Guest Post: When Earth and Ocean Shook, Aunty Did Too

Posted on October 3, 2009. Filed under: Mormon women | Tags: , , , , , |

nm_Tsunami_090930_ssh

We’re so glad that longtime EXII friend, Kiri Close, was able to personalize the tsunami tragedy in this post as she tells about her homeland and family members.

When Earth and Ocean Shook, Aunty Did Too: Samoa Tsunami Didn’t Take Everything
by Kiri Close

For decades, the South Pacific archipelago of Samoa – the place of the “sacred bird” (‘sa’ meaning sacred, and ‘moa’ for a long extinct endemic bird) – has been politically split in two and aptly named by its colonial powers. Once upon a recent time, colonizers designated these islands for non-native autonomy in governance: WESTERN SAMOA (officially renamed INDEPENDENT SAMOA in 1997) and AMERICAN SAMOA (a U.S. protectorate territory much like the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Marshall Islands, Puerto Rico, etc.).  (more…)

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The Truth About Pop Music and Feminism

Posted on September 7, 2009. Filed under: Acceptance, Changes, confidence, Family, feminism, Gender roles, marriage, motherhood, personal notes, women | Tags: , , , |

by mraynes

This past Saturday, mr. mraynes and I watched High Fidelity for the first time. About fifteen minutes into the movie, the John Cusack character asks, “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable, or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” This question resonated with me because I have recently been asking myself a similar question:

Am I feminist because I’m discontented, or am I discontented because I’m a feminist?

Since leaving my job, moving to a new state and becoming a stay-at-home mother, I have felt a level of unhappiness that truly surprised me. I expected the transition to be hard but I did not expect to feel so vulnerable all of the time. My self-esteem completely collapsed in the space of two weeks and I am left feeling overwhelmingly helpless. Things are starting to get better, I am settling into a routine and I’m sure that with time, I will even enjoy being at home. But that doesn’t negate the very real fact that changing my fairly progressive lifestyle to a traditional one has wreaked havoc on my emotions, my relationships and my general happiness with life.

My question above is a proverbial chicken and egg question and really one of assigning blame; whose fault is it for my disillusionment with domesticity? The answer may seem obvious but humor me for a minute. Let’s analyze the first part of my question, am I feminist because I’m discontented? This begs the question, what in my life makes me discontented enough to turn to feminism? Well, the lack of quantifiable equality within the church and its’ rhetoric on gender causes me a great deal of pain and frustration. The invisibility of women in scripture, doctrine and bureaucracy is problematic at best. The diminishing of women to certain roles by Mormon culture echoes the objectification of women found in our broader society. We, as Mormons and members of society, should do better. This is why I am a feminist, to document, analyze and hopefully make better the small circles in which I travel.

If we are getting more specific to my life, I hate the inequitable division of domestic labor that mr. mraynes and I have now. Yes, he comes home and does the dishes but it doesn’t equal the multiple times I am on my hands and knees picking up cheerios each day. I hate feeling dependent on my husband to cover my basic needs. If I was to look at our relationship through the lens of academic feminism, the power dynamic in our relationship has changed dramatically. Money is power; before we were both financially contributing to our family, now I rely on the good will of mr. mraynes to see his money as “our money.” My knowledge of feminist theory is what I use to empower myself, it is my safety net in case I ever have to remind mr. mraynes not to be a misogynistic jerk. (I should note that this whole paragraph is horribly unfair to mr. mraynes who, himself, has been the stay-at-home dad and who has been nothing but kind, supportive and an egalitarian angel throughout this transition and our whole marriage.)

This brings me to the second half of my question, am I discontented because I’m a feminist? This is a hard question for me to want to answer honestly. Certainly if I didn’t have the framework of Friedan, Steinem, de Beauvoir, Toscano, it would be harder for me to articulate the gender inequities that I saw in the church, society or my individual life. I guess the question is, would I see them at all if I wasn’t a feminist? I can’t answer this question because I have never not been a feminist. I grew up in an egalitarian home and, although my feminism grew from that point, my expectation from life has always been equality. But in my dark moments (like the one that caused me to vow never to set foot in the Denver Public Library again), I really have to wonder, would I be happier if I always had the expectation of a traditional lifestyle and wanted nothing else? The “grass is always greener” side of me says yes, after all, Seriously So Blessed isn’t parodying nothing.

