Tender Mercies

It’s been 11 days since we buried Mom.  Though I wasn’t getting out there to see her as much as I wanted to because of my health, it’s still an adjustment without her.  I find myself every once and a while wanting to call and check on her.  I’ve been amazed at all the little tender mercies that have occurred during this whole process of laying her to rest and in the days following.

Sometimes before people die, they make arrangements for things they want at their funeral.  That happened with my Dad.  We were in the process of trying to plan his service and not agreeing on who the speakers should be, etc.  I happened to be glancing through what he referred to as his ‘bible’ (the place where he kept all his important documents and records of things that were important to him), when I came across a small piece of note paper that was in his handwriting.  It just happened to be an exact list of what he wanted done for his funeral service.  Well…. that ended all disagreements and made things much easier from then on out.

We weren’t so lucky with Mom.  The only thing that we were aware of is that she had informed me several years before that the great grand kids were to sing, “In My Grandmother’s Old Fashioned Garden”, which was a song she had taught in Primary years ago.  I remembered most of the melody, but the music was scarce.  She happened to find it one day a long time ago and made me a copy and informed me it was to be sung.  That was several years ago.  Do you think I could find that copy when the time came for needing it?  Of course not!  Thanks Heavens for the internet and social media.

I went on Youtube to see if I could find anyone singing the song we had chosen for the older Grand kids to sing so they could start listening and learning.  Luckily I did find something.  Then I thought, just for the heck of it, I’m going to look for Grandmother’s Old Fashioned Garden.  I was amazed when I found a video of some Primary children in a ward here in the Salt Lake area singing it!  What were the chances of me finding that old song being sung on Youtube?  I think it was one of those tender mercies!  Then I noticed in the comments that the lady who had posted the video mentioned where you could find the music.  It was in an old Primary song book from the 1950’s.  The cover was very familiar to me, but I had no idea what had happened to my Mom’s copy of it.  The lady’s comments also said that if you couldn’t find it, to let her know and she would email it to you.

I didn’t know how fast her response would be, because sometimes people don’t see it when a comment is made on things for quite sometime.  I decided to give it a try and I mentioned that it was urgent that I get a copy.  In the meantime, I went to Facebook to put the troops to work in helping me find the music.  I was amazed at the immediate response I got on Facebook.  Many friends were familiar with the old song or the book it was in and went on a hunt to find their copy.

However, I was even more surprised when I received a phone call from the lady that had put it on Youtube.  I wasn’t able to take the call at the time, but she left me a message saying she would call me later that night.  I never heard from her that night, but I did find a copy of it from her in my email that night!  I also received messages from several friends on Facebook that they had found the song book and were happy to loan it to me.  Again….. tender mercies!  After getting a copy of the music, I was going through some newer Primary songs and played through “I Often Go Walking”.  I started to cry as I was singing through it and knew that we needed to add it to the other song for the great grand kids to sing.  I knew Mom would like that.

Not only were we able to find the music to the one song she had requested, but in the process of discussing who we thought should speak, we had been throwing a few names around of some of the grand kids and a dear neighbor that Mom loved.  My one niece, whose name we had mentioned, had been out of town when my Mom had taken her fall and she hadn’t had a chance to come visit her since the fall.  She finally was able to make it on her way home from her trip on Sunday night.  By that time, Mom was pretty much in a comatose state, so Shellie wasn’t really able to visit with her as much as just know she had come to see her and give her her love.  As we were sitting around talking, I mentioned to Shellie that her name had come up as a possible speaker.  She just kind of smiled and didn’t really say anything.  Her husband, on the other hand, piped right up and said, “You know Grandma told Shellie she was speaking at her funeral about a year ago.”  Shellie didn’t seem too happy with him for sharing that information, because, let’s be honest…. who really wants to speak at someones’ funeral?  Especially someone you love so much.  Well…. as far as I was concerned, that was a sign that we had been inspired when bringing up her name as a possibility to speak.

Then, my sister was at her daughter’s house and mentioned to her that we had been discussing her as a possible speaker too.  Well…  Jenny confessed that Grandma had told her she was to speak also.  But neither of them really wanted to share that info.  But, there you have it!  Proof once again we had been inspired.  The other name was of a nephew that my sister was aware of that my Mom had asked also.  Well…. three speakers was probably a little long, so we assigned my nephew the opportunity of reading the eulogy and had the two nieces speak.  One did her life sketch, and the other talked about memories and the great lady she was.  Tender mercies.

