March 1, 2022

my foundation


I was driving home from the funeral home. I had just helped fill out my mom's death certificate and pick out her urn. Obviously, it was an emotional drive. As tears were streaming down my face, I started thinking about my mom, my favorite memories of her, and what she taught me. And I realized that I have more in common with her than I ever thought I did. Furthermore, I have more in common with her because of her. She instilled in me so many of the things that I love--nature, books, adventure, fun. She gave me tools to use through life--walking, exercise, writing. I realized my mom truly did give me a beautiful childhood. She gave me a solid foundation to help me face all that life throws at me. For so long, I have struggled that my mom wasn't there for me in the ways I thought I needed these last few years. But the truth is, she was there for me because she is a part of me and she taught me all that I need to have strength and to cope with challenges. 

It was my privilege to write my thoughts out about my mom and share them at her funeral. I wanted so much to honor her. Here is the talk that I gave:

I think it’s interesting the things we remember about a person.

The first thing that came to my mind when I was thinking of memories of my mom was “Dirt.”

My mom loved the smell of dirt. When driving to my grandparents house when I was younger, we would turn onto the dirt road and she would let us roll down the windows because she loved that smell.

Equally as wonderful to her was the smell of rain. She would get excited about everything about the rain. When a monsoon storm would roll in my mom was quick to run outside with us and spread her arms wide and dance in the rain.

She, also, loved leaves in the fall and would go out of her way to step on them to hear the crunch.

At the beach, she gathered sea shells and loved splashing her feet in the water and digging her toes in the sand.

She had a fascination with rocks. I would often see her studying them intently. And she gathered quite a collection. That I don’t think my dad fully appreciated.

I was looking through her camera this week and I loved seeing what she saw through that lens—while there was plenty of her family, there was also so many beautiful mountain-scapes, cactus, small flowers, grass, water, rocks.

Clearly, my mom had a deep love of and appreciation for nature. What a beautiful example she was to slow down and truly see and find joy and wonder in the beautiful world that God created us—the smells, the sights, and the feels.

Because of her delight in the world, she instilled a love of nature in me, and I’m sure in so many around her. Like little Layla who has her own rock collection like her grandma.

Thinking about how she instilled this in me helped me realize something else this week.

I have struggled with the fact that my mom couldn’t be there in the way that I needed the last few years during some of the hardest moments of my life. This week I finally realized I’ve been telling myself that but that just isn’t true.

If a tree is going to withstand the wind and storms it needs deep roots. If a building is going to stand the test of time it needs a strong foundation. Without those roots, without that foundation neither would stand long.

My mom gave me that foundation and those roots so that I can face whatever hard thing comes at me. She is at the core of who I am and what I know and the childhood she gave me, and my sisters, is our strong foundation. She had already given me everything I needed and she will continue to do so because she is a part of who I am.

She built my foundation when she taught us to have fun in life. My all time favorite memory was the day she let us put dawn dish soap on the floor of our kitchen and slide all around with our friends. (Though my sisters remember the tears she cried for the next few days as she tried to get the soap off of the floor.) She also planned game shows like “double dare” and “the price is right.” She let us spray our dirt backyard in Phoenix with water and cover ourselves with mud. And she joined us! She gave us water guns in our easter baskets so we could have an indoor water fight each year, with no worry about the water in the house. ‘water doesn’t hurt and water dries” is something she would often say through out her life. When we were young and had to wait at places like doctors offices, she made up games like “stop and go.” She loved to play and live life to the fullest and have fun. She knew fun, laughter, and play was the best way to relieve stress, find joy, and feel truly alive.

She built my foundation when she beat to her own drum. She never cared about popularity or appearances. I think she had different priorities than many people. She valued people over things, character over appearance, serving over wealth. She may have ran around in sweatpants and flip flops and refused to ever put her hair in a ponytail, but she was genuine and real. She was always true to herself. One day when I was in elementary school and we lived in Mesa, a friend was over. We had a love/hate relationship with the boys our age in our neighborhood. One particular day, they had been teasing me and my friend and we confided in my mom. She shared her wisdom with us and told us to hold our heads up high as we walked by them and maybe even put our noses in the air and just ignore them. I remember we did just that. That day became a lesson for life--She knew that there would always be people teasing or mocking, trying to pull us down, or distracting us. Keep your head up, walk confidently forward knowing who you are, and don’t let other people bring you down. That’s how my mom lived.

She built my foundation by teaching me to walk. Yeah literally she as a baby she helped me walk, but it was all the walking and the talking that I did with her, especially in junior high, high school, and college that influenced me. She would walk with her dear friends around Fraser fields every morning. On the days that I could, she would let me join her. I learned the joy of moving my body and engaging in deep conversations as we walked the neighborhood. On Sundays, my mom and I would often go on “barefoot walks” down the sidewalk (when it wasn’t 100 degrees outside). And we had a zoo membership so even in college we would meet up just to walk together around the zoo. My mom taught me you can solve a lot of problems by walking and the power of connecting with people while doing so.