Does feminism make women happy is another proverbial question, one that has had lots of heated discussion already bestowed upon it. (See here, here and here for a few examples). This is the conclusion I’ve come to: if feminism makes people unhappy it is because it illuminates all of the nasty parts of reality. It is much nicer to pretend inequality doesn’t exist or to not care if it does because it doesn’t affect you. I understand that this is a personal decision for every woman and man to make and I don’t judge anybody for not wanting to live a life where they see sexism, oppression and abuse all around them. But the truth is, these things do exist and some of us are going to see and speak it even if it is inconvenient or uncomfortable.

In the end, attempts to place blame, whether it be on feminism, the church or leprechauns, are always red herrings. Truth is complex and often it is easier to blame an other than to be comfortable with that complexity. I am currently trying to accept my own truth; yes, I am discontent because I’m a feminist, but also because reality sucks and I am pre-disposed to be melancholy. But I gain nothing by blaming anybody or anything for my unhappiness; all I can do is work hard to find some measure of joy in the place that I am.

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Mormons and The Morality of Utilizing Public Assistance

Posted on August 12, 2009. Filed under: Family, Mormon Life | Tags: , , , , |

by Caroline

Because I’ve been thinking about the directive to not postpone families, I’ve also been thinking about the consequences of such a directive. One consequence, it seems to me, is that several young Mormon families struggle so much financially that they go on public assistance to have and support their babies.

Several years ago, I would think of these young Mormons with a lack of understanding or sympathy. I would think, ‘Why on earth did you start your family if you knew you didn’t have health insurance, if you knew you didn’t have enough money to pay for the children’s food or health care?” Being the cautious sort, I myself was not about to have babies until my late twenties, when both my husband and I had established our careers, owned a house, and had plenty of money to pay for our family.

At the time, there also seemed to me to be something slightly shameful about going on welfare. It boggled my mind that people would deliberately put themselves in a position in which they knew they would need to take advantage of such resources.

However, as I’ve grown older and grown closer with several Mormon friends who had their babies young and utilized public assistance to do so, my attitude has softened quite a bit. I’m grateful for programs that ensure the security and physical well-being of my friends and their families. I now realize that my former attitude was a product of my own privilege and my own narrow exposure to diverse ways to approach life.

But I still do have some lingering questions about Mormons and the ethics of utilizing public assistance. Is there a situation in which it is not ethical to use it? What would that situation be? And what is the Mormon leadership’s attitude about it?

A quick search on lds.org did not produce many results for the terms ‘public welfare’ or ‘public assistance.” But I did find one talk in which Marion G. Romney, (in 1980) talked about the decision in not the most flattering of terms.

“When circumstances combine to require help, it is Church doctrine that one rely upon his family for assistance. Obviously, no one should become a charge upon the public when his relatives are able to care for him.”

Other references to public assistance in General Conference and Church magazines were even more negative. The term ‘evils of a dole’ (1936) popped up a number of time in my search at lds.org, as well as references to the shame of accepting welfare from the government (1944). Interestingly, while the ‘evils of a dole’ quote comes from a 1930’s document about the establishment of the Church Welfare program, it is still quoted – though pretty rarely – in recent times. 2003 seems to be the latest.

So it appears that in the past, certain Church leaders have not looked too kindly on the idea of going on public assistance. However, the very fact that I could find almost no recent references to the topic indicate to me that perhaps GA perspectives on the matter have changed. Kids are way more expensive now. Health care is ridiculously pricey. I wonder if some GA’s understand the new reality that for many young couples to start their families, some kind of public assistance is an absolute necessity.

As for my other question about when it is or is not ethical to use public assistance, it seems clear to me that it is absolutely fine to use it when unforeseen circumstances arise that put a family in a dire situation. An unexpected pregnancy. A health problem. An unforeseen job loss.  Thank goodness public assistance is there for those situations, I say.

I am less clear, however, on the ethics of using public assistance when it is a planned thing. When a young married person says, ‘I’d like to have a baby. The prophet has told me I shouldn’t postpone children because of finances. I know we have no money, but the state will pay for the birth because our income is so low, and then we’ll qualify for food stamps after that.”

Let me be up front and say that I in no way am judging anyone who has used public assistance to have and support their families. (Unlike the me of 10 years ago.)  I am now a left of center person who believes in government programs to help the poor. But I am fascinated by the idea of so many young Mormons – most no doubt Republicans and in favor of limiting social services – deliberately choosing before the fact  to utilize these government programs to have and support babies.

