a wonderful mother would produce a wonderful mother.