In truth, we are surrounded by life, which means birth, growth, change and then a passing.
The recent deaths of both Elder Boyd K. Packer and Elder L. Tom Perry, along with the untimely passing of a young man in our neighborhood coincide with the selling of our home of exactly 20 years. It’s odd, this departing of one’s home, be it an earthly mortal human body, or an actual house.
Elder Packer and Elder Perry leave a legacy of love, service, testimony and wisdom not only for their families, but the entire family of the Church. Our 19-year old neighbor who took his life on a Friday morning at their home leaves sweet growing up memories and a family confused and devastated at what went so terribly wrong. And our sweet house? It tells a 20-year history of service and happiness, along with a peaceful, powerful message that it is now time for the next chapter of our mortal journey to begin!
The physical reality of these passings, soon or late in life, happy or sad, whether they be of an actual house or a mortal body, have much to teach us about what matters most in this life, and the next. My feelings are ever so tender as I look back on our 20 years here, and the reality that at some point I will need to leave my physical body as well. When that time comes, will I be happy and peaceful about the years I have spent in my mortal body? And the care I’ve provided for it? Will I have found the faith and courage to live with joy and leave a legacy of hope and love, as Elder Packer and Elder Lee have? Or, at my final departure, will there be feelings of sadness, regret and disappointment, both from myself and my loved ones, for not finding and living a better path?
When we moved into this home in the late summer of 1995, the oldest of our five children was 14, and the youngest barely 2. Twenty years later, that oldest son is a father of 7 with his own oldest nearly 12, and that tiny two year old daughter is a missionary in northern California. A wonderful ward and countless faithful teachers and leaders (both at Church and in the schools) have nurtured them all. And though not without many ups and downs, their testimonies grew, and all five have served missions. Truly, it takes a village!
The house itself has been a great blessing, providing the space, safety and security for both togetherness and privacy. There was room for each of us to work and to play, to be creative and express our individual selves, to entertain, develop talents and friendships, to grow testimonies of the Gospel, along with tomatoes and flowers, and to swim for 20 summers at the community pool that was just down the path.
Even so, it didn’t happen all by itself. Raising a family aside, being a homeowner is a constant labor, and a constant expense. Heating and air conditioning, roofs, plumbing, electrical work and landscaping are all subject to age and the weather. The fun things of furnishing and decorating, while important and the most visible, are always secondary to the structural and internal elements that make a home safe and sound.
We leave it with peaceful hearts, knowing that we were diligent to the best of our ability, grateful for all that has happened for our family and lives, and the sanctuary it has been for the life events in these critical years of mortality.
After the decision was made in mid-March to leave this home for the next adventure, now as empty-nesters and to develop our business close to its roots in Tennessee, it was time to get started on the actual labor of emptying it. The first day of really taking things apart to prepare for the floor-to-ceiling painting and carpeting that were required after 20 years of family life here was a very emotional one for me.
In a heartbeat as we finished that afternoon, I was blessed with a vision, even a little fast-forward video that allowed me to quickly witness the past twenty years. As I went from one now empty bedroom to the next, I saw each of our children grow up and leave. I had a fleeting remembrance of the entire range of emotions that raising children brings. I watched bedrooms that were continually being painted to match ages and interests, and all the belongings that go with children growing up with sports, dance, music, etc. and how this house adapted again and again to these changing interests and ages, allowing them to grow and discover themselves and their own testimonies.
I watched the holidays that were so much fun and oh-so priceless, but also the late nights and long hours spent to create those rich experiences. I watched a kitchen where countless meals and snacks were prepared, and the kitchen table itself where we ate, yes, but more than that, where we worked, and talked and laughed and cried. I saw the sweet piano where I taught so many young people in the early years of our life, where our own children had played and learned and struggled. I watched difficult chapters of elementary, middle and high school years for each child. I watched myself grow from simply a mom who agonized spiritually and soulfully with her weight and eating/sugar addictions into a weight loss coach, writer and dedicated businesswoman that started her work on a table in a corner of a bedroom, then slowly expanded over the next fifteen years to fill every bedroom and beyond as children left. I watched the rich growth of our marriage through 20 marvelous years, 1,001 different ward callings and duties within our neighborhood and schools. How many parties, farewells, showers, and dinners with missionaries and friends?
I cried some tender tears as a sweet feeling filled my heart and the words firmly, but simply came into my mind with this mental video review: “The purpose of this home has been fulfilled. Go forth with joy!”
This tender message was a gift, and I was very glad for its sustaining power as the next two months have been jam-packed with the physical and financial responsibilities, along with the roller coaster emotions, of moving and putting your home on the market.
After receiving and accepting the contract from the new buyers, and as required by law, a house inspector came and examined the house from top to bottom. Our real estate warned us that in Virginia they have become overly exacting to protect themselves from future problems. She was right. The list came with all kinds of “to-do’s” that were indicative of a 30 year old home, along with the proof we knew all along: we’ve done a VERY good job in taking care of things. Perfect? No. But in good shape? Absolutely. With the help our agents, we came to an agreement on what mattered most that was fair to address.
Once again, there was an undeniable peace in knowing we have done all that we are responsible for, and all that is reasonably within our power for the entire 20 years we have been here while also raising and launching a family. We are oh-so-grateful for this home and all that it has allowed us to do!
As our departure date of August 3 approaches, I have not been able to help but compare the experience of leaving this actual physical home with the passings of Elder Packer, Elder Perry and our young neighbor. My ponderings have become a list of questions that may be of value for each of us who want so much to return with honor to our Heavenly Father.
With the gospel understanding that free agency is the greatest gift of all, when I meet the Master Inspector where will my choices have led?]
1. Will there be the same sweet, spiritual assurance that I have attended to the things that matter most?
2. Will I be able to look back on a wide range of fulfilling relationships and experiences that will have prepared me for the next chapter, and a rich and rewarding eternal life?
3. Will I be confident in expressing gratitude to my Savior for giving me a physical body and reporting on how I’ve cared for it? Will there be joy in telling him all that my body has allowed me to do?
4. Will I have worn my body out in Church and family loyalty and service, making things possible for others to grow and fill the measure of their creation?
5. Will I have kept myself in tune, aware and updated on health information to avoid untimely wearing out of parts and functions?
6. Will I have respected warning seriously enough to call in a repairman when necessary? I.e., monitoring my weight, other vital statistics and honoring required medical evaluations?
7. Will I have paid some attention to the passing of time and styles to present a reasonably updated appearance? Both for my own self-esteem and to make it pleasant for those who see and spend time with me?
8. Will I depart my body without regret, knowing I did the best I could with the resources that were reasonably available?
9. Will I look back on my last years knowing that I was in control, rather than allowing addictions and cravings to rule my life and my thinking, blurring other messages that may have been important?
10. Most importantly, Will I hear the words again, “The purpose of this home has been fulfilled. Go forth with joy!”
While the departure of my spirit from my own body is surely not on any calendar, as is the departure from this house, one thing is certain: sooner or later that day will come! Oh, how I want it to be a happy one when I can report to my Master Inspector with a resounding affirmative that ‘yes!’ To the best of my ability my house is in order and I am ready to leave my house … for His.
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life, available HERE.
She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband Bob are the parents of five children and grandparents of ten. They have lived in the Washington D.C. area since 1979 and are currently moving to Jackson Tennessee. Carolyn currently serves as the Ward Primary pianist.
Click HERE to learn more about them and the herbal detox product they share at Meridian!