I’m in love with these butter-yellow faces finally open to the sun. We planted these bulbs last Autumn, the ones Betsy gave us in memory of my Mom.
A windstorm followed by midnight snow had them looking pretty battered last week. Glad I took pictures before.
I have been thinking a lot about my Mom.
Two weeks ago my phone crashed onto our tile floor and… long story short… after spending all day at the Apple store, my phone was not salvageable. I lost a bunch of photos, contacts, and text history. But it was incredibly distressing to me that I also lost the voice memos my Mom and I recorded for each of my kids.
I lost her voice. Telling them what she loved about them, giving them advice, saying I love you.
I was a stress case most of the day trying to run carpools and manage “life” without a phone. While waiting at the mall for my appointment with the “Genius Bar” at Apple, I had to use the land line at California Pizza Kitchen to try and contact Doug so he could text the people I needed to coordinate with and arrange rides or ask for help. It was maddening. And btw, if Apple is so “genius” they really need to figure out a way to get people the tech help they need faster ! Waiting 4-6 hours just for someone to look at your phone is CRAZY! I hated feeling so dependent on that small rectangle of data. And after all the waiting, the final bad news was a major disappointment.
I pulled into the driveway with a brand new device but no history, photos, contacts, nada. I burst into tears. Doug was able to help me recover some things from my last backup, but not the voice memos. I went to bed weepy, and the next morning, it was like waking up again to the new reality of death and separation. Like I had lost my Mom all over again. I don’t know why it was so devastating to me.
Even now, I can’t really think about it without getting a pit in my stomach. In a way, those memos were the last physical connection to my Mom. I kept waiting for a quiet moment to share her messages with my children. But one-on-one time is a rarity in our busy family, and lately, in the crazy of tax season, it’s been impossible to find.
Sami came out to the car and cried too, at the pain of her own lost memo. Then Ali climbed in, and bless her faithful heart, she said, “Maybe Grandma will talk to us the way she has talked with you, Mom!” She remembered some of the experiences I’ve had hearing my Mom’s voice. That recognizable sound and presence, a knowing that she and I still have a relationship that is real, vibrant, and alive.
Maybe this small loss, while it seems big to me, will prove to be a blessing in the way we strive to interact with my Mom. Maybe it will teach my children not to depend on a recorded voice to feel close to their Grandma, but to seek out her current voice. Maybe they will be able to hear her speak truth in that juncture of indecision or worry – when they need to hear someone besides their parents, who loves them unconditionally.
I find comfort in this buddhist philosophy I keep on our fridge:
Death isn’t what it seems to be. Whatever we were to each other, we still are. Nothing has changed. Laugh at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Smile, think of me and pray for me. Know your prayers are wonderful gifts and your thoughts are like a gentle tap, on my shoulder.
So, after scraping together every spare second I could find, I prepared and taught an Easter lesson to the Sisters of our Stake during Holy Week. It was a wonderful chance to think deeply on the Easter truths. To ask myself, Which truths will I claim this week? How am I changed since last Easter? What has lifted or leveled me? Healed or broken me? And what truths do I want to hold on to as we celebrate this holiest week of human history?
The lesson was part of our “Sisters in Scriptures” class that has been going for a number of years now. The classes are recorded and available on iTunes (search Sisters in Scriptures) or at this website: scriptureclass.com.
Here is the link to the podcast of my lesson, with some of the quotes I shared. You can also print the Holy Week Handout I prepared and passed out. Just scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll find the PDF embedded.
If you listen to the lesson you will understand why the lost voice memos felt like an additional blow. And why Ali could offer such a beautiful expression of trust.
I am loving this art by J. Kirk Richards. I used several of his works during my lesson.
I tried to take the class on a journey of sorts through Holy Week. Obviously, in an hour’s time I could only hit some of the most important events. And even then, I could only share a small part of what I had studied and considered. And now I’ll take you through our family’s 2018 Holy Week. It was a little different this year.
For Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, we shared a Passover meal with Saydi and her family.
Just before Christmas Saydi moved to Salt Lake from her beloved Boston home. While I know they’ve left an enormous hole in Malden and their friends are pining for them, I have been overjoyed at the blessing of having her close. Our kids are at the same school and we’ve been able to work on some projects together, hike together, and really talk. She is one of my dearest friends and some days I have to pinch myself that she’s really here.
Both our husbands had work commitments so we decided to combine our efforts for the night. And it was extra fun to have her mom, Linda, join us, whose husband was also unavailable.
Saydi went all out and we learned so much.
At Jewish Seders, the mothers light the candles. Light bearers and givers. Isn’t that beautiful? So Saydi, her Mom, and I did the honors.
Quick note about Linda: Did you know her new book, Grandmothering, just came out? A great gift idea for Mother’s Day. It’s the kind of book my Mom would have loved. She read all of Linda’s books. Linda Eyre was someone my Mom could identify with. Her books got my Mom through some tough parenting years. Linda really is as down to earth, funny, smart, and encouraging as anyone I’ve ever met. She makes you feel loved and important. I adore her.
