She Never Stopped
I would never have thought girls’ camp would be the place to learn about marriage. In fact, I wouldn’t have thought it would be the place to learn much at all at my age. But I was the ward activity counselor; there had been six cancellations from those who had planned to be camp counselors; and though I was reluctant, pregnant, and grumpy, I found myself in a pickup full of girls, on my way to what was to be one of the most profound learning experiences of my life. And all because of “Granny.”
“Go with Granny on the all-day hike,” I was told by a leader who didn’t know Mary Cardwell very well. “She’ll only be able to go up about halfway and then you can be company for her on the way down.” If I had noticed the twinkle in Sister Cardwell’s eye, I would have realized just how unrealistic this counsel really was. Mary Cardwell, “Granny” to the girls at camp, never did anything halfway.
We started off at 7:00 A.M. and she actually did keep a slow pace, appropriate for a sixty-two-year-old woman. The only trouble was that she never stopped! At 4:30 that afternoon I collapsed on my sleeping bag, dusty and exhausted, and realized that one hike had taught me more about love, about determination, and about marriage than any books I had ever read. Mary Cardwell approached that hike as she approaches each of life’s problems: slowly, and with such determination as to be virtually unstoppable.
“I’m really not tired just yet,” she would say. “I think I could make it just to that little bluff over there. It’s so pretty out; come on, and we’ll rest a little bit when we get there.” A half hour later, she said, “This next little bit is downhill almost all the way. We can surely make that!” Eventually we began to overtake girls and counselors who had begun at a much faster pace. At last we reached the place where the group had stopped to rest before turning back, but even this wasn’t enough for Granny. “There’s a lake just over this next little hill that they say is lovely. Let’s you and I take a quick walk over there while the girls are resting.” What could I do? What can anyone do with such a person but shake his head in admiration and try to follow?
And she still had breath to talk—in this case about Bill, her husband of forty-six years.
“My husband should arrive at camp today, and I just hope he doesn’t get here before we’ve had time to shower and clean up. I’ve saved out a clean outfit, but I’ve got to wash my hair before I see him.”
Since we were all sleeping outdoors, I was amused at her concern for her appearance and teased her about it. “Oh, now Granny, you’ve been married for forty-six years. You can’t tell me your husband has never seen you like this before!”
Her look was surprised. “Not if I can help it!” she replied. “I always tidy up to greet my husband, whatever the circumstances.”
When Brother Cardwell arrived, he dusted chairs for her to sit on, helped her walk over rocks and branches, and held her hand almost continually. It was obvious that they were thoroughly pleased to be reunited. Impressed, I assumed that their marriage must have been forty-six years of sweetness.
“Not many people know this,” Brother Cardwell confided to me, “but I was the hardest problem Mary faced in her life. Sometimes I think she developed all that determination by using it on me! You see, I’m a pretty hotheaded guy, although I don’t seem that way in public. Many times when I was younger I lost my temper, and when a husband is like that, the wife always takes the brunt of it. We had some pretty stormy times when we were younger, but do you know, Mary never gave up on me. By 1956 we were able to be married in the temple, and that changed our lives altogether.”
I was anxious to find out from Mary how she had effected such a change in her husband. How does a wife develop such devotion in a man? She chuckled. “Bill was ornery at times, I’ll admit. But he never was the least bit boring! I think one of the most important things to remember about marriage is not to say everything that comes to mind. For instance, I was canning applesauce the other day, and Bill started giving me advice about how to do it. I felt like saying, ‘Don’t tell me how to can applesauce! I’ve been canning for all these years without any help from you!’ But if you want a peaceful home, you must learn to swallow such words.
“Another important thing to remember is that your husband is more important to you than anyone else. My husband likes to read the newspaper very thoroughly. Even when we’ve been away for several days, he enjoys going through the whole stack and reading them carefully. I certainly don’t want company to drop in and see newspapers everywhere, but I never touch them until I’m certain he’s through with each one. His wishes are more important to me than what someone else might think, so I wait.
“I don’t believe that there are any perfect marriages, but if you keep in mind all the time that your husband or wife is worth everything to you, it will change your attitude. We had times, years ago, when I wasn’t certain that I could do it, but now I know that any difficulty can be overcome if you just keep fighting it out.
