25 June 2014

The worst day of my life, The lessons for my posterity

Forest Park Westheimer Funeral Home
Funeral home were the worst day of my life took place.
12 December 2012 was the absolute worst day of my life (thus far). My mother had passed away two days before and I was at the funeral home. Despite how wonderful my parents were, they had a weakness. They were never good with money. The effects of this weakness were now squarely upon my shoulders. The funeral director handed me a bill for a bare bones service package that nearly gave me a heart attack. I left the office to 'think' about it.

I went outside and my best friend Stacey followed me. My husband, my anchor, was back home in Iowa, one thousand miles away, but reachable by phone. I crumbled to the ground in soul wrenching tears. My mother's poor decisions were now affecting me and my family and it hurt. I couldn't focus on the grieving process. Instead, I was bitter, angry, and deeply hurt. My father had passed away 8 years prior and my mother had experienced the pain of not being prepared. She should have known better but she left me in the same situation. All of these emotions racked my soul.

Since I was young, I've tried to be frugal and spend money wisely. I hit a rough spot in my early adult years but I paid off all my debts one month prior to my wedding day. It came at a great personal sacrifice. I gave up going to the beauty salon to get my hair and nails done. I rarely wore make-up anymore because the price was too much. I shopped sales and went without. Through it all, I witnessed many people being wasteful with welfare or donations. Things I could have loved to put to good use but didn't qualify for.  I tried my best not to judge others but keep digging myself out of my self-inflicted whole.  My worst trials resulted from others picking on me for being so frugal. Through it all, I trusted in the Lord and followed the counsel to live within our means and pay an honest tithe.

I had not fully expected this. I felt like I had been hit by a semi-truck while standing on a sidewalk. Please bare with the rest of this tale. I promise I'm not sharing this to air dirty laundry. There is a lesson for my posterity, and for people I do not even know. And, it is tied to family history.

With the help of Aunt Stacey's knowledge of an alternative funeral home who offered a discounted rate,  the funeral arrangements were finally made. My husband and I would figure it out and move on. However, the agony would not abate. Stacey suggested I go to the temple. For those of you who do not know what the temple means to me, think of the holiest place on earth. Or think of the pearly gates where St. Peter stands. Or, think of the exclusive club you want to enter but it's restricted to those who are 'worthy'. That's what the temple is to me.

A Spiritual Place in Houston, Texas
© 2005, George T. Hudson
When Aunt Stacey suggested going there, I said that I wouldn't be let in. I was bitter. I was mad. I was broken. There was no way I could go to such a holy place and be allowed to enter. Stacey knew better and took me anyway. In fact, she said this was the time I needed to go to such a place the most.

When I went to the check-in desk, I was welcomed with the friendliest of smiles by the sweetest of gentlemen. To his right, a beautiful woman smiled a great welcome to me but her face showed that she knew I was in emotional and spiritual pain. Her eyes showed that I was in the right place.

During the worship service, I heard these words in my mind, “Cast your burdens at my feet that they may be light.” Oh, wow! My Savior knew me. He knew my heartache. And He knows my parents and their struggles. He loves us all. Having trusted the Lord in the past I said, 'Here, take it. It's yours. I can't do this alone.' I didn't want to be bitter. I didn't want to be hurt. I wanted to leave it and move on.

When I left the temple, I felt free of the guilt, the bitterness, and the pain. The love I felt for my mother returned. The grieving for her being in a place I can not yet go started. 

In that experience I learned what the parable of the Ten Virgins means from another perspective. Quite often, when this allegory is shared, we're told to prepare for the day of  trials by having enough in reserve. Enough funds. Enough spiritual savings. A strong testimony. Whatever. 


But the part that is overlooked is that all of the young women actually used some of their oil. Yep. They used it and then needed to refill it. Some had enough to refill their lamps, and others did not. But they all had to use part of that oil. On this day, I had to use the oil that was in my lamp. Thankfully, I had some in reserve. So the worst day of my life became a very sweet soul soothing day.

Why did I share this?

If you think I'm trying to smear the good name of my parents, you are wrong. Instead, I shared this experience because the bad times of family history must also be recorded. Look at everything that can be learned when we record our stories, even if they are very painful.
  1. My children can know that their grandparents were good people but had a weakness. Who doesn't, right? They can also know that their decisions can effect others. Hopefully, they can see how I handled the same issue. When they are older and need to manage their own money, they can make their own decisions. Will they be more like their grandparents or their mother? Family history can teach lessons to our children with real stories, not some abstract story in a financial help book.
  2. My children will know that their daddy was my anchor. He wasn't there to help me and walk me through this experience. He was doing what he was supposed to be doing, caring for our five kiddos back home. He kept them away from the wreck mommy was becoming. I did have a phone and I called him. He reminded me that we would get through this and be fine. Although this isn't evident in the summarized version of the story, the full story details it more. In the summary, that one line about him being my anchor and not with me tells volumes. 
  3. My children will have a story about their Aunt Stacey. Notice that the first time I mentioned her, I write that she is my best friend. After that, she is referred to as Aunt Stacey. My kids know that Aunt Stacey is not a blood-related or marriage-related aunt. She's my best friend and practically my sister. We're that close and she was there for me on the worst day of my life. Now they have a crystal clear memory of what a best friend should do and how much I owe Stacey.
  4. My children have a story of my faith. When I was feeling the worst of all human emotions, I needed a place to turn. A good friend reminded me where to look. We went to that place and I felt my Savior's love for me. The scriptures came alive for me in the words I heard and the parable I was reminded of. In this story of faith, I want my children to know where to look for comfort and peace... the scriptures, their Savior, and the temple.
  5. What other nuggets do you see in this story? Feel free to share them in the comments below.
In my upcoming book 21st Century Family History, I open the book talking about the stories, stuff, and people that make up family history. This story does have a date in it. The date of my mother's death, though you have to extract it. Notice that her death date does not tell the whole story. There is so much more that needs to be shared so my family will know.

For this and many other reasons, I wrote the book. I want you to discover your family history in a new way. The way that preserves your legacy. Share the happy memories. Share the funny memories, like the one I'll be sharing soon. But also share the heart wrenching ones. Our family and personal histories need to contain as many sides to our family as we can, so we can learn from them. 

When you and your family members start envisioning family history in this light, you will discover a deeper passion for the work. You may not become a full fledged genealogist who loves archives, cemeteries, and seeking that elusive paper trail. But you will be involved in preserving memories in your own way using your own talent.

Look for the release of my book on September 1st available through Amazon.com. In the meantime, my books Power Scrapbooking - Get Caught Up, No Matter Your Scrapbooking Style and Create a Family History Scrapbook Digitally in 12 Simple Steps are on sale at Amazon.com for $2.99 each. 


2 comments:

  1. Life is not about cupcakes, roses, and rainbows all the time. We all have those rough times and those rough patches. They are who make us who we are. The key is to just keep our chin up and our head high. Part of sharing the story is telling the lesson that is learned - passing on to our posterity what we have learned from those that went before us. It might not come right away, but it does come if we let it. That is when I decided to make sure that I recorded everything, even the not so great things. The children needed to know that I loved them no less because I had certain physical ailments or they had certain physical ailments. It is because I loved them that we get through it. Recording the internal struggles for my children will one day show them the strength that made them.

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    1. 4guysandme, Thank you for this comment. I agree wholeheartedly. I love the last thing you shared... "Recording the internal struggles for my children will one day show them the strength that made them."

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