As far as the music goes…..  once we found the one song she had requested, we needed to figure out the other music.  Music was a big part of my Mother’s life.  At one point in time, she had said that was all she wanted for her funeral….. just music.  We informed her that that wasn’t possible to do for an LDS service.  The guidelines stated that you need to have some doctrinal things taught at the service.  Besides…. I think she really knew she would want her grand kids to speak, but we knew she would still want several musical numbers.

I knew Mom would want me to sing.  She used to do solos for funerals all the time when she was younger.  I’ve sung for several funerals before, but it’s very different when it’s your own Mother.  I couldn’t do it for my Dad’s.  I don’t know why… but I just knew I would never make it through a song.  The only reason I agreed to do it for Mom was because I knew she would haunt me if I didn’t.  I also knew I couldn’t do it alone.  I’ve been performing with a couple of my close friends for a long time.  We used to perform a lot.  The last few years, they only ‘gig’ we’ve had has been coming to my Mom’s rest home and performing for all the people there at Christmas time.  It always meant a lot to Mom when we did that.  So…. I figured I would enlist my friends help to sing with me at her funeral.  I knew she would like that.  Now…. we’ve been singing together for years but mostly fun entertaining stuff.  We have done a few religious programs over the years and there were a couple of songs I was considering that we had sung in those programs before.  I figured that would be the easiest.  However, my mind kept coming to a women’s arrangement of “The Lord Is My Shepherd” that was in our hymn book.  I had sung it before many years ago with some friends in high school and then of course during church meetings as a congregation at women’s meetings, but I had never sung it with these particular friends.  Still… that’s the song that kept coming to me, so that’s what we went with.  Luckily, a friend volunteered her husband to be the pianist for all the music and he is able to ‘flourish’ the music on his own.  That made singing the arrangement in the hymn book a little nicer.

The final song that the older grand kids sang actually came as an inspiration to my sister.  She happened to text me one day and said she thought it would be nice to have it sung at the funeral.  The minute she mentioned the title I felt very good about it.  It was a song I was familiar with and had sung several years before.  Once again, we were able to easily find the music and with the Youtube video for them to listen to, they could learn it on there own and just get together to go over it the night before and the day of the service.  They sounded wonderful on it.  We have some musical talent in the family that has been passed on down from my Mom.  Again…. I felt tender mercies were sent for all the music choices.

The service was beautiful.  It was a very fitting tribute to my Mother.  I know she was happy with it.

This is me and by siblings at the cemetery in behind Mom's casket.  I'm in the middle.  Aren't the flowers beautiful?
This is me and by siblings at the cemetery behind Mom’s casket. I’m in the middle. Aren’t the flowers beautiful?

The most profound tender mercy we received as at the cemetery.  As we gathered around her grave site for the dedicatory prayer, my sisters and I all sat on the front row of seats they had set up under the canopy directly in front of her resting place.  It was a cloudy and chilly day.  It wasn’t freezing, but we all had a coat on to keep us warm.  My brothers we all standing in other places and were not sitting with us on the front row.  The very minute my brother in law started the dedicatory prayer, there was a wave of warmth that overcame us.  I felt it mostly on my legs and wondered if the clouds had broken for a moment and the sun was coming through.  Or I wondered if maybe they had set up heaters under the canopy like they do on occasion when the weather is really cold and that they just had forgotten to turn them on.  Well…. when the prayer ended… so did the warmth and my sisters and I all looked at each other.  Sherrie said, “Did you feel that?”  All three of us agreed that we had felt a surge of warmth, but no clouds had departed, no heaters were in place and the three of us were the only ones who had experienced it.  We all agreed immediately that it was a sign from Mom of her love for us and that she was happy and thrilled with what had gone on at the service.  Perhaps a sign from both Mom and Dad letting us know they were together again and happy.  It was a sweet and tender moment.  One I will not forget.  Thanks, Mom and Dad for sending us that love.

In the time since her service, I have had many dear friends send cards and gifts.  A couple of them have deeply touched me.  One, a figurine given to me by my friends I sing with is of a mother and a daughter hugging.  Maybe you’re familiar with Willow Tree figurines.  This one is called ‘Close to Me’.  It is beautiful and I will think of Mom every time I look at it.