“Don’t be silent with your husband. If you have angry feelings and you can’t work them out, let him know how you feel. You may have to apologize later, but things will be out in the open so that you can both understand.”
She watched Bill Cardwell as he helped the girls build the evening fire, and smiled. “You know, it’s amazing. Sometime next week Bill and I will be great-grandparents. We have eight grown children. We laugh when we think of it, because we feel like honeymooners now.”
Mary Cardwell loves noise, fun, family gatherings, and being in the middle of everything all the time. Her boundless confidence carries over into associations with young people. She’ll shake her head as she looks at a particularly mischievous child. “He’s a humdinger now, but he’ll grow.”
“She wasn’t like that when I met her,” Brother Cardwell remembers. “She was shy and wouldn’t dance or join in any group activity. When she joined the Church, she got over it. And when she got over it, she got over it thoroughly! The Church made clear to Mary what she wanted to be and do. She saw that Church people have such good feelings that they shake hands and hug each other and express love all the time. She really liked the feeling, and soon felt free enough to join in. In many ways, joining the Church was the beginning of Mary’s life.”
Around Napa California First Ward, Mary Cardwell is famous for taking swimming lessons. She took them for the first time when she was thirty and couldn’t learn to swim, so she quit. Dissatisfied with this failure, she tried and failed again at forty, again at fifty, and again at sixty. “I’ve decided now that I can’t wait another ten years to try again, so I’m taking lessons every summer, and do you know—I think I’ve just about got it this time. My crawl is pretty good—now if I can just master the sidestroke …” And so every morning of camp found Mary Cardwell in the icy mountain lake—finishing what she’d begun over thirty years before.
Bill and Mary Cardwell have built a life together that is a beautiful example to everyone who knows them. And it was not easy. Now they are reaping the blessings of a determined devotion to right principles and to each other. Mary will be going to camp again this summer. She doesn’t want to miss the fun. And sometime before the week is over, Bill will drive up to join her there. He doesn’t want to miss Mary.
Sharon Elwell, a homemaker, serves as a seminary teacher and Relief Society family health leader in the Napa Second Ward, Napa California Stake.
Irene Bates: The Adventure of Testimony
I almost missed Irene Bates at the Los Angeles airport. I knew she was English, a grandmother, had graduated summa cum laude at UCLA the summer before, and had been selected as valedictorian. So I expected to meet a British matron with spectacles and a formidable vocabulary.
But the lady I met was a laughing woman with crinkling eyes, a clear accent, and a mind thoroughly awake. She is delighted by the wrynesses of life, endlessly nourished by the love in her family, and still awed by the great miracle of the gospel.
Before we left the parking lot we were up to our eyebrows in a conversation that lasted the whole day, the fulfilling kind of conversation that usually happens only with very good friends between midnight and 2 A.M. every other year.
She had written out “all that biographical trivia” so we wouldn’t waste good talking time on it, but it was fascinating, too. Born and raised in Manchester, England, she and her husband joined the Church in 1955, followed later by their four children. They saw the Church in their area grow from a mission with fifteen districts to six stakes and six missions by 1967, when business interests, among other things, led them to Utah.
She had been in the stake Relief Society presidency and Bill had been stake president when they moved—the new leisure without these Church jobs was a shock. “I enjoyed the rest and the chance to read for about six months,” Irene confessed. “I’ll read anything—seed catalogues if there’s nothing else around.”
But then she noticed that those wonderful dinner-table conversations were beginning to pass her by. She was isolated.
“Even as a young mother with my babies, I hadn’t felt lonely,” she describes. “Bill was gone a great deal, but I could take my children anywhere in the pram. The shopkeepers knew me and there were always great discussions going on in the shops and on the bus. But in America, I was always in a car—a capsule.”
Her daughter Lynda took brisk action. ”You should go to school, Mother,’ she told me. Well, the thought had never entered my head. I’d left school at the age of fourteen (that was the rule, not the exception, in my time), and I was sure I couldn’t do it.
“Lynda didn’t even listen. She got the applications, filled them out, signed me up, and there I was, walking about the University of Utah just feeling great!