She built my foundation by encouraging us to create, imagine, learn, and explore. She encouraged us in our imaginative play and allowed us free reign to build Barbie and my little pony houses wherever we saw fit. She gave us lots of time and space just for play and creativity—like organizing our own gymnastics Olympics. My mom allowed us and encouraged us to make our own choices, even in the simple things like letting us arrange and rearrange our bedroom furniture however we wanted. She let us learn and figure things out by doing them. When Jacqui wanted to make and direct a short film about getting locked into a church building, she supported her fully, invited friends to be extras, and we all took a role in the movie she made. Such a great mom to encourage that. When we lived in west Phoenix and they didn’t feel comfortable sending us to those particular public schools, she homeschooled us. We did plenty of book work and lessons in the living room, but as our teacher, she took us out exploring the world and museums and taught us through conversation everywhere we went. I remember one time when she wanted to teach us about other countries, she set up chairs in our living room and created an airplane to fly us to Australia. She gave us plane tickets, in flight snacks, and when we landed, showed us a documentary on Australia and gave us foods she made from traditional recipes. She was always creative and fun in her approach to teach us. She loved reading and she shared her love of reading with us. We were always at the library getting stacks of books. Late at night, you could often find her with a box of cheeze-its and a book in her hand. I also specifically remember her teaching me to read poetry with expression. She fostered a love of learning, independence, and creativity. I think she saw the great value in developing confidence by doing, thinking outside the box to solve problems, and continuing to grow and explore throughout life.

She built my foundation by loving, serving and appreciating others. My mom enjoyed baking and I loved joining her in the kitchen. But it was an unspoken rule that whenever we baked we would share with the neighbors or someone in the ward. We were often running cinnamon rolls, snickerdoodles or her caramel popcorn balls to someone. She and my dad welcomed everyone into our home with kindness and Christlike, non-judgmental love—friends from school, multiple foreign exchange students, missionaries, the neighbor boys who wanted to play our drums and guitars—everyone was welcome. I know she was like a second mom to many of our friends. Together with my dad, they would do anything for anyone--she housed one of my friends for a few months when I didn’t even live at home anymore. I know they did that for multiple people. My Eric told me his favorite thing about my mom was how she was fully present with you. She treated everyone as one of her own. When you talked with her she was fully engaged and made you feel so accepted and included. She showed her love to my dad by her every day acts of service. When my dad left early for work, sometimes 4 in the morning, she would get up to cook him a breakfast before he left. She lived her life giving to others without holding back. It was her christ-like love that was her greatest gift.

She built my foundation by making music an important part of life. Listening to music, dancing and performing in the living room, and singing along was at the heart of the childhood she gave us. My mom raised us on the music of the Monkees as number one. “Hey hey we’re the monkees” was pretty much our family motto. But she also played the Chiffons, Beach Boys, and Buddy Holly and so much more. My mom would get together with her friend Kathy Couch all the time and they would play guitar and sing. I thought it was so much fun listening to them and watching them perform at the ward talent show. She tucked us in so many nights by singing “Brahms lullaby.” Every time I sing it to my kids, I think of her. My mom loved concerts. Just a few months ago Kacin got to take his grandma to the last Monkees concert. When I was in high school, Jimmy Eat World became one of her favorite bands and I went to multiple concerts with her. The last one I went to with her, it was Eric and I that wanted to hang back behind the crowd and she was ready to push her way through the mosh pit to the front. When I was with her in the ICU on Saturday, it was when I played the Monkees and Jimmy Eat World that she opened her eyes for a few minutes and gave me her last beautiful, peaceful smile. She left this world on Monday surrounded by her family and listening to the song “Hear You Me” by Jimmy Eat World. She knew the power of music to bring joy and fun, to express yourself, to comfort—music was a life line.

She built my foundation by doing hard things. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to be a teenager in a full back brace. She had multiple back surgeries for her scoliosis. She had severe allergies as a child. And as an adult she was always in a lot of pain. Years ago my mom and I had a conversation about the motto “I can do hard things” and it became the thing that we would take turns reminding each other. “I can do hard things.” With my dad around her all the time, she needed to remember that.😉 just kidding.

Most importantly, she built my foundation through her conversion to the gospel, living her testimony, and pointing me towards Christ. After my mom joined the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints as a young adult, I know there became some difficult things about that for my grandparents. There was always an abundance of mutual respect and love and they never really talked about it with me but I know it was hard. I never once saw my mom waver in her quiet, strong testimony of her Savior and the church. Her commitment was proof that she had a testimony of Jesus Christ and the restoration of His church. She taught me to treat the scriptures and the temple garments with such respect and reverence—never tossing either of them on the ground. We had a family rule that my mom enforced that we couldn’t get on screens each day before we had read our scriptures. My mom encouraged and helped us with that to make sure that we were prioritizing our day and putting God first. I remember waking up early some mornings and finding my parents praying together. My mom prayed with such ferventness and reverence.  If you heard her pray, you knew that she knew that God was there and listening to her. She was a steady consistent rock in helping us develop our own understanding of who God is and how we can become more like Him. She had very high standards and kept our home free of influences that would drive the spirit away. (I only heard her cuss twice in her life and both times I was driving—oops. Sorry I drove you to that, mom). She exemplified the christ-like attributes of humility, patience, love, and sacrifice. She didn’t just talk about Christ, she tried to live like Him. It wasn’t just in one moment that she pointed me towards Christ, it was just by being her that I knew He was the one to look to for support, strength, and direction.

We all know my mom was far from perfect. You probably see a lot of her quirks passed down to her children, too—stubbornness, lack of tact, messy purse, or an anxious nature. She carried a lot of heavy pain around. But you don’t have to be perfect to build a strong foundation for someone.

My mom built such a strong foundation for our little family.

So because of her, I realize I was and I am perfectly prepared to face life. My sisters are, too.

I hope today you can think of someone who has helped you build your foundation. Go hug them tight. Tell them how much you appreciate them.

I also hope that you can in turn be that foundation for someone else.

All while recognizing that the strongest foundation any of us have is Jesus Christ.

I’ll leave my testimony with you today that I know we have a Heavenly Father who loves us. I know our Savior Jesus Christ is our friend, our exemplar, our strength, and our hope. I know that He lives. And because of that we will be reunited with our sweet mother, grandmother, wife, and friend.