I suspect that most Mormons don’t see an ethical problem in the planned decision beforehand to take advantage of these welfare resources because:

a) they see this as a short term thing – it’s not as if they’ll be on welfare forever and bilking the system

b) they see themselves as eventually becoming upstanding tax paying members of the community, so in effect, they are just getting back a small portion of what they’ll be paying in the rest of their lives

c) all the other Mormons are doing it

d) the prophet told them to not postpone their families

I would like to know how you think about the utilization of government welfare.

-Do you think there are situations when it is less than ethical to go on it?

-Have you yourself made decisions to go on welfare, and was it at all an ethical struggle for you? Why or why not?

-What is your sense of how the Mormon leadership views the utilization of public welfare nowadays?

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Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear: A Look at Motivation

Posted on August 6, 2009. Filed under: Family, Jesus, mental health, Mormon Life, religion, suffering | Tags: , , |

 DSCN2399  by Alisa

In Relief Society last month, the teacher said we should encourage our kids “to only marry someone who comes from a family where both parents have stuck it out together, so that our children will be encouraged to stick through whatever trials their marriages bring.” Not having read the General Conference talk she was speaking of, I was unsure whether that was her counsel or the counsel in the talk. Either way, I cringed as I quickly counted that at least 20% of the women in that room had been divorced at some point, and wondered what they were thinking about the marital success of their kids. I realized that the lesson, while attempting to teach good principles, was coming from a place of fear, particularly a fear that adults are too shaped by their childhoods to choose their path for themselves. It wasn’t an atypical lesson for Relief Society, and I do not blame the teacher for the motivation of fear. As a lifelong Mormon, it’s a motivation that I resonate with all too well.
 
I had a recent late-night chat with my terminally-ill father and my siblings. My dad explained how his views of the nature of our motivation for living the gospel has changed over time. He said that while he believes that teaching and keeping the 10 Commandments, the Word of Wisdom, observing the sabbath and fasts, obediently paying tithing, etc. (essentially living the gospel out of duty, fear, or in search of reward), was all the “Gospel 101” class in our lifetime, that he felt that the upper-division course is all about being motivated by mercy and love, which are the motivations he ascribes to Jesus and God. He talked of how the way of explaining the Savior as the mediator and God as the harsh justice-seeking money lender didn’t make as much sense to him when it appears that God is actually very good at blessing both the wicked and the righteous. Because Jesus says that everything he did he saw his father do, my dad has come to the belief that God is very, very compassionate and loving. And I’ll tune my ears to that. Since my dad is dying from his second round of cancer in five years, he has plenty to fear, plenty to feel punished for. Yet he feels overwhelming love.
 
My dad is quite a different man in his 60’s than the 30-something man who raised me to wake up at 6:00 am to read scriptures, who never allowed caffeine or playing cards into our home (nor allowed us to come into contact with these things), and who banned Sleepless in Seattle for promoting cohabitation. We lived in a very strict system where all commandments were to be obeyed to the jot and tittle, and where nothing was excused. We did these things because they were the commandments, because they were a test to see if we’d follow everything the prophet asked of us. And because we didn’t want God to be disappointed or to forfeit our right to be an eternal family.
 
Whether it was intended or not, the message that I received was one of rewards and punishments. I believed it was entirely up to me to earn my salvation, my exaltation. I had a great start. My parents showed that it was somewhat possible to do every single little tiny outward thing. They certainly tried, and I have to give them credit. But for me, I was lacking in the spirit of why we did these things. As a teenager, I began to experience deep depression that I interpreted to be God’s rejection and disapproval of me. I did some desparate things to try to make up for the infinite number of imperfections I had. I became a perfectionist, wishing to cleanse myself of sin, to suffer as Jesus suffered, to shed my metaphorical 1,000 drops of blood, so that the Savior would not have to suffer for me. I convinced myself that I did this out of love for the Savior. But now as I look back on it, I think I was actually trying to cover my bases in case the Savior rejected me. I’d never really had a spiritual manifestation of his forgiveness, so all I had were my works to speak for me.
 
In the New Testament, Jesus uses the motivations of punishment, reward, and love. He occasionally talks of hellfire, holds out reward of heaven an earth in the beatitudes, and lets us know that when we really are in tune with love, we’ll have peace, friendship/neighborliness, and spiritual feasting. I recognize that Jesus is able to live in a meld of seemingly conflicting ideas much better than I am, as I tend to experience one at a time.
 