“It satisfied a hunger in me that must have been there for years.” She transferred to Santa Monica College when the family moved to California in 1971, then to UCLA where she graduated with a B.A. in sociology.
Her hunger for learning had always been at once stimulated and satisfied by the gospel. “When it came to service,” she remembers, “I realized that what I was mattered as much as what I did. I had to be interesting myself, not just interested in others. I couldn’t be much of a sounding board for my husband and children if I were merely a piece of blotting paper.”
Her affection and gratitude for the missionaries who nourished her mind as well as her spirit are still vivid after all these years. “What a debt of gratitude we owe them!” she exclaims. “They were willing to go through our questions with us right to the end. Sometimes they lasted hours into the night, but I remember one early lesson on the atonement that changed my whole view of the world and certainly changed my relationship with the Lord.
“Maybe I’m overconfident,” she says seriously, “but I don’t think it’s unhealthy to express contrary views and values, if you pursue the discussion to the logical end. For young people, it’s their spiritual survival that’s at stake. You can’t tell them they can’t ask questions, and you can’t stop discussions before they’re resolved.”
She pauses, thoughtfully, “I think the thing that really bothered me about mere conformity is that it short changes the gospel. It has answers, but we need the excitement of personal discovery so that the truth becomes our own.”
She laughs at her own intensity. “I have to be careful not to think everyone should get the same things out of the gospel that I do. Take Relief Society, for instance. I like knowing what the other sisters honestly feel and think, so I like discussions rather than lectures. But some sisters like lessons where they can just relax and listen to a presentation. I think the gospel feeds us all in different ways.”
Her husband, Bill Bates, Manchester engineer and California film distributor, came home for lunch then. “I know how lucky I am,” she had said of their marriage. “He hasn’t just been tolerant. He’s encouraged me to do things and he’s been proud of me when I’ve done them. I know there are men who wouldn’t have wanted their wives to do what I’ve done—but if they only knew how much fun Bill and I have really talking. You can’t have much of a conversation about the ironing.”
And conversation is the way they create their own environment. They wake up early so they talk. Irene laughed as she told me, “The last time our son John was home, we woke him up about 7 A.M. with our laughing and arguing, and he shouted to us, ‘Can’t you two sleep?’
“But,” she sighs blissfully, “Bill and I change the world in our conversations.”
Do they always agree? She bursts into a gale of laughter, “Oh my, no! It’s the differences we enjoy. Of course, Bill will argue just to get me fired up sometimes. I’m normally quite a placid person, you know.” Placid? It’s my turn to laugh.
Seeing Bill and Irene together for even five minutes makes it clear that they’re each other’s best critics and most fervent fans. “Everyone thinks I brag about Rene,” he says. “That’s what made me happiest at commencement—everyone could tell that I wasn’t just partial.” He adds, glowing, “She got a standing ovation, you know.”
I asked why he’d encouraged his wife’s education. “Because I abhor waste!” he exploded. “All the things Rene was capable of and she was being wasted!!” Like her, he’d stopped school to go to work at age fourteen, and he owned his own business as a teenager. But he became an engineer by pedaling his bicycle to night school four nights a week, arriving home at 10 P.M., sometimes too tired to eat.
For both of them the object of their ambition is not money or power—it has been service. And for them that’s not a project but a reflex. They keep in touch with friends, visit shut-ins, fellowship strangers. Even afshe had moved to California, Irene wrote to a patient in a Salt Lake County hospital as long as he lived.
People are definitely first priority with the Bateses. Their callings show their concern. In addition to serving as stake president in Manchester, Bill has been counselor in stake and district presidencies, ward MIA superintendent, mission MIA superintendent, and Sunday School superintendent. He now serves as stake missionary, and was building fund chairman for their newly dedicated chapel.
Both Irene and Bill have served as Sunday School teachers. Irene has also taught in Primary, MIA, and Relief Society, and served as ward Primary and Relief Society president and counselor in the stake Relief Society presidency.
Commitment to demanding service grows straight out of the roots of a deeply loving home. Irene remembers her mother as “the best and wisest woman I’ve ever known. It broke my heart if she ever said she was disappointed in me.”
