Even in passing and my grieving she has taught me most what it is to be a mother. She wasn’t perfect. But she was loving. She was patient. She cared. She listened. She was there.
My mother passed away on the 4th, and my family asked me to give the tribute at her funeral. I wanted to document these words so I can always have a place to read over them and remember, as well as share with anyone else who would like to read it.
There is something about death that clears the mortal dust from our senses so we can clearly see those who have passed before us, and the lives they lived, for the beauty and strength that they are.
I think as we all do at times, there were times in my life – especially in my youth – that I focused on what my mother wasn’t and I missed what she was. Gratefully, that didn’t last as I grew and our relationship changed.
For most of my life, my mother suffered from mental illness, so my experiences with her are probably a lot different than what others would have to share.
As I’ve listened to others share their stories and memories with me of my mom, I’ve found that her true beauty shines brightest through the interactions we’ve all had with her and not through the things she did or accomplished.
Like the young strippling worries in the book of Mormon, there are many things I’ve been able to face in my life with courage, trust, and a willingness to endure. All because my mother knew it.
In my youth, what I remember her doing most was reading her scriptures. They were always open and I think every sentence was marked, underlined, or double underlined. She was always learning and always studying.
She would always tell me that she put my name on the prayer roll in the temple for me. She taught me to believe in the power of prayer, to trust in the Lord, and know we are in His hands.
She didn’t teach me great sermons or constantly preach the gospel, but she led by example. Looking back I see what it is to give our all. To do what we are able, and that that truly is enough.
There were a lot of things she wasn’t able to provide for me because of her own trials. But she was a stalwart example of faith, trust, and endurance. He example led the path for me to find the Lord and rely on Him as I have journeyed through my own trials and experiences. I’m sure that many others have gained the same from her.
When we found out that she had cancer, I was a hot mess. I was so worried and scared. When I called her to talk about it she was so calm and at peace. She didn’t have an ounce of fear in her voice, and she was the one to comfort me when she was the one that should have been in need of comfort.
But that’s how she was! That’s how she lived her life. She had a gift in bringing peace, in turning mountains into molehills. In helping others gain a different perspective on a situation. She had great faith and trust in the Lord, and it never waivered.
Her great love for the Lord also shown through her kindness and patience with others. She was always kind, always carrying. She was always patient. She was accepting and didn’t judge. Everyone always felt welcome around her, and my friends have already commented on how welcome and accepted they always felt around her – even when we were being punks.
I don’t think I ever heard her say an unkind word. And it drove her crazy when we would.
Before Adam went on his mission he would teach me how to trash talk while we played basketball in the living. Everytime my mom would come in, “don’t call each other names!”
We would instantly revert to, “hey you!” And “hey you”.
She would moan, roll her eyes and walk out of the room mumbling, “that’s not what I meant”.
She never yelled, she was never impatient or annoyed. I was always grateful for that especially in regards to my own 6 children. She always loved them and was simply grateful to be with them no matter how rowdy they were.
This is the meanest thing she ever did in my life: when we lived in Texas, and I was about 10 or 11, I went up and reached around her from behind and snapped my fingers in her face. She was so startled by it that she spun around and gave me 3 quick punches in my belly. Which startled me, and we both just sat there and laughed.
Of course I have my life time of memories with her, but these last few years have been the best years of my life with her, and I will be forever grateful for every moment we had.
She was more open and happy than I ever remember her being. And even through her trials, like cancer, she was full of faith and optimism. She had a calm assurance and had complete trust in the Lord and His will for her life.
I think I got my desire, and maybe it could be called an addiction, for wanting to do ALL THE THINGS from her. She was so talented and really could do anything and everything!
She was crafty, artsy, she did wood working, sewed, loved gardening – or maybe just the idea of gardening by the time I was older, she loved learning new things, studying the Gospel, and trying anything and everything that caught her fancy. I’m grateful that she passed so many of those skills and passions onto me.
She led by example that we could do anything we set our mind to. There was nothing we couldn’t do or accomplish if it’s what we wanted to do. We grew up with no limitations. She believed in us and she encouraged us in everything!
There were so many times in my life that I would mention something, like the old toy box that Dad had under the stairs, and she would nonshaulantly say, “oh, I made that.” She was humble about the things she could do, and I was always amazed and inspired as I learned more about her and her life.
I’m so grateful for all the stories she told. She constantly talked about her family and our ancestors. My memory is poor and I don’t remember the details, but my family lives strong in my mind – people I’ve never met, but have a great love for because of her. I’m especially so grateful my children got to hear her stories about their namesakes. Jackson Laker after Lashbrook Laker, her Grandpa, Mabel after her Aunt Mabel who was her favorite aunt, and I met once at her Bear Lake cabin when I was young and still remember the trip there, including finding a dead rat in the basement.