We drank four cups of grape juice during the meal, symbolizing Jewish freedom from four exiles. The Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, and finally their current exile to be remedied by the Messiah.
In the center of the table were celery greens and salt water, representing the tears of the children of Israel. We ate maror or bitter herbs (we used horseradish) on matzoh crackers, symbolic of the bitterness of slavery and charoset (a mixture of apples, nuts, and cinnamon) to represent the mortar used by Jewish slaves in building Pharoah’s city.
Saydi’s charoset was delicious and most the kids (minus one of my boys) willingly tried everything.
The dinner plate included lamb shank that Saydi cooked (delicious), some chicken, kibbeh, and falafel from Layla’s grill.
Don’t you love her Jerusalem plates? She purchased them when we lived in Israel together and brought them back on the plane!
As the meal slowed down, we talked more about the significance of the Passover meal, of Jesus’ Last Supper with His apostles, and per Jewish tradition, we sang a hymn. Typically the last part of the Hallel (Psalms 113-118) is sung at the Passover meal. So we sang parts of those last chapters, with Saydi leading us in a type of gregorian chant. It was very cool.
Then we sang Abide With Me.
After dinner the kids broke into spontaneous tag/rug prison. They were laughing like crazy.
We made an attempt at a photo. Spencer was clearly our most non-compliant participant.
And I took this photo of Saydi’s tree because I never got around to doing ours. With snow on Palm Sunday and my lesson Tuesday, it just didn’t happen. But see? That’s the important part of traditions. We don’t have to make them happen. We do what we can and the world keeps turning.
I talked earlier in the day with my kids about Gethsemane, and we read from Mark. In the handout I made (printable via the link above), I included all my favorite gospel readings for the days of Holy Week. It’s fairly comprehensive, but of course, it’s biased toward my preference. It can be used for personal study and/or family reading.
Art above by my friend, Leslie Graff.
On Good Friday, instead of making hot cross buns, we drove south to St. George. On the way we listened to parts of the lesson I taught so my kids could think about the crucifixion and remember what happened that day. In my lesson, I spoke in detail about this painting below, by Brian Kershisnik. Most everyone is familiar with his Nativity painting. This one is a little harder to look at. But I love it. It’s called Descent from the Cross. Notice the angels looking in, the dismay on their faces, the shock, the concern.
Saydi actually heard Brian speak about this painting and he said,
“We do history a disservice by thinking of it as inevitable.”
He wanted to paint an emotion we could relate to. How we feel knocked on our backs when tragedy strikes, not sure how we will ever recover. Jesus’ disciples had never seen anyone resurrected. But they did know their Lord could raise the dead, heal every malady, save anyone who believed. I’m sure they must have wondered, “Will he save himself?”
From an interview with Kershisnik, I found this comment he made:
“It is the obligation of a disciple… to work tragedies into things that shape us; into something good. To say, No. I will turn this into more life.”
Friday night, after getting settled in the St. George house, we walked out into the dessert. Having the west dessert bump up to the back of the house is the best. We love exploring out there. This is one of the gaps we like to hike into. This year we decided to do our Easter walk in the desert. (Doug joined us late that night.)
We took turns reading the appropriate verses, then went out to hunt for treasures. Liza and Spencer found some thorny bushes to represent the crown of thorns.
Here’s Spencer reading to us and Liza taking photos.
Sami found charred black wood to represent the darkness after the crucifixion. (I’m skipping some of the items we looked for because I didn’t take photos of them.)
And eventually we found something living to represent the resurrection. I love this green grass Eliza found. Green in the desert is always a good sign. A sign of water, of life.
And Ali found this desert flower. I think we were just a tad early for the desert blooms. Later in April, the bear claw poppy trail will be teaming with small, delicate, flowers of varied colors.
As we walked out from the gap I noticed this prickly crown,
and my twin girls caught in silhouettes on the ridge.
And as we walked back to the house, the heavens showed off a rare, paschal blue moon. We haven’t had this kind of moon since 1999. It was gorgeous! Did you see it?
On Saturday – the Day of Waiting, we planned the day around our church’s General Conference. Conference is two days. Two sessions. Two hours each.
It was rather wonderful to listen to thoughtful messages by the men and women who lead our global church on Easter weekend. This conference, however, will go down in history for the inspired changes, shifts, and announcements that were made. It was diverse and divine.
This conference also included a solemn assembly, in which church members around the world sustained our new prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. President Nelson is a world-renown heart surgeon. At age 93 he still snow skis and knows all the names of his 116 great-grandchildren. He has brought an energy to the role of prophet that has vitalized the church, and is currently touring the globe. He began in London, then on to Jerusalem, through Africa, to India, and finally Hawaii.
We made crepes for breakfast, some of the kids pulled out their notebooks, and we listened.
I love how excited Eliza was to hear President Nelson speak.
Between sessions we went swimming and colored easter eggs.
This Easter truth makes everything possible: He is risen.
And that night we lit our lanterns. Yep, hauled them down with us.
Our silent witness to the night that the Light of the World lives and can conquer any darkness.
