My mother was probably a lot like yours. She loved people, and she went about doing good. In fact, she lived a life devoted to doing good and being good.
Because of her, I have a desire to praise all mothers for what they are and what they do. Heber J. Grant taught that “No one ever has surpassed or ever will surpass the achievement of a woman when she becomes a mother” (CR, April 1934, p. 15 ). No prophet ever said a truer thing.
David O. McKay also said it:
The noblest office or calling in the world is motherhood. True motherhood is the most beautiful of all arts, the greatest of all professions. She who can paint a masterpiece, or who can write a book that will influence millions, deserves the admiration and the plaudits of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters, whose immortal souls will exert an influence throughout the ages long after paintings shall have faded, and books and statues shall have decayed or been destroyed deserves the highest honor that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, p. 156).
For all who have received this noble calling, and who have devoted themselves and their lives to motherhood, the following stories are a tribute; a monument erected by those of us with lesser gifts and callings, to the noblest of all God’s creations. They are a memorial to magnificent women everywhere whose lives reflect the Christian attributes that come from loving others and living in harmony with the word of God.
“Him [or her] that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God” (Rev. 3:12)
My mother struggled through long years of increasing blindness and deafness and immobility before the end drew near. I was alone at my mother’s bedside five days before she died. She was changed from when I saw her a few days before. She seemed focused, almost majestic. I held her hand through long moments of silence. As I searched her face and thought about her life, a word formed in my heart. The word was invulnerable. I knew I was looking at a person who was beyond the reach of Satan.
She would not have believed that. My mother never felt she was good enough. Like so many others, she was certain that she had not measured up the divine standard. How I wish I could have been close by when she met the Lord and found out how good she really was.
Sitting in her room, looking at her almost transparent features (she was beautiful that day), I knew that she had overcome the world by the power of her purity because throughout her entire life, she had been good.
I had another thought. D&C 60:4 and 101:3 both speak of a day when the Lord will “come to make up [his] jewels.” The righteous on that day will be precious gemstones in the crown of the Redeemer. In that day they will indeed be his “peculiar treasure” (Exodus 19:5). Mother had become a polished stone. Just a few more strokes with the jeweler’s cloth, I seemed to hear the Spirit say, and she will be finished.
C.S. Lewis said it this way:
“When [Christ] said “be perfect” He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard, but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder-in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird, but it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad” (Mere Christianity, pp. 198, 199).
Mom did not “go bad.” She went in for the “full treatment” and she hatched. How wonderful it is to think of her now, still good, free again, and finally flying.
Thinking of her has encouraged me to write these memories about her, and about mothers everywhere.
And they shall teach their children to pray (D&C 68:28)
I stared into the white froth of the river as the water tumbled over the jumble of rocks and debris and raced under the bridge. Tears gathered and slid down my face and into the torrent below. An instant of carelessness and inattention: that is all; a look at the river, a laugh, a shake of the head, and my glasses were gone.
It was no more than a city creek, but heavy with spring run-off. And my glasses were in it. I stared through amblyopia and myopia into the plunging swirl and saw nothing. After a moment, I scrambled down the bank and into the water, bending, reaching, feeling, bracing my nine-year old body against the current. The churning and bubbling of the water made it impossible to see anything. My blind groping in the cold and wet was useless. The glasses were gone.
Finally I climbed back to the sidewalk and stood dripping and crying, gathering the courage to go home and tell my parents that I had once again cost them money.
Forty minutes later mother and I stood together where I had stood alone. “Did you see where they fell?”
I pointed to the spot, a white whirlpool of water, stones and sticks.
“Did you look?” she continued.
“I got into the water. That’s why I’m wet, mom. But there wasn’t any way to find them. Look at it. You can’t see anything in there, and the water’s going so fast they might be at the gravel pit by now.” I was still sobbing, surrendering to my emotions. I hated to be in trouble, and I was in trouble a lot. I hated to lose things, and I lost things all the time. Dad said I was the only kid in Logan that could clean his room in the morning and lose his bed by lunch. And I dreaded telling Dad.
Dad worked hard to support his family. In early summer he sold garden seeds over a three-state route out of the back of a 53 Buick. In August he supervised teenage pickers in the bean fields. The rest of the year he taught school. Our budget wasn’t built to withstand my constant assaults.
“Ted . . .”
I looked at her again.
“Did you pray?” she asked.
I had not. I knew the formalities of prayer, and I went through them regularly, but I did not expect answers. What answers were there for things like “Heavenly Father, bless the missionaries,” or “bless the poor and the sick and the needy and the afflicted,” or “help me to be a good boy today.
