On our first Valentine’s Day together, before we were even engaged, Don started a tradition that he has continued throughout our marriage. He often presents me with some sort of creative card, carefully thought out and tailored just for me.
The first year after we’d only been dating a few months, he bought a card that looked like this:
But because it would never have been proper to give an innocent BYU coed a card featuring naked people, he “dressed it up” like this:
And then finished the process with the picket fence with our initials carefully carved in the heart shaped handle.
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 . . .
Alpha Madalene Roberts Pratt November 10, 1906 – August 14, 1975
It was a late summer evening in Flint, Michigan, and already dark as Mom and I got in the car for a last minute trip to the store for diapers. It had been a long and exhausting day, and my emotions were extremely fragile. As Mom pulled out onto the very familiar road in front of Gram and Pop’s house, we began to talk about the day’s activities. Suddenly I couldn’t cope with the inevitable, and I began to sob. “But I don’t want her to die. What will we do without her? My children will never know my Gram.” My adored Gram was dying. She was losing her battle against cancer, and her life was quickly slipping away. My sense of loss was overwhelming.
That August of 1975 I was a young mother, just 21 years old. I was delighted to have a darling baby daughter and anxious to show her off to my extended family. Unfortunately, this reunion had come as a result of very difficult circumstances. My Grandmother Pratt was dying of cancer. Knowing that her time was very short, Yvonne and I had taken our new babies – Matthew and Emily – for a visit. We had been to the hospital that day to introduce these newest descendants to their great-grandmother. She was very weak, but had been able to hold each of the babies for a short time. Although she was thrilled at meeting the youngest members of the family, it was probably more important to me for Gram to see my baby, than it was to her. Gram had played a very important part in my life, and my growing up was full of wonderful memories of Gram and Poppie. Because Emily was only three months old, I hadn’t had time to emotionally put my mother in the grandmother role. The grandmother in our family was Gram, and I was devastated to think that my children were going to grow up without her. How would they have special grandparent memories?
l-r: Pop – Lynnette – Gram – Michelle – Mom – Dad – Carolyn
Back: Yvonne – Mike (Peterson) – Gram – Carolyn
Middle: Tom – Poppie – Bryan – Greg (Burgess)
Front: David – Mark (Peterson) – Jeff – Lynnette
Gram died shortly after that trip to Michigan, and none of my children know her except through pictures and stories. But they haven’t missed out on grandparent time. They know “Gram” as my mother, and their lives have been enriched by happy experiences with all of their grandparents. Now it’s my turn to create happy grandmother memories with the next generation – and I gladly accept!
Thanks for all the wonderful memories, Gram.
I hope that I can be the kind of grandmother you were.
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!
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.
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!
Turning 14 years old was a big deal, because then I was old enough to go to Stake Dances and they were a REALLY BIG deal. The Fort Worth, Texas Stake had a very active youth program and the Stake dances were a big attraction. As newly eligible Mia Maids, my friends and I eagerly anticipated the dances and planned well ahead what we would wear, who we would see, and plotted ways to get a certain dance with a really cute boy – or avoid a dance with a dud.
An annual event in the stake was the semi-formal dance at which the First Year Mia Maids (the girls who had turned 14 during the year) made a debut into stake dance society and were formally introduced in a traditional ceremony escorted by their fathers. We felt so important to be spotlighted this way, and we were convinced of our maturity and obvious grace!
Shopping for my dress was great fun. This would be my first formal, and my mom was great about making certain that I felt well dressed. As I recall, we found the dress in a little boutique, and I was pretty sure at first view that it was “my” dress. The formal was white satin with a chiffon overlay embroidered with long stemmed pink roses. The pink ribbon around the waist set off the flowers perfectly and my proper white gloves completed the outfit. When I tried it on, I knew I was a picture of loveliness and couldn’t wait to wear it.
This picture is actually a re-enactment of the corsage pinning, staged on Sunday afternoon
When the big day arrived, my dad was the ideal date, showing up with a beautiful corsage of pink baby roses that were perfect with my dress. He looked especially handsome in his dark suit and unlike many of the boys my age, he was taller than I! I was proud to be escorted by such a good looking gentleman.
I can’t believe I still have this rose – 41 years later well preserved in my “Treasures of Truth” scrapbook.
My dad has escorted me through many milestones in my life and has continued to support me through much of the everyday routine. He deserves my respect and admiration – I was occasionally a challenge to him and he kept his cool most of the time. He’s still handsome, he’s still taller than I am, and I’m still proud to be seen with him.
Recently I’ve been missing my mom. All I really wanted for my birthday was to go to North Ogden and put flowers on her grave. Somehow, it seemed fitting to celebrate her on my birthday. But since that wasn’t possible this year, I’ve been savoring some great memories. Mom taught me a lot over the years – some things serious, some things practical and some things just crazy!
So here, in no particular order, are a few of the gems I picked up from her. She didn’t necessarily use these words (except for a few that my siblings will surely recognize), but by her example she tutored me in some of life’s important lessons.
I hope I never forget these Joyce-isms, but honestly – how could I!
Be proud of who you are
Fold the laundry as soon as you take it out of the drier
Celebrate your marriage
Launder the kitchen cloths and towels in a separate load
Be nice to your brothers and sisters
Clean the toilet thoroughly – including the space between the seat and the tank
“Two sets of four” is the hardest phase to get
Don’t treat your friends better than you treat your family
Great shoes can make your outfit – or your day
You can do it willingly or unwillingly – but you WILL do it
Grease and go naked with your hair on fire (her response to any whining about having nothing to wear)
Service in the Church and to the Lord are a key to happiness