When she visited us once when Ela was little, Ela called her Grandma Cookie, and the name stuck. We still call her Grandma Cookie. When she was here in March, she said that if anyone had given her mom a nickname like that she would roll over in her grave. But that she was perfectly fine with having a nickname.
Some of my best memories in high school are how she would ALWAYS play games with me. Card games, board games, you name it. As my kids have gotten older, especially Hunter – who LOVES games, she is still the same. As soon as she would arrive, the games were out and they were playing – including long games like ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and Monopoly. Last year when she visited us in North Dakota, Hunter made up a long checklist of everything they were going to do together, which of course included every game we had. And I’m pretty sure she played all of them!
I was always worried that they would wear her out on her first day visiting. But she always kept up, kept going, and kept playing. She even played capture the flag with us in our front yard last month!
She gave everyone the wonderful gift of knowing they were loved!
When my two oldest were little we lived a few doors down from her. Sometimes they would go over there and play and she’d have an old TV that Hunter absolutely loved taking apart! She was always so encouraging when it came to learning and exploring. You could tell she had a tremdous love for children, and loved playing with them and helping them to experience the world.
The night we found out of her passing, Neil asked each of my children what their favorite memory of her was. I wrote them down and want to share them:
Hunter: every time she laughed. Second is that every time he wanted to play a game, she would play with him.
Neil, the really good long conversations they had the last time she was here in April. And playing capture the flag with her.
Tommy, playing on her Kindle
Jackson, when she taught them how to play Rumi kub.
Mabel, every one of her memories was her favorite.
Ela, when we went to go get pizza one time and Ela was talking to Grandma and made Grandma laugh, and then she gave Grandma a hug.
She taught Grant how to do paddy cake.
Tommy added, “she would always reach out and grab our arm if we were going to fight” each other. We talked about how she didn’t want them to fight. I told him that maybe if they pay attention, they’ll still be able to feel her grab their arm when they are about to fight.
Every time she came to visit us she brought tremdous peace and love into our home. She had a tranquil Spirit, and especially these last couple years I was so grateful for the peace and calm she provided me especially.
When she was with us a month ago none of us wanted her to leave, including herself. But she felt prompted that it was time to return to her home. I wonder now if she knew. If she knew it was her time to go home and finally rest from her mortal trials and tribulations.
I wish it wasn’t her time yet. There is still so much I need her to be here for, my children have only begun their lives, and need their Grandma. Even my sweet little Ela who is 3 cried with me, “I wish Grandma didn’t go home.” Me too Ela. Me too.
But I know she’s in a happy place, reunited with her loved ones whom she taught us so much about. And I know she hasn’t really left us. She’s still here watching over us, helping us, comfoting us, ready to listen as we ramble on, just like she always was.
Sometimes mortality has a way of disguising our true beauty, but I will be forever grateful for these last year’s of her life, that I’ve been able to truly see her beauty shine through, to see who she is beneath the mortal weaknesses, and that my family has been forever blessed by her goodness.
We love you Mom and Grandma. And we miss you. We mourn not for your gain, but for our loss.
President Nelson said,
“Irrespective of age, we mourn for those loved and lost. Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandment: “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” (D&C 42:45.)
“Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.”
(Doors of death, Nelson, April 1992)
I know we are all so grateful for the love of our mother. For the impact she had on us and the blessing she is in our lives. I know she loved us the very best she could, and I’m grateful for the love we feel for her.
May her goodness and strength be remembered and passed down through the generations just as she has passed on the goodness of those before her.
A friend shared with me the other day,
“So sorry to hear, Diane! I remember thinking your mom was the COOLEST way back when we were in junior high, and she would let us stay up and bake cakes and play games at 4 or 5:00 in the morning! She was so sweet and kind and genuine. “
Some would just call that bad parenting. I would call that bad parenting, but I think we’re the ones who are wrong. I think she knew how to pick her battles and understood what matters most. I’m so glad we have that memory instead of, my mom was so good at making sure I went to bed on time every night.
What if we could all do a little better at picking our battles and gain a better understanding of what matters most. What if we made a greater effort to put our differences, frustrations with each other, judgements, and pride aside, and look at each other with eyes that saw past our mortal trials. To be able to see the immaculate beauty and love that each of us truly are. To find true joy in who we are and not in what we do.
I think my mom would be happy if we honored her in that way. By listening and being more patient, present more, judging less, and loving lots.