Sunday, March 30, 2014

Each life that touches ours for good: My story is not my own

Last night was the first General Women's Session of LDS General Conference, and my family and I got a bit of a surprise when we heard a very familiar story being told by the Young Women General President, Sister Oscarson. As transcribed by my sister Laura:

"I recently heard a wonderful story about a little girl named Sarah whose mother had the opportunity to help another women in her ward named Brenda who had Multiple Sclerosis. Sarah loved to go with her mother to help Brenda. She would put lotion on Brenda's hands and massage her fingers and arms because they were often in pain. She then learned to gently stretch Brenda's arms over her head to exercise her muscles. Sarah brushed Brenda's hair and visited with her while her mother took care of her other needs. Sarah learned the importance and joy of serving another person and came to understand that even a child can make a big difference in someone's life."

The reason this story sounded so familiar was that Brenda was my mother. Sarah is a neighbor girl, part of a large family of mostly boys, whose mom was one of the many, many women who came over to assist my mom during her long years of physical limitation.

I was almost taken aback at first for a few reasons. First, out of sheer surprise. Both surprise at hearing the story and surprise because I had no idea that Sarah was involved like that. Also, I'd thought about my mom's illness as our family's story, our family's experience, for so long that it almost surprised me to realize that someone else could claim it as part of their story, too.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that every experience, no matter how personal, becomes part of the story and life experience of those around us. In the case of my mom, I sheepishly admit that it's quite clear that her story was not limited to her family. Sarah and her mom were not the exception in my parents' ward- there was a full rota of women who came on a daily basis to spend time with her, to assist her with meals and getting up and down from naps, and, like Sister Oscarson talked about, rubbing her limbs to keep blood flowing and do what they could to alleviate the pain. These women gave their time and their skills and their love, giving my siblings and I the freedom to go to school, and live our young, developing lives. Of course it became their story.

Then I thought about my mom's funeral. The chapel was packed with current and old ward members, friends, and relatives- all people who had been touched in some way by my mother's life. And didn't that make her story belong to them as well in some way? Don't we all belong to each other as we influence each other for good or ill, as we strengthen and encourage and learn, and sometimes just plain endure- there is no such thing as an isolated story. My story is not my own- it belongs to the people who have lifted me, supported me, challenged me, and taught me. And just as I claim my mother's story, I also claim the stories of my father, my siblings, my grandparents, my roommates. Their choices and their experiences impact me. Their stories are not their own.

And I guess that's my first thought as I prepare for General Conference this weekend- I hope that as I sit in the choir loft on Saturday and look across the sea of faces in front of me, I will remember that we all belong to each other. It is a powerful and humbling thought.


Heather said...

Beautiful! I hope and pray it is an amazing experience for you, and that you are given the strength you need for this upcoming week! <3 you!

Heather said...
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Danielle said...

I was touched by that story as well. How beautiful that her life could make so many people's lives better and richer through her trials.

StephenEmily Stacey said...

Lovely women. Thank you for attaching a face to the story.