Mom and Dad started married life with high hopes, lots of love, and no money. In the first years of their marriage Grandpa Wallace gave them a chunk of land in his alfalfa field in Granger, Utah. Mom and Dad bought an old army barracks, moved it to the property, and began the process of turning it into a home in which they could raise a family.
By the time I landed in mortality, the barracks had become a respectable cottage and a few scrawny sticks in the yard had started to look like trees.
Perhaps my very first memory of mortal life is the day that my mother grabbed me excitedly. “I have something to show you, Wally!” She carried me to one of the trees and lifted me up. “Look in the nest.”
I gasped. There in the nest were three, perfect, blue, robin eggs. I stared in wonder. I still think that there may be nothing more beautiful on this earth than robin eggs in a nest.
Mom started in me that day a process of celebrating God’s many gifts of life. I cannot count the number of times she has lifted me spiritually to look into the heart of God’s creation and rejoice at the wonder of it all.
Over the years Mom told stories that inspired awe. She told about a sacred experience when she was a child and saw her departed grandfather. She told about her dear parents and the joy of her childhood. Time and again she testified of God’s perfect purposes.
But Mom didn’t just talk about joy, she lived it. I remember times when we traveled places in the family’s 1950 Ford. There were times when the brood became restless. Mom, with her inimitable zeal, would say, “Kids, let’s sing some songs.” She invited each of us in turn to pick a favorite Primary song for us all to sing. “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam.” “Tell me the stories of Jesus.” “I wonder when He comes again.” Mom has always had a gift for directing us toward joy when tiredness threatened domestic tranquility.
Mom also taught us some serious optimism. There were times when the car got stuck and Mom would say, “Kids, just put your tongue in the right place and Dad will get us out.” And Mom pushed out her cheek with her tongue. I never knew just where the right place was for my tongue, but I learned to believe that Father could always get us out of any jam.
Years passed. My wife, Nancy, and I had children. And grandchildren.Mom loved them all! She cherished each as if God had never created anything finer than each of those children. I remember visiting Mom in her home in St. George with several of the grandkids. Max wanted to be a spaceman. So Mom put Max in Dad’s mechanical chair and allowed him to journey to the moon and back. Though the chair’s range is no more than 3 feet, the lift of spirits was vast.
My mother’s love for family and her zeal for life have infected all of her descendants. Her example inspired me to return to school midlife and get a Ph.D. in Family and Human Development. Now, as a professor of Family Life, I read the research about human well-being and I know that my mom was right. She knew instinctively what the science of being human now attests: savoring each moment of life is the foundation of happiness. The attitude of gratitude illuminates our lives.
Mom lives what research recommends and Amulek taught: “Worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38).
Mom is now 88 years old and anxious to join Dad in their mansion on High. Yet, just last summer, Mom again lifted me to see God’s wonders. As we sat at dinner with her, she told Nancy and me about a recent experience late one night when she lay in bed feelingterribly lonely. Then she felt the presence of two very special guests: Dad and Jesus. She did not see them or hear them—but she felt them. She felt every pain removed from her mind and heart. She felt every anxiety lifted. She felt perfect peace.As she told us of her experience, I realized that once again mom had lifted us—this time to look into God’s perfect goodness and never-ending care.
Today, separated by six decades and thousands of miles from our home in Granger, our current house in Little Rock, Arkansas is filled with nests and eggs I have bought to remind me of the wonders of life. More important, our hearts are filled with awe for Father’s perfect work. Mom continues to lift us to look with wonder at God’s marvelous creations—from birds’ eggs to grandchildren to daily blessings and constantmercies.
Thank you, Mom. I’m forever grateful.
Adapted from Life Lessons From Mothers of Faith, 2012, edited by Gary Toyn. Used with permission of editor and publisher.