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With the words of General Conference last weekend still echoing in our heart and the promise of Easter Sunday less than a week away, it is Holy Week! While members of the Church do not mark each special, historical day as actively as many Christians, it is a sweet and important week to both remember our Savior’s sacrifice and to prepare for the glorious message of Easter Sunday.
For me, Easter is especially precious this year for two unique reasons, a book and my Mother.
1) At age 62, I have just completed my first reading “Jesus The Christ” by James E. Talmage. Though I had sincerely tried several times at different points in my life, it was extremely daunting. I finally realized about a year and a half ago that I would need to slowly and diligently savor what I could understand with this complex writing, not worry about reading every word and sentence, and that there was no need to hurry. It quickly became rich and fulfilling … almost too tender to talk about. Some days I read a few pages. Some days just a few paragraphs, but it was thrilling overall. I cannot wait to start it again.
I do not know why I could not read it before, but that’s not what matters. What matters is that He knows I have read it and that I understand His life so much more — because of it. He knows that I love it, and that I love Him so much more.
Because of this book, Easter and the glorious message of His empty tomb will never be the same for me.
2) My Mom, at age 94, passed away on June 1, 2016, after many years of cheerfully enduring to the end. This is our first Easter without her, and her first Easter with her beloved Savior.
She’ll probably want to share her Peeps with Him.
There was no one who was more delighted with Easter than Barbara Brewerton Lee. From the message of the Atonement, to the Easter choir music, to little girls’ Easter dresses, to happy stickers on the Dollar Store Easter cards she loved to send, and especially Easter baskets and packages for grandchildren that always included her favorite marshmallow Peeps. In fact, she loved Peeps so much that I always made sure we sent her a little package with her Easter card.
She had experienced some injuries in her earlier years that left her with serious pain and compromised mobility. She struggled with bowel and stomach challenges. She didn’t let it slow her down and was a full-time temple worker until she was 85 in the Washington DC Temple. She was the happiest soul alive and didn’t let her ailments dominate her thoughts or define her activities.
She loved life, but she also loved thinking and pondering about the next life! Not in a morbid way, but in a way that reflected her deep love for the Savior and superior understanding of the entire mortal experience. She anticipated meeting the Savior and her special time of passing into the next life like a little girl counting the days until her birthday or Christmas! She missed my Dad, who had died in 1990, and was sure it couldn’t be much longer before her turn came. She jokingly remarked on occasion that she would love to quietly pass away right in the temple on a work shift and just be carried out.
When she left the Washington D.C. Temple in 2006, She just knew it would happen soon!
Only life – and death – don’t happen that way. There is no schedule or ticket.
The next ten years, from 2006 to 2016, were filled with many physical challenges as her ability to independently and physically care for herself diminished greatly. The last five years were spent nearly 100% fully in bed, although her mind, spirit and eyes stayed sharp and clear. Most thankfully, she was able to feed herself and enjoy reading both from books and on her computer to the very end.
She stayed busy with extraction work and deep study of the scriptures and gospel doctrine, visiting with family and friends on the phone and the computer, reading the works of excellent writers and watching the best of old movies and the new PBS dramas on TV, as well as Fashion Runway and Dancing with the Stars.
She was continually surrounded by family, neighbors, ward members, and health workers who just couldn’t get enough of her joyful ways of listening, teaching, sharing and loving. But the days were long and the nights longer still.
It would take volumes to describe all that transpired during each “last year” of her life, as she touched and blessed so many – from her bed. It was not easy for her or her caregivers, calling for measures of faith and trust and courage that no one had expected she or they would ever need, especially for someone who had been so valiant, so independent and so active for her entire life.
Just before the Memorial Day weekend of 2016, the hospice nurses told us her time was drawing short. We immediately made the long twelve-hour drive to Austin, Texas where she lived in a beautiful facility close to one of my sisters.
I had a few hours alone with her. She asked about each of our children and grandchildren by name. She was very firm with me that I must “do everything possible to share Dr. Miller’s herbal detox! Everyone needs to know about this! The angels brought this to our family and you’re meant to continue with this!” It had changed her health and life immeasurably for the good at a critical time when she was really suffering with stomach and bowel challenges. (Click HERE to read her story and even sing about it all ….)
During our two days there, she came and went from one side of the veil to the other. There were long, quiet hours where she was quietly gone and we knew to not rouse her. We expected each breath to be her last, and then she’d come back and visit, chat and counsel some more.
At one point while she was alert, she asked, “If whoever just walked by is real … could you help me with the bathroom?” We knew that the room was filled with angels as it had often been in her last six months.
As we (my sister and our husbands) were having the sweetest and last conversation I would have with her in this life, she said, with her eyes closed and in between heavy, slow breaths, “Let’s have some fun! Carolyn, the Peeps you sent at Easter are still there in the closet. Can you pass them around?”
We all laughed, and I got out the Peeps! So … my dear friends that I cry the sugar-free message to, there IS a place for them! I did, indeed, enjoy a little Peeps bunny with her. The most important message of Peeps and my Mom at Easter: We always get to choose where and when … and how much!
She passed away a day and a half later. She was a legend in her own time among everyone that knew her. There was not one service, but two large ones for her, both in Texas where she’d been living with my sister, and the other in Utah with all the family and friends where she was buried.
She finally got her wish! And this year, she is joyfully celebrating Easter right where she has wanted to for so long … on the other side with the Living Christ!
She was not perfect, nor would she want us to pretend so, but oh how she loved the Savior! Oh, how she wanted all to come to Him. Oh, how she knew that it is through His perfect life Him that we can find peace, happiness and wholeness with the imperfections of our own.
