Newsmaker: Songs for Healing

Deanna Edwards, a member of the Pleasant View Eighth Ward, Provo Utah Sharon East Stake, was the subject of a national television special in South Africa in the spring of 1992. As a compassionate troubadour, she visits the sick, aging, lonely, and downhearted. With guitar in hand, she began her volunteer work in 1978 at a hospital in Bloomington, Illinois. She has a way of being especially open regarding death and dying, and she frequently presents seminars designed to help others cope with the grieving process. She sings in sixteen different languages and has visited the dying in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Israel, and Britain, as well as South Africa.

Once, a man lay in a long-term care unit with cancer. Nurses called him uncooperative and hostile. Deanna took on the challenge to reach him.

Cautiously, she entered his darkened room and asked if she might share a song with him. He responded brusquely, “I don’t want a song. Get out and leave me alone.”

Deanna felt prompted to look beyond the tough exterior to the isolated, vulnerable man within. “It’ll be a short one,” she assured.

He waited in sullen silence, and she said a silent prayer, then sang “You Are My Sunshine.” As she finished, his eyes met hers for the first time. “Can you play ‘Home on the Range?’”

Their visit ended in friendship. Deanna’s frequent visits during his last few weeks of mortal life seemed to help calm his fears.

“Music has the beauty and power to heal and comfort,” says Deanna, a wife and mother of four. “Christ wants us to learn how to love. My way of spreading that love is singing a song to those who need comfort.”

Deanna has written songs of comfort that celebrate life and its challenges. They are a calming influence in a hectic and confused world, a world in which a soothing song is good therapy with power to heal the heart.Pam Taylor, Salt Lake City, Utah

Managing Life

As Janet Doepner of Auckland, New Zealand, thinks back on what she has learned as a young widow with four daughters to rear, she says, “I’ve always had a bubbly spirit. It’s been one of my gifts from the Lord.”

Since the tragic drowning of her husband, Bill, in 1989 while he was trying to save the life of a teenage friend, Janet has “gone from being a woman who couldn’t balance her checkbook to one who can tell you to the last decimal what her bank account contains,” she declares. She watches interest rates, never buys anything that’s not on sale, and has become a resourceful manager for her family.

She has made home improvements, bought a car, and learned to drive. “I was more dependent on Bill than I realized,” she says. “I used to lean on his faith and testimony, too. I can see it has been important for me to have grown and learned about who I am and what I am capable of doing.”Tina Dil, Auckland, New Zealand

Spiritually Prepared

Church translator in his native city of Bangkok, Thailand, Pornchai Juntratip has achieved much in his life despite losing his sight in his teenage years. Baptized in 1976 at the age of twenty-eight, Brother Juntratip attended the Brigham Young University—Hawaii campus, where he studied English literature. After graduation, he attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where he earned his master’s degree. He then returned to Thailand. For seven months, Brother Juntratip taught students in his home. Then he was offered a position as a translator for the Church. “I had been praying that I would find employment that would fit my particular circumstances. With the help of tapes, I translate seminary and institute student manuals into Thai,” says Brother Juntratip, who with his wife, Kwanjai, and son, Pituporn, are a strength to the Church in Thailand. “By striving to live my life according to the gospel, I have come to know for a certainty that it is true and it is good.”David Mitchell, Salt Lake City, Utah

Generous Harvest

“It’s such a thrill to see the miracle of growth. It makes us feel as though we are partners with God,” says Ferl Blackburn, who along with his wife, Veradeane, maintains their home with its large vegetable and flower gardens. The Blackburns, members of the St. George Seventh Ward, St. George Utah East Stake, give away most of the vegetables and flowers they grow to friends. When the Blackburns retired to St. George, Utah, they transformed neglected fields near their home into a veritable Garden of Eden, so lovely that travelers passing by would stop to gaze. Their vegetable garden and orchard were beautiful to behold. Because their hillside orchard could be seen from the highway, they terraced the orchard and garden and planted hundreds of brilliant tulips and a wide variety of flowers and blossoming shrubs. They planted flowers galore along streets and sidewalks.

In their gardens nothing is wasted. Everything not eaten goes back into the soil. Cornstalks tower above Ferl’s six-feet height, and climbing plants such as beans, cucumbers, and their special climbing zucchini cover the fourteen-foot trellises and cascade back down, almost to the ground. Some years, they have grown pumpkins and squash weighing 350 to 400 pounds each.

Several years ago, the Blackburns began donating food from their bounteous harvest to the St. George Temple cafeteria; and then they offered produce to other friends and neighbors. “Why don’t you sell them?” they are often asked. “Oh, that would spoil the fun,” Veradeane replies. One of their greatest satisfactions was helping a family with eight children who subsisted almost entirely on food from the Blackburn garden during an extended period when the father was unable to work.

The Blackburns love to beautify their surroundings. A weed-grown area bordering the LDS chapel became a blaze of golden marigold; tall, showy hollyhocks graced a formerly bare strip on their neighbor’s side of the fence; and multicolored flowers grace every bare spot on their own lot and along the sidewalks. Recently Ferl gathered a gallon of hollyhock seeds from his gardens. “Hollyhocks are hardy and don’t require much water, so I’m going to plant them all over this town next spring,” he says. And so their lifetime of generous service to others goes on for this devoted couple, who have shared fifty-five years of marriage and beautifying the earth.Vira Blake, St. George, Utah

In the Spotlight

  • Jack Ady was recently named minister of advanced education and career development for the province of Alberta in Canada. A member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Brother Ady lives in the Cardston Fourth Ward, Cardston Alberta Stake.

  • David Hansen of the Turlock Second Ward, Turlock California Stake, received Universal Foods Corporation’s Professional Contributions Award for his development of a virus-free garlic.

  • A member of the Albany Ward, Albany New York Stake, Gordon Purrington recently began serving as the fifty-eighth president of the New York State School Boards Association. In addition, he works as an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Albany.

  • Nyree Fox, a Blackfoot and Sioux Indian from Cardston, Alberta, Canada, won first place at the Miss Indian Scholarship Pageant. The pageant was held in Provo, Utah. She is a member of the Glenwood Ward, Cardston Alberta Stake.

[photos] Photo props by Jed Clark