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My mother passed away twenty years ago at the age of 89, and I still miss her. I took care of her the last few years of her life, with some much-appreciated help from my husband and siblings. We all loved her. It’s time I wrote her a letter expressing my gratitude for all she did for me, for us. Maybe my thoughts will align with thoughts you have about your own mother and motivate you to express your love and appreciation to her.
Here’s my problem, I don’t have an address where I can send my letter. The best I can do is hope that she’ll see it—somehow, and will know of my love for her.
I so often picture you in the spirit world. No doubt in my mind you and Daddy are teaching the gospel to many of your progenitors, and others, who did not have the opportunity to learn the fulness of the gospel while on earth. Though you are out of any physical danger and pain and are enjoying a peace none of us yet comprehend, I know you are busy.
Regarding our departed loved ones President Brigham Young said, “(They) are just as busy in the spirit world as you and I are here. They can see us, but we cannot see them unless our eyes were opened. What are they doing there? They are preaching, preaching all the time. . .” (DBY, 378). Knowing this, I pray for you to be guided in your mission work there.
I liked that Brigham Young said, “they can see us,’ so I am picturing you seeing me now, writing this letter to you. I’m going to share with you a few things you did for me that I may not have adequately acknowledged while you were still here in mortality. Things I am so grateful for. Things I could not fully appreciate until passing through some of my own experiences. There’s no way to list them all, so here are a dozen for now.
1. Thanks, Mom, for bringing me and my eight siblings into the world. Having a big family has always made me feel safe and loved. Now that you are gone it has been a comfort to have seven loving brothers and one sister to give me their love and counsel. I love them all so much. I know you must be enjoying two of them who are now with you there on the “other side.”
I recall the day when we were all married and having children of our own and I asked you a question I’d been pondering for some time. I wondered how you felt when you found out you were pregnant with your ninth baby, at age 46. That was pretty old to be having a baby. We were all surprised. So I asked, “How did you feel about this unexpected surprise?”
I remember well your answer. You said, “I was thrilled. Every baby I was able to bring into the world was a gift and I loved being the mother to each one.” Years later you reiterated those thoughts when you were widowed, alone, and nearly eighty. You said, “I’m so grateful I had lots of kids. Now you are all so comforting to me in my old age.”
2. Thanks for being so positive. You always looked for the best in every situation. When crops or kids were in trouble you prayed and knew that somehow things would work out. And they always did, though sometimes not without a good amount of faith, sweat, and tears.
3. Thanks for honoring our dad. You were an amazing support to him. I look back to when I was just a little girl and you packed up everything and headed to an unknown farm experience in Oregon—Daddy’s dream. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to leave your new home in Ogden, Utah and head out to a little old two-bedroom farm house on 80 acres, a few miles from the tiny town of Vale. You were a city girl, a business school graduate. But helping your husband’s dreams come true was your main focus. Your love and support made me think it was your dream, too. The fact that a couple of aunts and uncles and their families made the trek, too, was a blessing. Having cousins around in a strange new world really helped.
4. Thanks for teaching me how to work. I saw you laboring hard helping those dreams come true. Feeding our big family was not easy. But you never failed us. I watched you bake bread and loved the smell of it throughout the house. I watched you plant seeds in your garden and nurture them into delicious food for us. I can see you now, bending over pulling weeds and convincing me it was fun as I worked beside you. I remember you canning dozens of bottles of fruit. As I helped, I felt pride with you as we looked at those beautiful bottles of peaches. I remember standing at the sink after dinner every evening washing stacks of dishes and pans, while Daddy insisted you rest from working so hard all day. That was my job since the boys were out doing farm chores and my only sister was still too little to be of much help. I learned to do hard things, because I saw you doing them.
5. Thank you for helping me through my teen years. I clearly remember when I was sixteen years old and came home crying after a stake dance. I went directly to you, climbed in bed beside you—Daddy asleep on the other side— and sobbed out the words, “Kenny doesn’t like me any more. He has a new girl friend.” It felt like the end of the world to me. You didn’t downplay it, even though you knew it was something I would get over and my life would go on. Instead, you held me close and let me cry out my heartbreak. After the tears you reassured me that everything would be OK, that there would be other boyfriends even though it didn’t feel possible right now. Sufficiently comforted, I then went to my own bed and slept peacefully.