Throughout her life, she, like me, struggled with her weight and an emotional compulsion for treats, along with a wish for a different size/shape/body. In the end, she was able to graciously and gratefully accept the little body that, though pain ridden and not the one she would have chosen – served her beautifully until the very end!
In the end, I believe she mastered her sweet tooth as well.
Those Peeps that we shared in our last moments together were from Easter, two months before! (I am not one who can just “leave it” like that.) She had become much more masterful than me in saving it for appropriate times.
I’ll long remember our last conversation, her desire to leave us all with something fun to remember by sharing those little Peeps.
Really, who can resist Peeps?
My daughter Emily sent me the darling “Peep in a Twinkie Car” photo from Pinterest below. It is so much fun to imagine this for kids of all ages, including me! I’m tempted to run out and get the ingredients for making special gifts! But, true fact: I’m helpless about eating the cookie, cake and candy bits, not to mention the frosting-used-for-glue when making these things.
Like someone with a handicap that requires wearing a brace, I must always remind myself of the physical and emotional price I (and those around me) pay when I get started with Easter, Halloween or Christmas candy. It can quickly derail me from focusing on the precious, true messages and experiences of the holiday with moods and responses that do not invite the Spirit.
Is that what I want this special Easter? Does sugar affect you or others you know this way?
Question: Could it be that just the picture and fun thought of the cute Peeps bunny in a Twinkie car is enough all by itself to tickle us? Do we really NEED to eat or make it for the delightful lift it brings to our spirits? (Unless, of course, you’re better than I am at avoiding the sugar while you make them!)
Fact: There’s always a healthier way! Would we have just as much fun making veggies look like bunnies???
I quickly found these healthy bunnies and springtime foods. You can find lots more fun ideas on Pinterest and Google images!
I have a terrible time with “just a little” … so I need powerful reminders like the article “This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Sugar” included below.
I am hereby committing to one and all that I will enjoy the upcoming week to Easter in ways far, far more important than candy! I will prepare for the true joy of Easter Sunday in a sweet way that doesn’t include Cadbury Eggs. Easter and Spring are filled with such precious sights, comforts and true joy, that I don’t want candy and sugar to color my moods and body so that I experience the real purpose of the Easter celebration to the fullest. How about you?
What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Sugar
For me, there is not ONE NEW THING in the list of eight below. But oh, how I need a reminder that I want to stay sharp and look great, not just for me, but for my loved ones! And at EASTER when we want our hearts and spirits to be in tune with the God’s great love, sacrifice and beauty around us.
We all know to go easy on the sweet stuff, but what actually happens to your system when you indulge? Here are eight ways sugar affects our bodies:
1. Your brain suffers
Fructose—the sugar that naturally occurs in fruit and is a component, with glucose, of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and table sugar—lights up the brain’s reward center, says pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig, MD, of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. But over time, a diet packed with fructose (especially from HFCS) can make it tougher to learn and remember, animal research suggests. To stay in peak mental shape, try sticking with savory snacks.
2. You want to eat more
By revving the brain’s reward and appetite center, fructose can interfere with feelings of satiety, research reveals. Translation: That extra cookie may not curb your craving after all.
3. Skin ages faster
Too much sugar can hinder the repair of collagen, the buzzed-about protein that keeps skin looking plump, studies show. A steady diet of sugary treats can result in reduced elasticity and premature wrinkles. Indulge your sweet tooth with fruit instead. Experts say it’s A-OK to eat two to four servings of the natural sugar source each day.
4. Excess sugar is stored as fat
Pause before you slip that additional packet into your a.m. coffee. The liver has an innate capacity to metabolize sugar and use it for energy—but only to an extent, explains Dr. Lustig. The fructose that’s left over is converted into fat in the liver, raising your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
5. Your cells pay a steep price
Fructose accelerates the usual oxidation process in our cells, says Dr. Lustig. The result? Proteins, tissues, and organs can become damaged, and our risk of health conditions, including liver disease, kidney failure, and cataracts, rises.
6. You get hooked
Eating sugar leads to the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that makes us like something and want more of it. “As dopamine receptor neurons get overstimulated, the number of receptors to bind to decreases, so you’ll need a bigger hit of dopamine to get the same rush,” explains Dr. Lustig.
7. Stress eating begets stress
Sweets can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the near term, research shows. But continue OD’ing on sugary refined carbs and your risk of insulin resistance, which stresses the body from the inside, goes up. To find your calm, sweat instead: “Exercise is the best treatment for stress. It makes you feel good and reduces cortisol,” says Dr. Lustig.
8. Energy surges, then bottoms out
Refined carbs, like those in white bread and pasta, quickly cause a rise in glucose in the bloodstream, so you might feel extra energized—for a while. But this short-term fix can actually leave you more sluggish later on (when you eventually crash). Instead, opt for natural protein snacks between meals, such as fresh berries or fresh veggies and hummus. They help stabilize blood sugar and keep you going longer. Link below for the source.
(Courtesy of Antea Levi, http://www.health.com/nutrition/sugar-health-effects)
Well, what an article! What help! I can raise my hand and personally acknowledge that each of those are physical truths that I have experienced far too many times in my life. That’s just how it is.
I am choosing and inviting those who struggle with sugar as I do, to spend Holy Week peeping into the future — by preparing for Easter in the sweetest way possible.
My plan is to spend more time outside (especially in the evening), getting my flowers in, more time reading the books and scriptures that fill my heart, more time listening to the uplifting LDS music and talks that are so easily available which help us connect with more important LIFE MATTERS than Peeps, Cadbury eggs and chocolate! YES. We’ve got this in control!
Here’s to the sweetest Easter … Ever!
What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Sugar by Antea Levi
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online since 1999, having presented for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups while living in the Washington DC area. She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents of twelve. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox. CLICK HERE.