Another gift was brought to me by a dear neighbor and friend.  It is a beautiful picture that she put in a frame of Christ with open arms to a woman coming through the veil.  The most wonderful part of the picture is that the woman on the earthly side of the veil is old and frail using a cane.  The woman that passes through the veil is young and vibrate as she runs toward Christ.  It’s so beautiful and a testimony of what we believe as Latter Day Saints.  Though the picture would only represent what her spirit is like…. young and full of life….  we believe that after the resurrection, we will be restored to our former healthy and whole (and young) bodies. (Alma 40:23)

Another tender mercy that came my way just this week happened at the temple on Wednesday.  Not only have I received comfort while in the temple the last couple of weeks, this one happened while I was waiting outside in the car for my husband.  Since I haven’t been working regularly at the temple the last several months because of my health, my Coordinator had assigned me a fairly easy schedule that actually ended a good hour or more before my husbands assignment would be done.  For some reason, I decided that day that I would go take care of some errands while John finished his assignments instead of waiting in the temple for him like I did the week before.  After going to the bank and the grocery store, I was just sitting in my car in front of the temple waiting for John.  Because of the business that I have, I have my name on the back of my car as well as the name of the product I represent.  For this reason….. a distant cousin (whom I’ve only met once in the temple) stopped to see if it was me.  I had met this cousin while working in the temple many months before.  I had learned that her last name was Bangerter, my maiden name, and so we began talking.  I discovered that she and her husband had been carrying on the genealogy research that his father Neslen and been doing for the Bangerter family for years.  She had many family names that she could give me so that I could do some temple work for them myself.  I was so excited about this prospect!  I love doing work for family members.

I hadn’t heard from her (she had misplaced my name and information) and had completely forgotten about it when she saw my car with my name and had her husband stop.  Once she reminded me who she was, she wanted to know if I wanted some family names to do the work for.  Of course!  I was so thrilled to get family names to do!  That will give me motivation to get to the temple more often than I do so I can be a patron instead of just a worker.  Again…. timing?  Coincidence that I should be there in my car?  Yes…. all of the above, but to me, it was just one more tender mercy from Heavenly Father reaffirming all that I believe in the after life.  And perhaps…. Mom and Dad had a hand in it.

I’m grateful for all the tender mercies that have happened.  I’m grateful too that I am able to recognize them as such.  I’m sure they will continue.  I will miss Mom… it’s hard to imagine life without her.  Thankfully I still have a message from her on my phone so I can hear her voice on occasion asking me how I’m doing.  Another tender mercy?  I think so.

I Am Grateful!  How Are You?


Goodbye Mom! Heaven Is a Little More Sassy Now

Mom took a bad fall on Thursday.  The worst one she’s had since her stroke 6 years ago.  This one was about all she could take.  She just knew she was going this time.

I got a call from my sister at about 7:30 am Thursday morning.  She said Mom had fallen and she wanted all her kids around her NOW.  Unfortunately, my husband was subbing for someone in the temple that morning and he had taken my car.  I told my sister I would get there as quick as I could.  I would call the temple and have them track him down and come out as quickly as he got home.

We made it out here just after 9 am.  By that time, they had moved her off the floor and into her chair.  They didn’t want to move her without Paramedics just in case she had injured her back this time.  She was in a lot of pain when I got there.  I was the last one of the siblings to arrive since I live the farthest away of the local ones.  We have a brother in Oregon.

Mom relishing that they made such a fuss over here at the Festival of Trees in 2010
Mom relishing that they made such a fuss over her at the Festival of Trees in 2010

Mom’s had some pretty challenging times the last couple of years.  Every time she took a fall, her dementia seemed to get a little worse and she would sometimes be very ornery with the aides at her Assisted Living facilities.  In fact…. we’ve had to move her…. 3 times, since we put her in Assisted Living.  This last time was the hardest move because it was to a memory unit, and yet it has proven to be the biggest blessing we could have asked for.  We were able to still surround her with the things she loves to look at and she got a Mountain view back out of her window.  She seemed very happy.  In fact… she’s only been here two weeks.  The staff was just getting to know her and most of them have said that they really liked her.

What can I say about Jen?  ….Also lovingly known as “Grandma Shit” by her grand kids.  She was a character.  Always kind and accepting of everyone, but she did love to cuss.  It really was just a part of her.  The last few years, as her dementia got worse…. the aides took more of it than some of them could handle.  She could be very mean some days, which comes with aging and dementia.  But that wasn’t my Mom.  My ‘real’ Mom?  Well…. that’s a different story!

