My friend Christina was born with a condition called progressive spinal muscular atrophy, a disease that attacks and deadens nerves. She was confined to a wheelchair at a very young age.
I met Christina when we were both eight years old and she and her mother moved into our ward. Christina had a special inner light and strength about her, a strength that carried her through many difficult trials.
When we were in Primary, and I was worrying about my science project or what to wear, Christina was preparing herself for a necessary operation that gave her only a 50 percent chance of living. Her life was often threatened by illnesses that her weakened immune system had a hard time fighting. She had to have constant care and help performing the most routine chores like dressing, bathing, and moving around. As a teenager she struggled to do the fun things her friends did like going to dances and parties and ice skating.
And although she sometimes got frustrated, Christina never gave up. She never gave up her desire to live and to choose the right. She often felt lonely and afraid, but instead of turning inward or falling away, she was a friend to everyone and she struggled to strengthen her relationship with the Lord.
As she began to really face death, she had to mature a lot faster than most of us do in order to prepare herself to meet her Lord. Christina died at the age of 16 in a hospital, surrounded by her mother and close friends. I feel privileged to have been there, just as I feel privileged to have called her my friend. Her faith in the gospel and in the Lord was an inspiration to me.
The pioneers who crossed the plains were brave, courageous souls. They endured many challenging hardships. Yet pioneers did not cease to exist when the Latter-day Saints reached the Salt Lake Valley, for I have known a pioneer in my own life. She was a brave and courageous soul. She endured many challenging hardships, and she left behind a legacy. For those who knew Christina, we remember her strength, her faith, and her courage. Today I wear a ring which reads “Return with Honor.” It reminds me of my friend and helps me try to pattern my life after hers so that I may also be a pioneer to those who follow me.
Rebecca Parsons (the author of the story on these pages) isn’t the only young woman with a pioneer story to tell. As this magazine is going to press, we know that on March 29 at 6:00 P.M. mountain standard time, young women everywhere will be participating in a Churchwide Young Women general meeting. They will be learning that a pioneer is someone who strives to stand up for what is right, to keep the commandments, to share the gospel, to testify of Christ, and to act as an example of Christian living.
“My mother is a pioneer,” says Brynnly Anderson, a Laurel from Salt Lake City, Utah. “When I was a baby, my dad worked for the Church and we were asked to move to South America. There my mother had to learn Spanish, a new culture, and a new lifestyle. I have never heard her complain about having to move. She is very giving and unselfish, especially when it comes to her children. She is a great pioneer example to me.”
Young women just like Brynnly will share their stories at the meeting, which will be seen at stake centers all over the world. Talks will also be given by the Young Women general presidency and a member of the First Presidency. Young women, their mothers, and their leaders are invited to attend.