Friday, June 19, 2009

June 15, 1993

This day sixteen years ago changed my life. It was the day my mom died. I have been meaning to write down the experience in my journal for the last sixteen years. I was so worried that first year that I would forget all my experiences but that day is one of the most clear in my mind of my entire life. Sorry that there have been so many posts about my mom lately, but when her birthday and death anniversary are only 11 days apart, that tends to happen. **The picture above I found on Flickr. I am not sure who took it, so I can't give the artist credit.**

Sixteen years ago, I was on a "Back East Trip". It is a trip that our seminary group took that was arranged and supervised by Tara's grandpa, Marlan Walker. We had 3 bus loads of teenagers that traveled across the country to see all the important historical sites of our church. (And another 3 bus loads following one day behind.) The trip took just over two weeks. By this point in the trip we had seen Independance Missouri, Carthage Jail, Navoo, Joseph Smith's Birth place, as well as Boston, Washington,DC, and New York City. June 15 was scheduled for the highlight of our trip. We were going to the Sacred Grove. We believe that Joseph Smith Jr. came here to pray to decide which church he was to join and was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ. Each of us was encouraged to read the account of Joseph Smith and when we got to the Sacred Grove to pray for ourselves. I had really been praying that I would feel this burning in my chest that would give me undeniable proof that it was true. I had been reading the Book of Mormon, as well as Joseph's account. I had tried to make myself worthy to be able to get this confirmation. We got to the Sacred Grove in the early afternoon. Each bus took a different "site" to visit and then throughout the afternoon we switched where we were. We visited the Hill Cumorah where Joseph hide the plates that the Book of Mormon was translated from. Our group visted the actual Grove next. After that was Joseph's childhood home that has been restored and used as a visitor's center manned by a Senior Missionary couple.

While we were in the Grove we went off by ourselves and were given a chance to pray and then we were going to meet together again for a testimony meeting in the Grove. I went off by myself and knelt to pray and really prayed for what seemed like a long time and I didn't really feel anything. I started to worry. My thoughts weren't that the church wasn't true because I didn't get this burning, but I was worried if the Lord didn't feel like I was worthy to feel this blessing. I really felt like it was a righteous desire. I knelt again to pray and started asking Heavenly Father if I wasn't worthy and why I wsan't getting any response. As I knelt there praying I felt like someone was whispering to me, "You don't need that burning, you have always known the church is true. " Although I was disappointed that I hadn't been given this gift, I knew it was true, I HAD always known our church was true. I went to the testimony meeting and honestly many of my friends got up to explain they had this deep burning, I felt a little hurt that I didn't get that same blessing. After our testimony meeting we went up to the Smith home and played around until all the groups had gone through the Grove. We drove a short distance to our hotel in Rochester. We were staying in a location that was not near very many restaurants. About the only thing in walking distance was a McDonald's right next door. Everyone ran to get in line as soon as the buses stopped. As I was standing in line, Tara's Grandpa walked in the door. I was all the way across the room and across about 100 people but somehow I heard him call my name and knew from his face that it wasn't good. I was crying before I had even gotten to him. He told me that there was a message at the hotel from my dad asking us to call. (Yeah, this was before the days of commonly used cell phones!) Grandpa Walker had already called him and my mom was at the hospice and we needed to come home to say our goodbyes. He had me get my brother Tim and go back to the hotel to call our dad. We called our mom and we were able to talk to her for a little bit. Now, my mom had cancer for 3 1/2 years already at this point. We had already had scares like this before and my mom had pulled through wonderfully. My dad always tends to be the dramatic one and many times he would over-react. While talking to my mom, she said she was alread feeling better, but we should come home and see that she was doing alright, it would make my dad feel better, then they could have us meet back up with the trip. While on the trip we had talked to her every night. While they didn't want kids to call home every night because of limited phones, and cost, calling home was a condition Tim and I needed to meet to be able to go on the trip. We talked to my mom every night for a couple minutes to let her know where we were and let her know we loved her. Usually it was only a couple minute call, but enough to reassure everyone. After our call with our mom, we went to our Stake Presiden't room and President Belingheri gave us a Pristhood Blessing of comfort. Tara and Kristin met me afterward to find out what was going on. It spread pretty quickly that my mom was pretty sick and Tim and I were going home. There were so many of my friends by my side that night. I wish I could name them all, Matt Weaver, Kaer Erickson, Renaun, Kenneth all helped me through that evening. That night we had a prayer circle for my mom. We met in the Walker's room. All 3 busloads of kids in one room. As we prayed for my mom, I felt that amazing burning, and really felt like Jesus was holding me. Throughout her fight with cancer there were so many times that my mom said she felt like Jesus was holding her in his hands and I really felt that same experience. I realized that the reason I didn't get that burning in answer to pray earlier in the day was because the Lord knew I would need to feel His presence even more later that day. We had a great girl cry session in my room that night as I packed. I woke up in the middle of that night feeling so empty. I dismissed it and went back to bed. We had to be up early to make the flight home. We were so lucky because Marsha and Britney Jeffries had decided to meet up with us in NY to come through the Sacred Grove. Marsha was able to coordinate flights for us and fly home with us. Tim and I met her that morning by her rental car along with Grandpa Walker. He told us that my mom died that night about 10:00pm NV time. It was two long flights home. This was my first plane ride and instead of enjoying it I was just numb. I wanted to sit and cry, but didn't want to fall apart in public. We got home and it was still morning in Las Vegas. We spent the rest of the week getting things ready for the funeral. I surrounded myself with my family, especially since most of my friends were still on the "Back East Trip". There are so many reasons why June 15th changed my life. My mom, my best friend, my rock, was gone, but really she had prepared me as much as she could to let me go out on my own. That night solidified my testimony in Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. I wish I could say I never made mistakes or sinned after that, but that isn't true. But I never strayed from my testimony. I have never ever doubted the love Heavenly Father has for each of us.
One blessing that the Lord really gave me is the last memory of my mom. My brother Erik had to see her suffering in bed those last hours. My last memory is of me hugging her and telling each other how much we loved each other and would miss each other. I remember her telling me to be good and we would see each other soon. I can remember sitting on that bus as we pulled away with her arm around my brother Erik and her other arm waving and blowing kisses to Tim and me. What an amazing last image.
This death anniversary is even more unique then most. My mom will now have been gone more of my life then she was alive. It is hard to wrap my head around that.


