As difficult as it may be, I would like to pay tribute today to a very noble soul who found the joy in living a life of service.
Our first meeting occurred 30 years ago. I was a newly appointed secretary to the stake MIA. She was a board member from one of the wards. My job was to call the roll at our stake leadership meeting. In those days when we had a standing roll call, I remember a particular evening when I was calling out the various wards. I had no difficulty in making an accurate count of the young men in attendance; then I started on the young women’s roll. Suddenly my eyes met a charming, beautiful young woman. I completely lost my ability to count. I confess to the Church Historian today that those records that are in the archives of the Church are not accurate for that particular meeting.
Eight months later I was kneeling at an altar in the house of the Lord, holding her hand, and hearing the most glorious words ever to be uttered on earth, “For time and all eternity.” I realized that I was receiving the greatest gift of God. I was being sealed in marriage by one having the authority to act for the Lord in uniting myself and my lovely companion together for time and all eternity, if I would but live worthy of her. We had only been married a few days before I found out I had married a woman with great empathy in her heart for her fellowmen. All of those wonderful aromas which came from the air around her kitchen were not all intended for me, for when she would find someone in need, she could not rest until she had made an effort to supply a relief.
I frequently found myself returning home from a busy day’s work, still under great pressures to complete an assignment before the following morning, only to find I had been committed to an act of compassionate service that night. As we would drive to our place of service, I would be mumbling under my breath, “Why me tonight? How will I ever get that job done before morning?” Then we would arrive at the place of service, and I would see the light in her eyes as she would perform her acts of mercy. I would see children dance with joy and parents weep with gratitude for her concern. On the way home I was mumbling a different tune. I was thanking the Lord for the privilege of being there that particular night.
She understood her role in the family organization. She was anxious to fill that which God had intended for her and had confidence and trust that I would fulfill the one designed for me. My responsibility was to be the provider and protector and builder of the home. Hers was to put beauty and love within its walls. When I married her, she was already an expert in her field. I still needed training in mine. During those early years, I am certain, she could have returned a much larger paycheck to the family than I was able to provide. However, when I came home one evening and announced that I had qualified for graduation from college, without even making it a matter of discussion, she marched in to her boss the following morning and resigned. Homemaking, to her, was the greatest of all occupations. Being a mother was the noblest of all calls. Her love and attention and concern for her children were so evident in our homes.
As a family we soon learned to live with the unexpected when an act of charity was involved. We had moved to California several years ago, and while we were preparing our finances to buy a home, we rented one which furnished us with appliances we needed. We had to store ours in our garage waiting for the purchase of a home. One evening in sacrament meeting she heard an earnest appeal from the bishop of our ward to assist those who had lost so much in a devastating flood a few miles from where we lived. As I drove home from work a few nights later, I saw a trailer in my driveway. There was a man tying my appliances on his trailer. I rushed into the house to see what was going on. And I was greeted with the words, “Oh, didn’t I tell you? After sacrament meeting last week, I informed the bishop if anyone needed our appliances for flood relief, they could have them.”
I always knew that if my wife found a stranger in our city at church on Sunday, I could find them in our extra bedroom when I returned home from my Church assignment that evening. A student looking for a room, a father being transferred to a new city, looking for a place for his family, a family returning from an overseas assignment, etc., were always welcome to stay with us until they could find a permanent place of residence.
Even through these multitude acts of kindness, her finest hours were yet to come. Five years ago our lives were shocked with an announcement that she had contracted a terminal disease. Her life expectancy could only be another six months to a year. She accepted this decision with a faith and courage I never expect to see equalled. As the doctor made this announcement to us, she turned to me and said with all the faith and peace that she could muster, “Don’t tell anyone about this. I don’t want it to change our way of life or have anyone treat us differently.” Now her life was filled with physical hardship. It seemed to only make her more sensitive for the physical needs of others. Her empathy for her fellowmen increased, for now she had a greater appreciation for need.