In fact, Bill was initially attracted to young Irene because her parents, volunteer leaders of a spontaneously formed youth group, were so endlessly kind. “Rene was kind in the same way. We big tough men weren’t about to do anything so sissy as dance,” he remembers, grinning. “Of course, we couldn’t, until Rene taught us how. And besides that, she was very attractive, you know. Long, golden hair, blue eyes, and all that.”
They took care of Irene’s mother, an invalid, until she died. Her eighty-six-year-old father is a frequent and entertaining visitor from England, while Bill’s mother, now living in Salt Lake, regales them with tales from his side of the family.
Three of the children, Lynda, John, and Nicholas, live close enough that spending part of Sunday together is an unbreakable tradition of eating, playing with the grandchildren, and talking, talking, talking. When Peter, the eldest son, comes from Salt Lake several times a year to join them, the gatherings are especially joyous.
“I love to see them together,” says Irene. “It makes me happier than anything else to know that they care about each other.” She laughs, “I know I can die in peace!”
In peace, yes. Love and faith are the foundation of that peace.
But placidly? Never. Not a chance.
The Ecstasy of the Agony: How to Be Single and Sane at the Same Time
It seems that one of the unintentionally best-kept secrets in the Church is that a multitude of unique blessings and special opportunities are available to single members.
As a young child, I remember the delicious agony of waiting through a seemingly interminable night for the magic dawn of Christmas morning. In my eager anticipation of the wondrous surprises awaiting us under the Yule tree, I forgot the important events that long night celebrated.
Likewise, in our anxiety to marry, we can easily neglect the many unique opportunities to prepare ourselves, not only for marriage, but for eternal exaltation.
As a single, thirty-three-year-old convert to the Church, I have often been impatient for fulfillment of the temple marriage promised in my patriarchal blessing. Yet, in the eight years since my baptism, I have become increasingly aware of and grateful for the special blessings that come to faithful single members.
We have time and the privilege to spend it as we wish. But we are also accountable for the manner in which we utilize that priceless gift of time. As single Church members we can either engage in morose personal recrimination and self-flagellation, bemoaning our single status, and living on the edge of desperation, or we can use this interim period in our lives as a time of active, creative waiting. I am firmly convinced that how we spend this “in the meantime” has critical importance for both our proximate and ultimate happiness as well as our eternal progression.
An initial consideration is the question of career or occupation. I have often been asked, “Should a single Latter-day Saint woman involve herself in the type of career that requires heavy time Commitments and costly, extensive education?” My feeling is that to generalize is to err. Some women find great satisfaction in meeting the challenge of a demanding career. As a medical school professor and diagnostic specialist, I find great personal fulfillment in the service of others. I enjoy the deep satisfaction of pinning down a particularly elusive diagnosis. It really gives me a zippy feeling! Through prayer and priesthood blessings, I have also received a comforting, personal reassurance that what I am currently doing is pleasing in the sight of the Lord.
However, such a demanding, time-consuming career may not be the answer for many or even most women in the Church. I have to confess that the greatest, most lasting joys in my life derive not from my somewhat unusual occupation, but from quiet, anonymous acts of compassionate service. As singles we have time to learn the secrets of becoming a great blessing in the lives of others. It is all too easy to be so concerned with our own needs and problems that we become spiritually deaf to the cries and heartaches around us. With the aid of a willing bishop or Relief Society president, we can learn who in the ward needs a hot tureen of soup, a lawn mowed, or some sympathetic company. A loaf of warm bread or a freshly baked pie left on the doorstep will surprise and cheer a shut-in.
Never will our time be so unencumbered as now. We have time to take an institute class or home-study course. We have time to begin and follow diligently a personal scripture-study program. The self-discipline thus developed will stand us in good stead for the remainder of our lives. Last year my own project was reading the New Testament, using Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s Doctrinal New Testament Commentary as a guide, cross-indexing references to the other standard works.
We have time to become widely read if we will but seek out of the best books. A neighbor of mine asked the people whom he respects most to list the five books that they feel have had the greatest impact on their lives. The reading list he has compiled promises a lifetime of enriching reading ahead. The wisdom obtained from study of the scriptures and other great books has not only strengthened his testimony, but has also helped him become a source of strength and light in the lives of others.