Cori said...

Thanks for sharing. I've always known you to have an amazing testimony, and now I understand why. You are an amazing woman. I feel so lucky to count you among my friends.

Tara said...

I remember that day very well. I still regret not coming home with you for your mom's funeral. Really, I don't think I've ever forgiven myself for that. Everyone said that your Mom would've wanted me to finish the trip, but that it was ultimately up to me. It was so hard to see you go. The trip just wasn't the same without you and I think my guilt for not going home for the funeral ate at me for several months afterward. I'm just glad we had{have} such a strong friendship that we were always able to forgive and forget.

*Don't ever apologize for posting about your mom. You could post about her everyday and we wouldn't tire of it!!

Lorilee said...

GHHHHH...I seriously love you so much and I am so proud of the woman and mother that you have become. I know that your mom is always close and that she is equally as proud. I feel so blessed to have you in my life. You are probably the one person that knows me longer and better than any once else and for that I am eternally grateful that we are family. Love your guts babe. BTW HAPPY ANNIVERSARY (late) I am lame. sorry.

Marie said...

Thanks for sharing this. It's a beautiful testimony. You are such an amazing person, and I'm lucky to be related to you.

Nikki said...

I love you Greta and I have been so blessed to have spent the time I did with you. You are an amazing woman! xoxo

The Gaineys said...

I've decided from now on, before I ready your blogs, I'd better have a box of kleenex close by. Thank you for sharing that personal experience. I remember that day also. I was so sad for you but happy because your mom was no longer suffering. I think Jordan who was 3 at the time, said it best the night of her viewing when she ran and grabbed my mom and excitedly said "Come see Aunt Jeanette! She's all better now!". Over the past week, I've thought of your mom quite a bit and what she went through as I look at my mom and what we maybe facing with her. Then I think of the other statement Jordan made - "Jesus is holding Aunt Jeanette's hand".
Your mom was always the teacher. I think she helped all of our testimonies grow.

Erica said...

I am with Tonya, I need kleenex. Being in the second group of kids we didn't get to be there for you as much as a few of us wanted. I love how sweetly you speak of your mom and how strong your faith and testimony have always been. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.