I remember being embarrassed as a teenager that my Mom swore.  It was something we were taught in our church that we shouldn’t do.  Though I was embarrassed…. my friends thought it was funny.  They actually loved her for it.  It became easier for me to accept it because of that.  They thought she was a hoot.  Though I became accepting of it….. I did NOT want to become one who would cuss myself.  I pride myself that I didn’t….. at least till I started having kids!   It’s funny how being frustrated with your kids can bring it out of you!  For some reason…. it’s not as ‘funny’ when I do it.  It’s something I really do need to bring under control.

Despite her cursing…. she was a jewel.  As I reflect upon her life and all the things she has done over the years, she was a pretty amazing lady.  She was always busy doing something, or volunteering for things.  She was blessed to be able to be a stay at home Mom, but she was always involved in something.  I’ll mention the things that I remember….but I may miss a few.  After all…. I AM the baby in the family!

As a kid, I remember Mom always taking care of Dad for lunch.  Dad had his own business as a Brick Mason.  Whenever he was working locally (within a couple of miles or so) Mom would often bring him a fresh lunch.  I remember her packing his lunch box to take on the job.  Many times I would ride with her to take Daddy his lunch.

My Dad loved to garden.  He was raised on a farm, so gardening was  passion of his.  We had several fruit trees in our back yard as well as a large vegetable garden he grew.  And guess who got to take care of the harvest?  Mom of course.  I remember her spending hours canning fruit and vegetables and even freezing some.  She also made freezer jam for us.  Our ‘fruit room’, as it was called, (under the porch where it was all stored) was always full of bottled goods.  Of course, she made sure all of us girls knew how to can fruit and vegetables. Every year they insisted that we all share in their harvest for our own families.  After all…. Dad was producing the same amount of food but with no children left at home to consume it!

I remember Mom giving service at the local hospital as a “Pink Lady”.  I don’t know if they even call them that anymore.  She would sit there close to the entrance and help people as they came in the hospital looking for patients.  I believe they also circulated around to the patients to see if there was something they could help them with or bring them.  It was a good way for her to spend her days while Dad was at work.

Mom was always involved in music.  Even from a very small age.  She was involved in what would be considered her High School musicals.  Though they were called Operettas back then.  She was able to play the leading lady her Senior year.  I remember her always telling us about the big seminary choir she directed. She was very proud of that.  I think I was too young at the time to really remember, but she said it was very big.  The high school kids loved it and gave her great support.

Since music meant so much to her and singing herself was something she loved to do, she finally got involved in the Bountiful Sweet Adeline’s.    Oh, how she loved her Barbershop music!  It was there she met her friends, Ann Schow, Eulala Butters and Thelma Robinson.  They formed a quartet which they called “The Classics”.  They were together for many years and did a lot of traveling and competing.  The won the Region 12 title champs one year.  They really were great and it was a big part of her life.  It became a big part of mine too.  I have great memories of attending Sweet Adeline concerts and performances.  In fact…. I got to meet the Osmond Brothers before they became big!

Taken on Mother's Day 2012.  They insisted we all wear a hat.  Mom loved this picture.  It's my two sisters and I with her.  How come they don't do this with the men?  My brothers missed out!
Taken on Mother’s Day 2012. They insisted we all wear a hat. Mom loved this picture. It’s my two sisters and I with her. How come they don’t do this with the men? My brothers missed out!

Unfortunately, my Mom started having some health challenges pretty early on.  She had some issues with her lungs and felt she was never really able to sing after that.  That pretty much ended her Sweet Adeline’s and quartet career.

She was asked to serve on the very first committee for the Festival of Trees here in Salt Lake.  She was one of the 13 original board members.  It was fun to watch that thing grow from just a very small event to becoming one of the biggest fund raisers for Primary Children’s Medical Center.  We watched it go from one small armory building to two armory buildings within the first few years.  Then they moved to the Salt Palace and just had to keep expanding using more of the conference center space every year as it continued to grow.  Now I believe it’s the largest festival of it’s kind in the nation.  (I might add that it was also the FIRST!)  What those women created became a popular idea to copy for many other areas of the country, including a couple more here in Utah.