” I guessed God took care of the missionaries, and watched over the unfortunate, but I never seemed to manage to be a good boy, and I never expected answers.
“Come on, Teddy,” she said. “Hold my hand. Will you ask Heavenly Father to help us?”
I took her hand as I looked at her. Her eyes were already closed, and in my heart a voice whispered, “She gets answers.” I felt something small and warm. I bowed my head and squeezed my eyes shut.
“Heavenly Father, I lost my glasses. Daddy can’t afford new ones and I need them to see good and do good, do better, in school. Will you please help us find them? Name of Jesus, Amen.”
Mom gave me a pat on the bottom and I climbed down the bank again, and waded into the water to the spot where the glasses had disappeared. I plunged in my hand and grasped a handful of sticks. After a moment’s hesitation, I drew them from the water and examined them. My glasses were there, secured by the temple among the twigs and rubble.
The small, warm thing in me grew then, as I stood in the water. It grew and became a shining certainty saying in me what my mother had so often said: “God hears; God answers.”
Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see (2 Kings 6:17)
Toward the end of my mission, I received a call to a leadership position. I thought my mother would be pleased and wrote home to tell her about it.
Her letter in response to that announcement began like this:
“When I got your letter, I began a fast . . .”
A fast? Why would she fast? This should have been good news. When I slipped off a trolley car and damaged my leg, she fasted for a quick recovery. When I was having trouble with my companion, she fasted for my success.
But this was not the kind of event that required fasting. This was the kind of good news you shared with brothers and sisters and the Bishop, especially when it involved a young man who had generated a fair amount of parental anxiety in his early years.
I knew about fasting. What had I included in my letter that might lead to fasting?
“When I got your letter, I began a fast,” she wrote, “because I wanted to get as close as I could to your Heavenly Father so that I could tell him how grateful I am for what he has done for you in your life.”
We do not doubt our mothers knew it (Alma 56:48)
I was falling in love with the young woman who has been my wife for 40 years, and who is the mother of our 12 children. I met her because I thought she was someone else, but I soon began to believe that our encounter had not been a mistake at all.
We spent lovely evenings together at a dance and a dinner, and walked hand in hand up the winding path to the footbridge across the river in Spring Hollow, with the candles of stars lighting the night. One afternoon we climbed the hill above the dam in the canyon, and in the gathering evening, watched as the lights came on at the temple in the city.
One November my future bride attended a sacrament meeting with me. After the service, we sat in the swings of a nearby school and talked for hours. I discovered compatibility and sensed an inner beauty that afternoon, that more than ever, I longed to make a part of my own life.
Each experience with her seemed to confirm and strengthen the feelings of my heart. I was falling in love. I was beginning to consider bringing this young woman into Mom’s family. I learned over the years that my mother had a resource of revelation that was remarkable and trustworthy. I was inclined to ask this girl the eternal question, and to invite her to the temple with me, but not before I knew my mother’s feelings.
After my evening in the swings, I returned home. It was late but my mom was awake. She glanced up from her rocking chair as I came in the door. There were no preliminaries. “Mom,” I said, “I think I’ve found her.”
Tears sprang instantly to her eyes. They were so sudden that I froze for an instant. Then I went to her and knelt on the floor beside her. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
She regarded me in silence for a long moment, then took my hand and squeezed it. “Nothing is wrong,” she replied. “I knew you were going to come in and say that.”
I had one more question to ask; the most important of questions. “How do you feel about her?”
We stood. She put her arms around me, then pushed me back a bit to look into my face. She smiled. “I feel good,” she said. “I feel very good.”
They had been taught by their mothers (Alma 56:47)
The year was 1994, and Mom had come to live with us for a few years.
She turned 88 that year. Her blindness was worsening. She had only a tiny area of peripheral vision in one of her eyes and was entitled to a carefree, relaxing ride into the eternal worlds, but carefree and relaxing were not in her vocabulary.
Lola married at the beginning of the great depression and she spent many of the early years of her marriage teaching school in tiny towns in Arizona and Utah. My youngest daughter, Tiffany Lola turned 4 the year Mom turned 88. After my baby’s birthday, Mom decided it was time for her to learn to read.
“She’s only four,” I told her.
“What’s your point?” she asked cheerfully. We helped her cut poster board into twenty-six pieces, and she wrote the alphabet in huge letters on the squares (the size of the letters was for her), and put Tiffany on her lap. Her love and enthusiasm helped hold the girl’s attention, and they spent hours each week at the kitchen table, reviewing and reciting. When Tiffany knew all her letters, Mom got new flash cards and wrote words. She had an early reader used years before in teaching and she now taught her granddaughter the words that were in that book.
