Monday, January 4, 2010

Is That a Grammatical Error? Or a Is It a Typo?

This last week was quite an emotional one. All the wedding plans. All the neglect of my house and family and real life. The end of the year. And on Saturday, a funeral. Bishop's first. Without compromising the family's privacy, I'd like to share what I learned from her funeral.

L was an unremarkable lady. She was fairly quiet, very private, and slightly aloof. She didn't seem to have many close friends, but everyone in our ward knew who she was. She quietly and diligently served in her callings. I remember her passing sign-up sheets around Relief Society, reminding us to continually add to our food storage. This is a principle that she lived, not just taught. I remember running into her occasionally at the temple, where she served diligently twice a week for twelve years. Rarely if ever did she comment in Relief Society or Sunday School. I don't remember her ever giving a talk or bearing her testimony in Sacrament meeting. And I probably conversed with her at Enrichment meeting once or twice.

She was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer last summer, but she was determined to fight. But privately. She didn't want visitors or service. She wanted to be alone with her family. Her husband stood by her, stayed by her, rarely left her. Her girls served and worked and visited. And when Brad became the bishop, he was admitted into the inner circle.

Our ward sisters couldn't stand not being allowed to help, so our amazing RS president, who had also been L's visiting teacher for many years, came up with an outlet for our service needs--write her notes, cards, letters, and the RS president would deliver our love. Admittedly, I didn't write a note--why would she want to hear from me? Someone who barely knew her. And I was in the throes of all my own misery--pregnancy, child leaving home, child taken to the reservation. In hindsight, how could I be so self-centered and self-absorbed?

When Eve was born and my mom was still here helping me, L's husband came to the door, presenting me with a small gift. He simply stated, "L really wanted to come to your shower, but she just wasn't feeling up to it." Inside was a soft fleece outfit and a creamy yellow baby afghan. Mom and I both admired the stitching and the beautiful color. How truly kind, I thought. Especially since she was home recovering from chemo and a double mastectomy. I've used that blanket quite a few times, each time reflecting on this selfless act, but not really dwelling on it.

Three weeks ago, M asked the bishop to come give L a blessing in the hospital. Things had gotten worse, and she had cancerous cells in her lungs and a blockage in her intestine. Asked by Brad, I accompanied him to the hospital, hoping that I wouldn't offend her with my uninvited presence. She was fighting, boy was she fighting. Tubes, bruises, turban. It was a little intimidating, and I hoped I wasn't intruding. I was so grateful to thank her personally for that beautiful blanket. She informed me, very matter-of-factly, that its smaller size was purposeful--best to use in infant carseats. Then, I was the lone witness to her anointing and blessing, not one filled with promises of miracles but one filled with comfort and peace and strength. On December 28th, she lost her battle, at age 59.

I was asked to play the organ at the funeral. That's not unusual, but I did wonder why me? I felt I hardly knew her. But that invitation was a secret blessing for me. I was able to sit on the stand and watch those who came to recognize her "unremarkable" life. So many ward members--many whose attendance there surprised me. So much family. So many friends she had made while working in the temple, including the temple president and his wife. And I sat directly in front of her loving husband, watching his every emotion, from agony to happiness and back again. During the course of the service, I learned things about L that most people hadn't known. She was a devoted mother to four children--two daughters and one living son, her first son dying as an infant. She served others in such a quiet way, especially instilling this virtue in her children. They spoke of endless examples of her making treats or blankets or bread for others and encouraging them to live that same life. They talked of her humor and sarcasm and her mischievous smirk (one that others would conceivably interpret as "aloof"). Her brother-in-law relayed the experience he'd had of teaching her the discussions as an 18-year-old girl and her passion for that celestial knowledge. And more than one person stated how she felt she didn't have any friends. How the attendance at the funeral would have shocked her.

And I was struck by this:
As "unremarkable" as her life seemed to be, she had had powerful impact on so many lives, just by silently living as a disciple of Christ, serving and helping and teaching and mothering and loving. And her life would leave its mark here on mortality, without any 21-gun salute or televised parade. She had made a difference, and she hadn't even noticed it. And neither had I.

I've been pondering this for a few days now. Her husband bore beautiful testimony yesterday in sacrament meeting, thanking all of us for what we'd done for them. But I feel a compulsion to thank them for what they have given me these last few weeks.

All my life I've searched for the 21-gun salute and the parade. I've panned for attention and recognition. I've demanded to be the center of things. And now I realize that all that notoriety is unnecessary.