Easter morning was filled with sunlight. We talked about what happened at the empty tomb, ate breakfast together, then the kids, of course, wanted to find their Easter baskets. (Which are never very exciting. But for my kids, it doesn’t take much to get them jazzed.)
Then we watched the next two sessions of General Conference on Sunday. Each hour there were new gasps, new developments and announcements. These new changes were so encouraging for all of our members, but especially those who have worried the church was feeling static, out of touch, or inflexible. The message that weekend was that the church is dynamic, open to improvement and inspiration, and ready for growth, even in the way it administrates.
Between sessions we hiked in Snow Canyon. This wild red rock haven with its formations and sagebrush and hidden wildlife is always an adventure.
Petrified Sand Dunes.
Life is always better when we have Doug with us.
Sami did a dab leap.
Then we all dabbed.
And the kids climbed up into this little nook with Doug.
Sometimes getting up is easier than getting down.
Then, after the afternoon conference session, Doug drove home and we stayed to play a couple more days.
Easter evening we walked out into the golf course.
Everyone was so happy to have a huge green space to run in.
They did cartwheels and leaps and steam-rolled down the hill.
The boys hunted for golf balls. I think Gordy collected 15.
His sisters quickly put them to use, then lost a few down the hill. To Gordy’s great disappointment.
Monday we climbed up to these waterfalls in the Red Cliffs area and jumped off into the FREEZING cold water. I had zero plans of getting in the water, didn’t even wear my swimsuit. But when all my kids did it, the pressure got the best of me and I jumped too. It was so cold you couldn’t even let out a yelp, all you could do was swim for your life and get out fast! Spencer called it an Ice Volcano. Sadly, I lost all our video and pics when my phone crashed. I pulled this one of Liza from Instagram.
Bottom line? We loved our desert Easter. It reminded me so much of Israel and what took place there. The palm trees, our dusty and dirty feet, the rock strewn paths.
John Updike wrote a poem called “Seven Stanzas for Easter” in which he talks about the reality of the resurrection. He says, “Make no mistake. It was His body. Do not mock God with metaphor.”
The resurrection is not metaphor. It really happened. Updike says to think of the linen not just as linen, but linen “spun on a definite loom.” Of Jesus’ “hinged thumbs and toes,” his “same valved heart that was pierced… regathered and renewed. Every cell. Every molecule.”
And then he says,
Let us walk through the door… The stone is rolled back, but no paper mache’. Not a stone in a story. But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of time will eclipse for each of us the wide light of day.
What Easter truths did you claim this year? I’d love to hear what they were and why you rely on them. What did you do to make Easter special? And does it feel like Easter was a year ago? Me too. It took me weeks to write this post; a little here, a little there. But then I guess that is how we come into knowing. How we make the pieces fit. A little here. A little there. Snatching truth from all kinds of good places. Listening, hearing, learning, waiting.
(And one more Easter truth: don’t be a ding-dong like me. Back up your phone on the cloud!)
So grateful for Christ and His grand redemption. His life was lived for each of us, and his death can save all of us. God be thanked for the matchless gift of his divine Son.
Catherine, I’m here all teared up from your words, the truths you claim, the loss of your mothers messages, the beauty you can always find from ashes. What kirshisnik says about a true Diciple….that’s you.
And that Seder was our best yet, thanks to your help and insights and the yummy food you brought.
I love you.
Dear friend, I absolutely love all the artwork and thoughts you’ve included here. I especially love that quote from J. Kirk Richards about turning tragedy into more life. I can’t wait to listen to your lesson you gave to the women in your stake.
Those pictures from St. George are stunning. You have created so many amazing experiences for your kids. They are looking so grown-up and so beautiful/handsome!
I am so so sorry that you lost the voice memos from your mom. How you love her. I know she is close to you and your loved ones.
Easter truths I’m claiming? As a family, we have had a year of spiritually standing in storms, climbing mountains, and riding waves. The winds have been fierce at times. The rocks have been sharp. But, through it all, Christ has given strength and comfort. He has truly been able to consecrate our afflictions, truly make them holy. He has allowed us to do things we shouldn’t have been able to do. He has worked miraculous changes in people I love. So, I am feeling so grateful this year that He works so personally in our lives and can bring create new life and hope in the valleys.
Thank you for sharing your love of God again and again. You are just wonderful. xox
This was such a touching post! So many beautiful thoughts and pictures. I loved the tradition of mothers lighting the Seder lights and the plates from Jerusalem – beautiful. The quote about being a disciple of Christ by Kershisnik is motivating, something I needed right now. The poem by Updike was also uplifting. Thank you for sharing these works of art and creating a piece of art in your post.
Saydi, having you there at my Easter lesson also meant the world to me. Your thoughts in my preparation were so valuable. I love you. Thank you for your influence in my life.
Anne Marie, I want to hear about the winds, the dashing of waves, the mountains you’ve been scaling, as well as the changes. Drop me an email if you have time. I thought of you on Mother’s Day. You too have mothered me in blessed and countless ways. I hope you and yours are well and feeling cared for. Sending you all my love.
Kirstin, thank you for your note. I have a feeling you are one of those disciples, those women who are turning trials into more life. Blessings to you!