The funeral of Sister Patricia T. Holland, wife of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was on Friday, July 28.
Long ago, when I was a student in Boston, I went as an advisor to our regional girl’s camp, lovingly called Camp MIA-NE. (where you said each letter separately).
It was drizzly the day that speakers came to give their messages to the young women, and most of us had to stay in our tents while they broadcast the talks to us. So, I didn’t exactly see the young Jeff Holland, who was a counselor in the New Haven Stake, but when he began to speak, my whole spirit leaped. This was a familiar voice, one I knew and remembered, because the Holy Ghost spoke behind it, and so his words penetrated and spread joy through my soul like a sunburst of light. I seemed to feel again the true home I came from.
It was a cascade of the Spirit in my soul, unusual, not of this every day world, connecting me to that place of more light and love than the earth can hold. I walked away from that talk with a sense of that joy that is beyond speech. After, I loved Jeff Holland for the power he had to awake my soul. I was one person before that talk and another after, for I knew what I wanted most was to feel the power of that light again and always.
A few years later, Elder Holland was teaching an adult institute class at the University of Utah, and I joined the class. Here the word “enlarged my soul” and “enlightened my understanding. Oh the happiness of those who study the scriptures under the hands of one who would become an apostle.
He became a friend to me, a mentor, and to know him is to know Pat. They were the pair, their love a powerful teacher of what marriage can be. Together their commitment to Christ made them and bound them into this beautiful oneness. She moved us with her words. We read her books. We admired her leadership. Then, too soon, for us, she was gone.
These few words are to thank both Elder and Sister Holland for teaching us about the most magnificent gift of the pure love the Savior. Thank you for giving us words of light in which there is no darkness. Thank you for strengthening the limp hands and steadying the feeble knees. Thank you for demonstrating eternal family to us. Thank you for unseen hours spent in our behalf and influence that will touch generations. You both are irreplaceable to us.
At the funeral of Sister Patricia T. Holland on Friday, July 28, her three children shared tender insights.
Even if I had an eternity at my disposal, I could not convey what it has meant to me and my siblings to be loved by Patricia Terry Holland. We were nurtured at the feet of a disciple of Christ who taught us from our earliest memories to recognize God as our father and our friend, of being worthy of our complete trust and deserving of our deepest devotions and whose service we would find the bone and marrow of a meaningful life. The scriptural phrases that I most associate with my mother’s voice are a call to keep an eye single to the glory of God and the counsel to be still and know that He is.
The joy she radiated in good measure from her marriage to my Dad, and together they taught us unmistakably about the grace that is marital love. I distinctly recall sitting with her one day, when I was an adult, when we heard the door open. She turned to me and said, “You know Duff, my heart still skips a beat when your Dad comes home. The affection, admiration, and fierce devotion that she and my father shared for one another, elevated each of them, and in unison, they took on the world for the sake of its blessing and benefit.
I have to know that my mother would not be happy with a talk that painted her or her life in artificially romanticized colors. Partly this is due to her instinct of modesty. Partly it is due to her recognition of the fallenness of human experience. Whether she was reading the books of Job or Moroni or Soren Kierkegaard or Marilynne Robinson, or simply ministering to the troubled world around her; she knew error, and disappointment and sorrow were part of the meaning of mortality and that true gospel healing requires an awareness of endemic human brokenness. This consciousness of hers was not always an easy one to bear. Her pain receptors were oriented outward toward the sorrow of God’s children in ways that meant feeling a share of their suffering, but this, I believe, was also the source or her secret weapon: endless empathy. Every time I came home from school, grumbling about someone who had irritated me in some way, she would comfort me for a minute and then ask me a pair of sometimes unwelcome, but always illuminating questions. First, was there a possibility that the person who had irked me might be hurting in some way, and second, was there a way I might serve them?
I wish I could say I always responded to those lessons graciously or implemented those lessons in empathy as fully as I should have, even now, but some forty years later, they still ring through my head and my heart as I try to navigate this world.
