Monday, September 7, 2015

An Epiphany… my light bulb moment!

My Last Entry here was just weeks before Connor’s death in Taiwan {Aug 22, 2014} while serving a mission for the LDS church.  I haven’t felt the desire to blog, nor felt that anything was of value to share… until now!

      On August 30th 2015, we had a special Priesthood / Relief Society / Young Men / Young Women meeting in our 3rd hour of meetings.  {for you not of the LDS faith, it’s a combined meeting of Men, Women and youth age 12-18}.  It was mostly about Sabbath Day observance, but also some sprinkling of Family and Family History in there as well.

      David A Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke (In a video) of how to help families be happy at home.  He quoted Boyd K. Packer:  “Our ultimate purpose… is to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are happy at home, sealed in an eternal marriage, linked to their generations, and assured of exaltation in the presence of our Heavenly Father.” 

      “In the Saviors Restored church on the earth today MULTI-GENERATIONAL families are a primary source of spiritual strength and continuity.”  ~~David A Bednar

We watched a video as he spoke:
“A tree begins as a small seed that germinates and begins to grow and becomes a small tree.  This, we often refer to as a small seedling.  Over a period of time a young seedling develops into a mature tree and produces seeds that fall to the forest floor.  As conditions are right, the new seeds germinate, begin to grow… and the cycle is renewed.  Interestingly, growing trees are nourished in part by the nutrients re-deposited into the soil by older and dead trees.  In a similar way, multi-generational families provide the spiritual nourishment and stability that greatly increases the likelihood of sustained faithfulness across the generations.” ~~David A Bednar

      This video brought to mind a quote from an obituary of one of my ancestors in 1908, it reads: 
      “She was a true believer in God and His power to save.”  This woman was not of the LDS faith… but nonetheless was a true believer in God… AND His power to save.  The heritage of faith in my ancestry puts me in awe!  Especially when, after studying their lives and documenting their journey through it, I realize that their lives were just as hard… if not harder than my own… and they still held to their faith in God!  I want to be just like her… YEARS later, have someone read my obituary or life story and say:  Gosh, she was strong… I want to be just like her.

      Some have commented about me or my family who were within the LDS faith, and even those NOT of the LDS faith who I come in contact with while working in Salt Lake City… Oh you’re so strong, how do you get through this.  I grin as I envision one immigrant from Cuba who looks at me and just shakes his head… trying to understand why I am not a pile of “jello on the floor”… all weepy and completely a mess!  I will explain as best I can in a minute…

      That same night after the Sunday School presentation, I watched my favorite show: Who Do You Think You Are… this one featuring Tom Bergeron.  One of his quotes epitomizes my feelings about Family History:

“It’s not an intellectual exercise… it’s an emotional experience.” ~~Tom Bergeron

Isn’t that so true, isn’t that what we all feel when we study the lives of our ancestors?  Whether you know it or not… you ARE emotionally connected to those who’ve come before!  And it’s the reason today for this blog… I wish to share some deep feelings about my 4th great grandmother and her influence in my life.

Tom Bergeron stated in the segment, memorialized in this meme: 

“Someone dead for over 300 years, if you’re willing to listen, can teach you things about what you are doing now.”  

      When he said that, my heart was touched and I knew EXACTLY where that extra strength had come from during our grieving of Connor!  YES, I have a testimony of Jesus Christ, of his Father and MY Father… His restored Gospel.  I have a testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and what it means to me and how it has application in my life… but I needed more… and it was there!  I just didn’t know it until the presentation in Sunday School and the segment on Who Do You Think You Are that it all came together that night… it all makes sense now…

      Let me tell you how…  My 4th great grandmother is Mercy Ann VanHorn.  She married Charles Booz about 1836 and began having children quickly and in rapid succession… a child every other year… for 30 years!  Yes, she was the mother of 15 children!!  12 of those children lived to marry, 3 of them died at varying times in their childhood.

Mercy Ann’s life shows some traits of physical and mental strength … as well as some spiritual strength.  She endured what, at the time, was a long journey from Pennsylvania to Ohio about 1839.  She was probably pregnant with her second child Amanda, at the time!  She lived through the Civil War, with her son (John) serving in that war.  She moved from Springfield Township to Newton Township in September of 1868 and only 4 years later lost her husband Charles to death.  His cause of death was “Apoplexy”, a term for what would now be referred to as sudden death.  This could have been a stroke, heart attack or any other cause that would be quick.  Since it was quick, it was probably shocking to Mercy Ann.  Her youngest child, Cora Belle, was not yet 5 years old when he died.

Mercy Ann also endured much sickness within her family.  On the 1880 Census, Lulu (aka) Louisa, had consumption also known as tuberculosis.  This disease seemed to have played a part in attacking this family.  Louisa survived it and went on to marry and have 5 children.  Another daughter, Amanda, contracted the disease as well and died from it in 1892. Within months Mercy’s son John also contracted the disease and died from it in 1893 and then Amanda’s daughter Lilly also died from it only months after her mother and uncle.  Mercy was “exposed” to TB at least three times, but more likely 5 times.  What mother wouldn’t visit a sick child (Amanda and John) while they lay dying?  Louisa lived with Mercy Ann in 1880 and Lilly lived with her in 1893. 

At the point in her life that we still know she was alive, Mercy Ann had lost a total of 6 children, and her husband!!  The most recent deaths culminated a series of deaths that occurred within a span of 8 months of loved ones close to Mercy Ann.  Her daughter Amanda died 21 Nov, 1892… Her son John died 29 Mar, 1893 and her granddaughter Lilly (Amanda’s daughter) died 16 Jul 1893.  Mercy Ann lived at least another 3 years!  I could hardly imagine her grief as I studied her hard life and I had great respect and reverence for her.  HOW, I wondered, could I love someone so much who died more than 160 years before I was even born??? 

I studied and found all these facts long before Connor’s death… and he knew about the discoveries as I shared them with him.

I love her, I love that her children attended church, raised good, God-fearing families who loved their families and from all accounts had happy and successful marriages for generations (except her youngest child whose marriage sadly ended in divorce, through no fault of her own).  It’s amazing to me that she raised that many children, and did it for the last 24 years of her life without a spouse living to help financially or physically.  Good Grief!!!  She was a tough chic!

So now I watch the “multi-generational” video by Elder Bednar, then I watch the segment with Tom Bergeron and his quote ”Someone dead for over 300 years… if you are willing to listen, can teach you things about what you’re doing now.”  and I come to the conclusion, I am NOT doing this by myself!!  I am not “left alone”!!  I have my “Father” and my Savior, my family, my church family, my friends and yes, even those “family” members… my “multiple-generational family” on the other side of the veil, who firmly declare to me… “YOU can do this”, “you can do hard things”… and I’ve shown you HOW!

God bless them for their strength and for sharing it with me!  I love you all so much!