Christmas Prelude

Christmas Prelude

Joyce with Lynnette - 8 months old
Joyce with Lynnette - 8 months old

By 7 p.m. on that Saturday night, the hospital room was quiet, dimly lit, and very peaceful.  Dad was napping on the extra bed, and I had pulled a chair close beside Mom’s bed.  Her breathing was slightly labored, but she was resting peacefully and stirred only occasionally.  I knew her time was short, and I wondered how much longer she would be with us.  The lights of the Christmas tree on the table cast a soft glow on the room.  Christmas carols playing from the bedside CD player provided my favorite kind of background music.  I hummed along with “O, Holy Night,” remembering how Mom would often break into song with the Tabernacle Choir at her favorite parts!  How Mother loved Christmas!

I looked at her in the bed, her physical body tired and worn out, and my mind and heart were filled with memories of so many good times.  My mother was one of my best friends, and I felt so grateful for the relationship we shared.  She was strong – yet sentimental, outspoken  – but sensitive, and exacting  – while at the same time gentle.  She had supported and encouraged me throughout my life, even if she did think I was crazy to take up skiing when I was almost 50!  She had given me a lot of guidance – some asked for, some not – and I knew that her passing was going to leave a void.

But more than what we had shared and what all of us would miss, I wondered about her next step.  She was going where none of us had yet been, nor could now.   What was it like to die?  I wasn’t concerned so much about physical pain or discomfort, but particularly curious about the transition from this life to the next.  Where was she going?  How would it feel?  Who would she see?

I picked up a copy of The Book of Mormon that was lying on the bedside table and began to read where the pages fell open:

“Now concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection — Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.”
– Alma 40: 11-12

The room seemed sacred, my heart felt peace, and the Christmas carols were as a prelude . . .

Generally inspired

Generally inspired

The Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah during a session of General Conference
The Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah during a session of General Conference

The weekend of October 3 & 4 brought the broadcast of the LDS General Conference into our home.  I love those April and October weekends of marathon church!  It’s taken me a long time to feel that way, but at this time in my life I really anticipate and appreciate the chance to listen to Church leaders and be uplifted and inspired by talks like this counsel regarding the need to show and express love to my family members, or this powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon, and this gentle reminder to look for opportunities to be of service.

Yesterday while looking for something else (sometimes my lack of organization does pay off), I came across the history of my great grandfather, Thomas B. Brown (27 December 1824 – 18 June 1899).  In light of the previous conference weekend, this excerpt really touched my heart:

Thomas B. Brown - circa 1887
Thomas B. Brown - circa 1887

“Thomas dearly loved to go to the semi-annual conferences in Salt Lake City.  There was not transportation other than horse and buggy.  Since he had neither of these, he would walk to Salt Lake City.  Two days before conference, Eliza [his wife] would prepare some bread, cheese and fruit, and tie it up in a red handkerchief.  Very early in the morning, he would set out.  He walked as far as Farmington the first day, getting there about dusk.  A fine spring by the side of the road supplied him with a good cold drink of water.  After reaching Farmington, he would go to an old friend’s place, Brother Parret, who came from England also.  He would spend the night with Brother Parret and his family, and arise early the next morning in order to be in Salt Lake City in time for conference.  It would take him two days to complete his journey. He would attend all three days of meetings and then walk back to North Ogden.  He traveled over 100 miles round trip, and did so for many years, twice a year.

Thomas said that when all the apostles and other speakers would talk, it was most grand to hear them, but when Brigham Young stood up he started in where all the others left off.  His sermons were so powerful and inspirational that the other talks were pale in comparison.  Thomas said that if the distance had been twice as far for him to walk, he would have done so, just to have the privilege of hearing Brigham Young speak.  On his return, he always brought his children a treat of store candy.  It was usually peppermints, and oh, how good they tasted coming all the way from Salt Lake City.”

And I was really happy for the faith and conviction of my ancestors . . . as well as the modern convenience of BYU television.



October 2, 1992
October 2, 1992

Happy Birthday, Mom!

This picture was taken while you were on a mission in Manila.  In the background I see some things that make me think your fellow MTC-ers had a little celebration for you that day.  I’m assuming that Dad came through with the roses for you, even as a missionary.  He’s good that way.  And I’m pretty sure you’ll be getting some red roses today as well.

This year we had a big party for you in August.  Remember – the one you helped plan to celebrate this milestone?  Almost all the family came to the festivities at Reid Ranch.  I think we had 90 rowdy revelers on Monday night.  We reminisced . . . cried. . . laughed a lot . . .  and had a great time.  You taught us how to have a good time.

We remembered you with this DVD created by Todd.  Although it was difficult to see you back in that hospital bed, you looked good, and it was great to hear your voice.  Did you ever imagine that you’d star in your own movie? Some things just take time, I guess!

. . . starring Joyce!
. . . starring Joyce!

We also remembered you with chocolate that Michelle wrapped up as party favors.  Because really, what could have been more appropriate than Hershey’s?  I suppose Godiva or See’s or even Dove might have been tastier, but we had 90 guests to favor.  And most of them were too little to really appreciate good chocolate.  They just melted it into s’mores and ate it as fast as their mothers would allow.  But I think I’ll savor some of the really good stuff today in your honor.

Thoughtful party favors
Thoughtful party favors

This is the second time we’ve recognized your birthday since you’ve been gone.  It’s easier, but we still miss you.  Do you celebrate birthdays in heaven?  I hope you’re having a bang up party today!

Love, Lynnette

It’s all relative

It’s all relative

Not sure whether she wants to know all these people yet, but no one seems to be leaving, so she’s going to make the best of it. –Brian Andreas

group chaos

chaos 2

campfire -kate

How will our children know who they are if they don’t know where they come from? – John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Steph, Nate, dad

group meeting

Life doesn’t come with an instruction book; that’s why we have fathers. – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

MIchelle & Dad

Cousin to cousin we’ll always be, special friends from the same family tree.

justin, kids,ryan



sno cone cousins

To the outside world we all grow old, but not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys.  – Clara Ortega

campfire 3

card game

Jennifer, Brandon, Bryson

lizz & kids

“Sisters” is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship. – Margaret Mead

carolyn, michelle

eliz & becca

The problem with the gene pool is that there are no lifeguards.


game 4

crazy game

group from loft

Berrett Family Reunion — Reid Ranch – Fruitland, Utah — August 3-6, 2009

Having a family is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain – Martin Mull