Three serious operations followed in very short order. There were only a few who knew about them and they were sworn to secrecy. Her pattern of life in the hospital was always the same. With her careful planning, she would attend church on Sunday, the operation would be performed early Monday morning. By Tuesday, she was trying to get out of bed. By Wednesday she would be up moving around, trying to regain her physical strength. Thursday would find her helping the nurses assist others who were in the hospital. Friday she would spend trying to convince the doctor that she was ready to go home. By Saturday morning the doctor would give up in despair and discharge her. Sunday she would be back in church looking radiant. No one would ever suspect that she had just gone through major surgery. After the meeting I would rush down to take her home to get her some needed rest. And as I would come close to her I would hear her say to someone else in need, “Now don’t worry about a thing. I’ll have dinner ready for you and at your home on Thursday night.”
She placed her illness entirely in the hands of the Lord, and he blessed her with enough strength to endure and just enough energy to live the kind of life she wanted to live. After a difficult night, I would plead with her to remain in bed. Her answer was always the same: “No, I am not going to start that.”
The Lord blessed her with four additional years that medical science could not promise her. How grateful we are for those years, for it was during this period that she was able to stand by my side as we were honored in these present positions. She was able to see, at least in some degree, what she had tried to make of me.
The Lord made it as convenient as possible in his timing to call her home. He waited until I had completed my traveling schedule for the year. And on the first Saturday I had been home in many months, he called her to leave mortality.
Her last acts were so typical of her. She was up preparing breakfast for her family. I heard her drop a dish and give a little moan. As I rushed from my study, thinking she had injured herself, I found that she was suffering from a stroke that was causing her to lose the use of her right arm. I quickly picked her up and carried her in to a little couch I had just recently convinced her that she should have near her kitchen so she could rest during the day.
There was terror in her eyes as the paralysis started to spread down her side. I told her I was going to rush a call to the doctor. She said, “First, give me a blessing.” As I laid my hands on her head that morning, the Lord in his great mercy let me know that her time had come. As I left the room to call the doctor after that blessing, she was literally fighting to move her right arm and her right leg. And the last words I heard her utter were, “I will not live as a half a person.”
Her next two hours, her last in mortality, were the only two I know of in her life that she was not carrying her full load and a little extra for someone else. The Lord in his mercy has let her pass through the veil and relieved her from her anxiety and pain. Now she is whole again, and I am certain paradise is a much more joyful place because she is there.
For the hundreds of messages of sympathy we have received, we express our appreciation. If we had taken time to classify them, I think we would have found that we could have sorted them in two piles that typified and characterized her in her life here on earth. The first pile that we would have sorted—as we heard from the eastern part of the United States—would be something like this: “She gave us our first Book of Mormon and was an inspiration to us. How grateful we are to have known her. We will always remember her gracious hospitality to our family on the day of our baptism. It was such a happy occasion to have dinner in your home on that particular day.”
She was deeply grateful for her membership in the church of Jesus Christ. It was the foundation on which her life had been built. It was her sustaining power, her hope for the eternities. She was anxious to share her witness of the mission of our Lord and Savior with others. A fundamental part of her storage program, which included, of course, the basics of wheat, canned goods, and other inventories, was a supply of a dozen copies of the Book of Mormon. She would count those just as religiously as she would count her other supplies and replenish them in the same order. She used to comment about her inventories: “When we use the food, the inventory is gone. When I make a gift of the Book of Mormon, I never stop receiving the benefit and enjoyment of that gift.”
The second group of letters would read in part this way: “Your wife and mother was my stake leader in Spiritual Living. For one year I met with her for forty-five minutes each month and she had a profound influence on my life. She will always be one of the truly unforgettable people I have known. To me she exemplified spiritual living. She understood the needs of others and sought diligently to supply those needs.”
The Lord has said to us, “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection.
“And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them.” (D&C 42:45–46.)
I understand this scripture now as never before. Even though there is great loneliness without her, her passing was sweet because of the way she had lived.
In tribute to her today, I recommend to you her way of life. I watched service consume pain. I witnessed faith destroy discouragement. I have seen courage magnify her beyond her natural abilities. I have observed love change the course of lives.
May God grant that her memory will bring satisfaction and fulfillment to your life, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.