When the prerequisites were completed and Tiffy could identify and pronounce the words, Grandma got out the book and my four year old read it, slowly, raggedly, completely.
I still treasure the images of my mother sitting at the dining room table with my daughter in her lap, teaching her the alphabet.
I still remember the sounds as Tiffy pronounced her first words, and I still cherish the memory of hearing this little girl, sitting on her grandmother’s lap, reading her first book.
I took pictures and called the local paper with an idea for a great human-interest story. They liked the concept, took my photos, and never followed up. But that did not matter. She was teaching so that my daughter could learn to read.
That daughter is now a married college student. Without looking, I know that in her backpack are school supplies, a laptop, and whatever book she is currently reading.
I don’t know what the statistics are for blind eighty-eight-year olds teaching four-year-olds to read, but mother never cared about statistics. There was a task she could complete in spite of her handicaps.
The people had a mind to work (Nehemiah 4:6)
My oldest daughter wrote her feelings about the heritage she received from her grandmother:
“My cedar chest is a treasure chest: it contains an embroidered blouse from Brazil, tokens from my wedding, journals, letters, pictures . . . The most precious thing is an old, faded apron that goes on like a vest and buttons up the front. It is light blue with large orange and yellow flowers and it is not very pretty. Some of my family looked at me strangely when I chose my grandmother’s work apron as my inheritance. But it reminds me of one of the things I cherished about my grandmother. She loved to work. I remember her wearing it as I worked alongside her. We were preparing a meal from fish she had bottled, bread she had baked, and fruit she had canned, talking the afternoon away. How I want to be like her.
“She passed away long ago, but I still love to look at that old apron. As I hold it, I can almost taste the dried fruit she gave her grandchildren every year for Christmas. I came to appreciate those apples and apricots more than any toy, because I knew they were drenched in effort and love.
“She loved to work. She had seven children, but I remember her saying she wished she and her husband had had a dozen. I am about to have my 7th baby. I look around my home; it is a mess. There are dishes to do and children to care for and washing to fold and floors to scrub. There are days when I can hardly get started. When those days come, I know it is time to get her old work apron out of the cedar chest and put it on. Then I look in the mirror, and I can almost hear her voice telling me again that she is proud of me. Then she smiles at me from my own reflection and says, “Sweetheart, it is time to go to work.””
Ought not ye to labor to serve one another? (Mosiah 2:18)
In her final years, Mom spent much of her time in her room, in bed or in an easy chair. Her eyesight had given way to macular degeneration, and her hearing had diminished. Her mobility was restricted, so she memorized hymns and listened to scriptures, good books, and church magazines on tape.
But she was not content. The increasing glow of her spirituality did not lessen her need to serve others. She made a withdrawal from her savings, bought yarn, and began.
She crocheted afghans for her grandchildren and great grandchildren. With unseeing eyes, steady fingers, and determination, and with help identifying colors, she went to work.
Each afghan was bright with the brilliance of her love and her need to serve. Each required about 50 hours. When she was finished, she had invested over 5,000 hours—the equivalent of over 200 24 hour days, and had made 100 tapestries of art and love.
She had yarn left over. I asked her to make one more afghan, for me, and she did. It is a collage of mismatched colors, hard work, happiness, selflessness, and service.
Whoso cometh in at the gate and climbeth up by me shall never fall (Moses 7:53)
My mother had a recurring dream. In the dream she was climbing. The trail was long and steep and the path was rugged. Roots tripped her and rocks slowed her. She was tired. She was thirsty. She was far from the summit. But she was impelled to keep climbing.
None of her children is certain whether she reached the top in every dream, or only the last one, but when she described what waited beyond that mountain, she spoke of a scene of breathtaking beauty-a place of loveliness beyond anything she had ever seen. The view was payment enough for the difficulty of the climb.
On the Sabbath day she died, most of her children were with her, spontaneously, miraculously, gratefully. Grand- and great-grandchildren were there as well. We waited with her. We knew that the end was near. The hours passed. She rested quietly with her eyes closed while we remembered and sang hymns. We gave her a blessing of release. Her breathing grew ragged then, as though from a final, great exertion.
And then her eyes opened and focused! Those opaque, sightless eyes that had failed her for so many years were suddenly alive and bright. Her long-departed husband must have come to welcome her and to walk hand in hand with her into the light and life of that beautiful valley. She had reached the summit again.
Mom will never read this. Or perhaps she will. But she is gone now. The memories in this booklet are a testament of love and gratitude to her and for her, and to and for all the women of the world who excel in their calling as mothers, “the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.” (“Message of the First Presidency,” Deseret News Weekly Church Edition, October 1942, p. 5.)