To convey what our mother has meant in my life, I might offer one symbolic scene. Over a decade ago, in the darkest time in our life, of professional and familial and ecclesiastical pressures, coming from what seemed like every angle, my wife was not long into a fitful night’s sleep when she had a dream that was so vivid she can recall it in detail ten years later. In the dream, Jeanie sat on a beach and looked on a sea that was rapidly rising. With the waves crashed closer and closer to her and then upon her, she found herself unable to move. The water climbed higher and higher and higher, and her panic rose with each tidal inch until the unrelenting ocean had reached her neck and then in a moment of desperation and despair she turned to her right and saw my Mom, who began to offer counsel and calm her heart. “Jeanie”, she said, “Keep your head up. Don’t be afraid. These waves will pass and they will not overwhelm you.” In an instant, Jeannie’s anxieties were released. The tide began to subside and the dream ended.
The dream derived its poignancy and meaning from a number of truths about my Mom. Her assurance that the waves would not win was meaningful precisely because she was not naive about their reality or their force. She spoke with authority of experience. She knew that the sea really did rage and that the tide really could rise, but also knew of our covenant to the Christ who had control of the tempest and that battle-tested testimony of the gospel’s sure promise not only gave her the power to prevail but imparted to her words the strength to sustain those around her.
Mary Alice H. McCann
There is a yellow 3×5 card that is taped above the light switch in the doorway of my bedroom. It is faded and tattered and the corners are bent, but I still see it every morning. It is a promise from my mother that reads, “If you pray and read your scriptures every day, everything will be ok, I promise. She gave me this reassurance one afternoon during a very difficult period of my life when I had called her seeking comfort, and I have had it taped to the door of my bedroom ever since, reminding me of her words, echoing the promises of the Lord that she loved. But mother had a gift for teaching us the gospel. Part of that gift is that when we were hurting and reached for her, she comforted us and then led us to the Savior and then stepped out of the way so that we could find our comfort in Him.
I’ve often been asked what it was like to have a mother like Patricia Holland teach us the gospel, and while we did have our formal teaching moments, frankly, they paled in comparison to the fact the gospel was the air that we breathed. It was impossible to unwind my mother from the gospel of Jesus Christ. She earned her faith, she earned it through tribulation and effort and she lived it in a way that it was impossible for her children not to believe. What has been said of Mary Fielding Smith is true of my mother. This woman planted the faith of the gospel so deep in the hearts of her children that all hell has not been able to root it out of a single one of them.
It is not hard to believe in a merciful, good Shepherd, when that has been modeled in a mother’s love.
For me, though, the most searing image is one she described in a sacred moment, at the 2018 seminar for new mission leaders. She and my father were jointly teaching about the preeminent power of Book of Mormon to bring people to Jesus Christ. As she closed, she referenced a moment back in 2015 when she was battling a lung condition that had her on the brink of death. During her 32 days in intensive care and the weeks that followed in regular hospital care, my father kept a constant vigil by her bedside. He and others of us, administered multiple priesthood blessings. Of course, there were some moments when, out of sheer necessity, he could not be right there.
With that as backdrop, I share her words, shared at the Provo MTC, while clutching her personal copy of the Book of Mormon tightly to her chest, she said, “I leave with you my testimony of this wonderful book. Recently, during a near fatal illness, I wanted Jeff and his priesthood to be with me constantly, but he couldn’t always be at my side, and I wanted the next best thing. I wanted the Book of Mormon in my hands, holding it, and when I slept, I wanted it under my pillow.
With doctors telling us that I wasn’t going to make it, that they had done everything they could possibly do, and that we should call our children, I knew that if I did live, it would be because of the blessings and the truths that I’ve studied so many times this gospel that the Book of Mormon teaches. If Nephi could raise his brother from the dead, I knew that God could raise me as well, and he did, by the same apostolic faith and authority that ancient Nephite prophet had. I bear witness to you brothers and sisters that this book has given me life over and over again, since I first read it as a young woman. It has Jeff and me and our children a blueprint and a power to live peacefully, calmly and patiently, with the brightness of the sun lighting the way, even the brightness of the Son of God.”