Every year I've set resolutions to improve myself--lose weight, study more, work harder. Never have I looked outward on how I could change the world around me, make my family happier, serve more diligently and selflessly in my callings, lift where I stand a little longer.

This is the year.

When I found this new background for my blog, I appreciated its simplicity, but I didn't notice that it said, "Make Everyday Count," not "Make Every Day Count," like I thought. And I was embarrassed that I had let this grammatical error appear on MY blog. Me. The braggart of all things spelling and grammatical.

But the more I've thought about it, the more I want it this way. That's the way that L lived her life--in the end, the everyday was what mattered to those who loved her, not the accolades.

My resolution for 2010 is this: Make Everyday Count.

I don't anticipate some huge personality change, although that might be a nice side benefit. I'll still probably love the attention and the limelight. But I want to make a difference in others' lives by looking outside myself and finding ways to quietly serve, whether it's my family, my neighbors, my ward or my community. And in turn, I am going to take the time needed to reflect on how I really have made a difference, not just minimize my efforts spent changing diapers or folding laundry or making brownies for Relief Society. These actions matter. They matter now, and they matter eternally.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to nurse my baby and wrap her in a cozy yellow blanket.


  1. What a wonderful post. Thank you!

  2. Well said, again. I am so sorry to hear that the giver of that beautiful little blanket has passed away. It is always nice to have good examples to emulate.


  3. Thanks for the beautiful post and your insight. It is funny how funerals always leave me wishing I had gotten to know the person more.

  4. This says so beautifully what I felt as I sat in the back of the service. I learned so much about her, and was so sad that it was a funeral where I was learning this, instead of a friendly conversation. I was struck by the way she felt she hadn't made a difference, and was overcome by the outpouring of love and friendship at the end of her life. And yet she kept on giving, and loving,always serving, and following the Savior. I love your resolution, especially important with all these big days and special "events" coming up in your life over the next year. Everyday counts, and we should treat

  5. not sure why that cut off, a message that I need to learn when to stop? Anyways, I agree!

  6. What a beautiful, beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing this story and your thoughts on it. I think it's always easier or more "human" for us to desire accolades or spotlights, and so much harder to serve quietly and anonymously. She sounds like a really wonderful woman. And for the record, SO are you!

  7. One of my favorite posts of yours, ever. And that's saying a lot! I love the "everyday" slant.

    By the way, I've had the experience you describe three times this year as I attended funerals of faithful but low-profile ward members. In each case, I was sorry I had not taken the time to know them better until their funerals. I felt like I had missed out on something, and in the case of one woman, I felt remorse as well. She had reached out to me several times, and I think she wanted to be closer than we were. Not that I ignored her or anything. I often sent her a card or brought in meals (she was chronically ill for years), but she had wanted more...a real friendship, not just a service-oriented acquaintance. I shied away from that because I thought she was "not my type."

    Listening to her family speak of her, I realized that she may well have been my type. We had a lot in common, which she apparently had sensed but I had missed.

    I am trying now to reach out to people beyond my usual circle of friends in a more open-minded way, with a willingness to tune in more and be willing to deepen a friendship I might not have cultivated previously.

    Your post adds a little more fuel to my fire on that one.

  8. Beautiful Post.

    But I beg to differ in your supposed lack of quiet service! I have benefited from that for years. Two specific ones that would not have gone nearly as well if you had not been there!!

    But I love the point and the principle behind it.

    Love ya,

  9. Thanks Jenny....for teaching me about this dear Sister. I appreciate your eloquence in the way you write. I love reading your blog. And you too, give a life of service.

  10. I, very much enjoyed your article, Jenny. Thank you for writing it. PS. You'll find that when Linda makes a blanket, they will last for years! They never wear out.

    Mike Call

  11. Hi Jenny, my Dad pointed me to your blog. I really enjoyed reading your perspective in this post. My Mom was an amazing and inspiring person! Thanks for being there and journaling about your thoughts! Like my Dad said, my Mom's blankets definitely last a very long time! Hope you enjoy! And CONGRATS on your newest addition to your family :)

    Andrea (Call) Dickinson

  12. Hi Jenny, ditto what Andrea wrote, I'm her sister, Christy. My dad also sent me a link to your blog so I may enjoy your post too.

    Wiping the tears away now, what a beautiful memory you have written in such a noteworthy way. I appreciate learning the viewpoints of what others received from the funeral service. My mom was a beautiful lady who loved everyone. I'm so glad you were given one of her sweet blankets. I have one or two myself. I love them. Thank you for this article. It was a joy and great pleasure to read. {{Big Hugz}} ;) ~Christy Call