94986_000_020Author’s note: This is a retelling of a beautiful part of my pioneer heritage. I tell the story from Sarah’s point of view as I imagine it happened.
I couldn’t help looking back. My feet were moving one way and my heart the other. Through my tears I could see Mama still standing on the porch. She was getting smaller with each step I took.
So many times I had asked her, “Must I be the one to go, Mama? I am only eleven years old. Are you sure I can do it all by myself?” And each time she reassured me. Yes, I was the one to go. And yes, this was Heavenly Father’s way for me to reach Zion. With Mama praying for me, I knew I shouldn’t doubt.
When I was eight years old, Papa died. It wasn’t easy without Papa there anymore. Even with my older brothers and sisters, who helped out a lot, there were still eight children to feed and take care of. Mama worked long hours with us in the cornfield. Sometimes when the rest of us were eating supper, Mama went outside and shucked corn. We didn’t know it, but she was using that time to pray and fast. She didn’t want my older brothers to see her fast, because sometimes they made fun of her religious beliefs.
One day while Mama was outside meditating and shucking corn, she was prompted to visit an elderly widower who lived down the street. She found two missionaries there, and they taught her the gospel. She received answers to her concerns about the death of my father and about what happens after death. She came home very excited.
When my brothers found out about it, they were upset and began to laugh at her. And when Papa’s folks found out about it, they, too, were bitterly opposed. I couldn’t understand why they caused so much trouble about it.
Because it caused so much friction in our home, Mama decided for awhile to give up the new religion. It just was not worth it.
But Mama was never the same. She could not deny the beautiful truths she had heard. She tried hard to convince my brothers, but they just wouldn’t listen. I did. And I had a warm feeling inside me when I went into the waters of baptism the same day Mama was baptized.
Mama wanted to go west with the Saints. She had no money for such a great undertaking, but she was a woman of faith and knew that her prayers would be answered.
Then Mama found a way for me to go. An elderly blind lady needed a companion to help her walk across the many, many miles of hazardous terrain to the mountains of Utah. So that is how I came to leave my mother and my family and cross the plains without them.
When I left, tears were streaming down my face. With all the courage I could muster, I clasped hands with the blind lady and walked away.
My eyes became her eyes. I guided her with my sight; she guided me with the wisdom of her years. Together we walked every step of the way through the dust and the dirt of the crude trails. After many long, tiring days and weeks and months, we made it!
But I felt so alone. I was in Zion, the place of peace and rest for the Saints. I was supposed to be happy. But I missed my family.
The blind lady allowed me to stay with her and keep house, and I tried my hardest to keep everything neat and clean for her. But she wasn’t my family. Mama was always in my thoughts. I knew that she would come. Somehow, some way, Mama would make it to Zion.
Whenever I heard of a wagon train coming into the Salt Lake Valley, I watched for the dusty sky—a sure sign that the wagons would arrive soon. Then I’d run to the fence and climb as high as I could to see the immigrants. At first they would be just a dust cloud on the horizon. But slowly, oh so slowly, I could make out the wagons and the animals and the people.
I studied the women passing by. Mama’s hair is that color—but no, it isn’t Mama. Over there is a woman with Mama’s posture—but no, it isn’t Mama, either. Could that one driving the team be she? No, no, no. With every incoming group, I thought, Surely Mama will be in this company with my younger brothers and sisters.
I searched and searched, and doubts would come. No one smiled at me. No one ran and wrapped me in her arms. As the wagons rolled past, another heartache began. With each disappointment, the tears coursed down my cheeks, and I cried until there were no more tears left.
Two long, hard years passed before Mama finally came. When she did, I could hardly believe my eyes. She was worn and tired and covered with dust. I almost didn’t recognize her. But she knew me, even though I had grown quite a bit taller.
I ran to her as fast as I could. I wrapped my arms around her and wept—this time tears of happiness. She had made it to Zion. I wasn’t alone anymore. Together we were home. At last I felt Zion in my heart.