6. Thanks for bringing music into our home. We weren’t big singers as a family—some of us could barely carry a tune, but you always encouraged whatever talent showed its’ head. No pushing, just an opportunity when wanted. You had a lovely voice and sang in church and seemed to enjoy all things musical. You even wrote a few love songs, which might have been the beginning of my desire to write lyrics. You had dreams amidst the piles of laundry. The laundry usually won, but you considered every day a blessing, anyway. I never heard you complain. That was another kind of music to my ears.
7. Thanks for your never-failing faith in God. You were a convert at the age of nineteen, with lots to learn. Daddy was born and raised by faithful Latter-day Saint parents. He taught us all, including you. And you drank it up. You weren’t perfect, but you were trying. You were supportive of every calling Daddy had in the Church, and served faithfully yourself. When we were sick you had Daddy give us priesthood blessings, while you prayed endlessly for me. I personally survived some difficult illnesses because of your faith and my father’s blessings. I could never thank you enough for all the faith you exercised in my behalf.
8. Thanks for being in the temple with me on my wedding day. When I felt suddenly scared on the way into the temple, you put your arms around me, wiped away my tears, and assured me all would be well. You adored the man I was marrying and have every day since. You knew I had made the right choice, and reassured me about this important step I was taking. Your understanding brought me peace.
You made sure I had a beautiful wedding dress, made by Aunt Mrytle. You took me to pick out the material and to be there for fittings. You made sure I had a lovely wedding reception. The cake you chose took my breath away. It was beautiful. You helped me, like all loving mothers whose daughters are about to marry and start a new life. You made the whole experience lovely and sweet.
9. Thank you for rushing to my side when I lost the only baby that ever grew within me. Gary was in the Air Force and we were stationed in Las Vegas, nearly 700 miles from your home. You came! Finally, after nearly five years of praying for a baby, I was at last pregnant. Sadly, it was an ectopic pregnancy and I lost the baby and nearly my life.
It was a sad time for us, for me. But there you were, comforting me in the same sweet way as when I climbed in bed with you as a heartbroken teenager. Only this was really serious. Not only did I lose the baby, but also learned that I would never be able to have a baby. Your comforting care helped bring me and my equally sorrowing husband through this trial. You were always there for me and I will treasure that blessing for all eternity.
10. Thank you for loving our five precious adopted children. You loved them just as you did all your other grandchildren. And they loved you back. You were there when each was sealed to us in the temple, except for our first born, Michael, who was sealed in the Swiss Temple because we were stationed in Germany then. You were so happy for us you gave me a proxy baby shower and sent a box full of beautiful clothes and baby supplies for him. I felt spoiled by you, though thousands of miles separated us.
Our children loved our visits with you and Daddy on the farm. Our summer vacations with Grandma and Grandpa Saunders became their favorite time. I loved that they saw you and Daddy working and how you helped them know how to do farm things. They loved the animals. They loved that you taught them how to bottle feed the baby calves, how to round up the cows at milking time—well, I think Daddy mostly taught them that while you fixed a delicious farmer-kind-of-dinner for us all. They saw you pray, and then laugh as they played. You were fun to be around. Your love was so important to them. You were an example of gentle righteousness.
11. Thank you for your example in serving a mission. When you and Daddy received your call to Australia we were all shocked. It seemed so far away. Going on this mission was a sacrifice for you, but you put aside other desires and served valiantly. We loved receiving your letters, and I loved writing to you about all that was going on in our lives. Your example inspired our three sons and us to serve missions. Now you continue on, serving valiantly in yet another more distant mission. And here I am writing to you, my missionary mother, yet again.
12. Thank you for preparing the way for all in our family to be together again, throughout all eternity. No greater gift could ever be given than to be taught God’s plan of salvation, and that families can be together forever. You taught us, then showed us the way. Now I pray to do with my own family as you and Daddy did with us. Thank you for giving us such a great example to follow. I can hardly wait to see you again. I will put my arms around you and thank you with all my heart.
I love you, Mom. And you, too, Daddy.
Your devoted daughter, Joy
OK, readers. Now it’s your turn. Have some fun going down memory lane as you remember the wonderful things about your own mother. Write her a letter. All the better if she’s still living. She will love hearing from you. Here’s the bonus: living or deceased, such a letter can become a valuable part of your family history. Letters do that.
[For more about the Lundbergs and their books and music, take a peek at their website https://www.garyjoylundberg.com/]