I think she served about 15 years on that committee.  Still to this day, they are honored to see her when she attends.  I took her for a couple of years and they loved to bring her back to the board room area and introduce her to all the current board members.  She loved it!  In fact…. I think it was the 2011 Festival that was a 40 year celebration of it’s beginning.  They had made pins for all the board members that year and she was thrilled when they gave her one.  Who knew the Festival would last 40 years…. and it’s still going.  I doubt it will ever stop.  It’s one of the most loved events for the public to attend at the beginning of the Christmas holidays.

This year… I will be crocheting and donating several hats in my Mom’s honor.  I promised her I would.  I’m kind of excited to do it!

As I mentioned earlier… Mom’s health challenges started at an early age.  She had the trouble with her lungs that pretty much ended her singing career.  Though she had had several incidences prior to being diagnosed, it took several years for them to discover that she was diabetic.  Just that alone has brought on many problems over the years.  It’s amazing how well she has done though.  She’s was one tough cookie.  Unfortunately, many years ago she had to have a false eye front put in because her corneal transplants rejected two times, so they had to make a false eye front for her.  It was kind of eery to walk in the room when she was sleeping and have that one eye be open and staring at you!  We all got used to it and actually kind of loved it.

Mom and Dad did a lot of traveling.  They loved it.  They bought themselves a small place in St. George so they could escape for the winter.  They loved being Snow Birds and made many friends in the community.  It was a heart breaking year when Dad decided they were through going down for the winter.  If he couldn’t drive them anymore…. then he was through!  It was only a few months later my Dad passed away.

Mom was truly friendly to everyone.  I remember how lost she was when Dad first died.  She would just sit at home most of the day and stare at the TV.  Most of the time it wasn’t even on.  After her stroke, she needed more care.  It was a tough decision to move her to Assisted Living.  After she got out of rehab for her stroke we had to move her for better care.  She was going to need help 24/7.  We did promise her however, that if she hated it after three months, we would figure out how to take care of her in her home.

She loved it!  She gracefully accepted her condition and made new friends immediately.  In fact, she discovered a few friends from her high school were there.  She didn’t have any trouble with the idea of us selling that big house.  In fact, after she had fully rehabbed from her stroke…. she became a little mother hen.  She was always concerned about the other residents.  She’d check in on them and make sure they got down to dinner, etc.  It was wonderful to see her feeling like she was needed.  Even though she couldn’t do it to the extent she did in those earlier years, she still always seemed to be concerned about other residents, right to the end.  If they weren’t eating their meals or something, she was concerned.  Always the mother hen.

Even though we only moved her two weeks ago, the staff at her current place quickly fell in love with her.  Once they saw her sassy and fun side, it was much easier to tolerate the harder days when she wasn’t as pleasant.  I’ve been amazed at how many of them commented on how much they loved her and were sad that they didn’t get much time with her.  The people from hospice that have worked with her for the last year particularly loved her.  It was so nice to see that others could still see our ‘real’ Mom and love her for it.

Her grandchildren loved her.  She always made us laugh and made us realize how important family is.  The more family gatherings we had, the happier she was.  Unfortunately, those became harder as the family got bigger and began to grow up.  Our yearly Christmas parties were very important to her.  Even amongst all the chaos and noise, she still loved to see the family.

Mom passed away peacefully today, March 4th at around 7 pm.  I’m so grateful for the testimony I have of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I’m so grateful for the knowledge of knowing that we will all be together again.  I’m so glad she is now reunited with my Dad and is happy.  I know Heavenly Father was there to greet her with a big smile on his face.   I’m sure she is running and laughing and so grateful that she is mobile and no longer needs help.  I’m pretty sure Heaven will be a little more fun with her there!

Thanks for all you did for us Mom.  Thanks for being such a wonderful influence on me and on all the family.  Thank you for passing on your musical talent to me and my children as well as many others.  Thank you for all your support over the years.  I know you’ve been so concerned about me lately.  Now you know I’m going to be fine…… and you and Dad will both be there to watch over me and make sure I am!  Thank you for that!

I love you will all my heart.  You will be sorely missed by us all.  I’m not sure what life will be like without you!  We will carry on and your legacy will live on forever.  I hope I can have half as much influence on my posterity as you’ve had on yours.

I Am Grateful!  How Are You?

I just remembered I did a blog post about my Mom on her birthday two years ago.  Here’s the link.  It even adds a little more I didn’t talk about here.