We have time to develop a variety of talents and interests. Who knows what hidden gifts may be lurking undiscovered in some dusty corner of our personality? During my medical training, I didn’t have a very generous income. One year I decided to make all my Christmas presents myself. Searching for ideas, I bought a paperback book on batik (the art of dying designs on fabric) for $1.25. To my delight and surprise, I discovered an undeveloped artistic bent. The art gallery owner who framed the batiks I had made for presents liked them so much he invited me to produce a one-man show! With brisk sales from the show and subsequent commissions, I not only supported myself during my residency but saved enough for a partial down payment on a house.
We have time to begin that long-overdue genealogy. For three years, my brother—who is also a convert—and I had a standing contest to see who could convince the other to take responsibility for the family genealogy! This last fall, the Spirit of Elijah persistently nagged both of us. With sighs of reluctance, we dutifully began the data-gathering process and were delighted to discover an entire new source of joy and excitement. Now the entire family is involved in collecting old photographs, tracing records, and constructing our family tree.
The great satisfactions of regular, diligent Church service cannot be overestimated. I am a member of the Sunday School general board, yet I also experience great joy in serving as a ward Sunday School teacher. One of the most rewarding experiences has been to induce all the class members to begin—and finish—a scripture-reading program. One class member, wavering on the verge of inactivity, gained a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and is now an outstanding missionary.
We have time to travel. With careful long-range planning, even the most limited budgets can provide for a much-anticipated trip. Where in the world would you like to go? The possibilities are virtually endless. Inexpensive yet highly educational group excursions can be made with other Church members. A friend of mine who is a secretary budgeted assiduously for three years; the gratifying result of her thriftiness was a BYU study tour to Israel.
We have time to get in good physical condition. I am sort of a fitness fanatic. I ski, play tennis three days a week, and—when I can haul my protesting body out of bed in the chill predawn morning—jog with my golden retriever. (She loves it! And it makes me feel almost smugly virtuous.) The joyous exhilaration of strenuous regular exercise will uplift the spirit and emotions as well as streamline the body.
We have time to get involved with families in our ward or branch, becoming a friend to younger children. I am invited to (and eagerly anticipate) baseball games, piano and violin recitals, Christmas plays, debates, swimming parties, junior high basketball games, pep club marches. We are all hams at heart, and children are no exception. A warm response to “Hey, watch me jump off the high dive!” will be a source of pride and delight to your young friends. By the force of our own example, we can also quietly encourage them to follow gospel principles as they reach toward adulthood.
We have unencumbered, quiet time to spend with our Father in heaven. I cannot overestimate the impact fasting and prolonged prayer have had in my life. After reading the book of Enos, the course of my life changed abruptly when I, too, decided to approach the Lord in extended prayer. The results were startling. Not only did I receive direct personal guidance for my current and future life, but I gained an unshakable testimony of the Lord’s special love and concern for my well being.
But what can we do when those inevitable moments of loneliness or discouragement creep in? Earlier this month I experienced one of my rare, brief periods of depression. My social life was at a low ebb, and I had had a particularly difficult day at the hospital. Somewhat disheartened, I drove home in a fog of exhaustion. My darkened, silent house seemed mockingly empty that night. Even the dog was gone. The suffocating loneliness I felt was almost unendurable. The neighbors were home and—as I had done so many times in the past—I sought the comforting warmth of their friendship. I was uplifted through the loving concern of these cherished friends and neighbors and discovered a simple truth: In our hours of need, there are loving hands around us to uplift, strengthen, and assist us. Look around. I promise you they are there.
And when discouragement weighs heavily, look around again. Recognize discouragement for what it is: one of Satan’s subtlest yet most devastating tools. He would convince us that we are unworthy of respect or affection, enticing us to wallow in the mire of self-pity. I have found that a sure cure for depression is to realize someone out there needs me. In blessing someone else, my needs and problems are quickly consumed in the warm glow of knowing that I have brightened another’s life and that what I have done is pleasing to the Lord.
Let us then rejoice in this precious treasure, time, and thank the Lord for a special gift. We truly have time to become interesting because we are interested.