In graduate school, one of my colleagues introduced me to the idea that we don’t keep the commandments to earn a reward such as salvation, but that we keep the commandments because we love the Savior and have faith that he will take care of our salvation—afterall, that is his job. This was a radical shift from the way I had structured the whole system in my mind. Taking the idea of earning rewards or punishments out of my hands and filling myself with love and faith at first seemed to completely remove my control over my spirituality. Could love really be enough of a motivation to live a good life? Over time, I let this thought of love slip into my heart more and more. Eventually, it’s became my primary motivation for doing what I do. It’s even why it has taken me this long to feel good about conceiving this child I’m expecting in January—I waited until I felt so full of love and so devoid of fear that this monumental change seemed to work in my life.
 
When I look at the world, there is plenty to fear. At the same time, there is plenty to bless. Those two flip sides are enough to keep me engaged for a long time as I go back and forth. But focusing on love is like a peaceful respite through that process, a rest which takes me right to the core of where I need to be, centered and grounded. As John said in his first epistle: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear… We love him, because he first loved us.”

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LDS family values

Posted on July 30, 2009. Filed under: Doubt, Family, marriage, Mormon Life | Tags: , , |

by G

George Q Cannon and other LDS leaders in Prison
George Q Cannon and other LDS leaders in Prison

I’ve had several conversations with individuals who continue to attend the LDS church, even though they may have serious doubts about the theological/doctrinal claims, because they like the church’s emphasis on family.

(more…)

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The Feminist Domestic

Posted on July 18, 2009. Filed under: Acceptance, Changes, Family, fatherhood, feminism, Gender roles, marriage, mental health, motherhood, parenting, personal notes, women, work | Tags: , , , , , , |

Feminist1_Full

by mraynes

A few months ago mr. mraynes was teaching an Elder’s Quorum lesson on unity, specifically unity within the family.  A brother in our ward called him out and dismissed what mr. mraynes was teaching, saying in effect “your wife is a feminist and I know how your family works.”  mr. mraynes was understandably bemused at the situation mostly because this brother had entirely missed the point of the lesson but also because this man had presumed to know what our family was like based on his own stereotype.

One of the reasons that this brother in our ward felt comfortable judging our family was because we do fit the stereotype of what many people think a feminist family looks like.  I have been the career woman, mr. mraynes the stay-at-home daddy.  I financially provide for our family, mr. mraynes does the child care and housework.  But role reversal does not necessarily assume a feminist household.  In fact, most of the feminists I know lead a very traditional lifestyle and still manage to have perfectly progressive marriages.  Having a rigid stereotype of what other people are like does not allow for the natural fluidity of life.  Yes, mr. mraynes and I have been living a “non-traditional” life but it will not last forever.  In fact, we are only weeks away from doing a complete 180 and switching roles once more.  mr. mraynes has just landed his first job since finishing his doctoral program and so we are moving to Denver where I will be a full time stay-at-home mom.  (By the way, I am waving desperately at all you Denver feminist out there and hoping you’ll be friends with me.)  I admit to being nervous; our life for the past three years has worked really well for me and I’m not sure that I will cut it as the primary nurturer.  mr. mraynes and I have had many discussions specifically addressing our concerns with this transition.  We have had to be open and honest with one another and share things that have been quite uncomfortable to say out loud.  For example, I knew that I could not stand the isolation of living in the suburbs while mr. mraynes commuted to his exciting job in the city.  I did not want to live on my own Revolutionary Road and so we decided that we would sacrifice space and money by living downtown in a small condo. 

While we both feel a little guilty for not following in the prescribed pattern for upper-middle class families, in the end you have to be self-aware and do what is best for everybody in the family.  We both knew that isolation was dangerous for my mental health and so we made a decision together about what would work best for us.  There is nothing groundbreaking in this wisdom; having a feminist marriage does not mean I get to walk all over my husband and make all of the decisions.  Rather, it guarantees that both parties are respected and affirmed in the relationship.  It is perhaps this subtlety in a feminist marriage that is difficult to see from the outside.  (I am using feminist marriage in the broadest sense here–meaning gender-equitable. You don’t necessarily have to self-identify as a feminist in order to have a feminist marriage.)  The worldview of people like the brother in our ward assumes that women like me are “ball-busters” and that I “wear the pants” in the family but this has nothing to do with my marriage or any other feminist marriage I know.

The truth is none of us can really know what another’s family dynamic is really like.  But it serves us nothing to remain in the ignorance of our own (mis-)understanding and not at least try to explore our differences and similarities.  Ever since that Sunday I have though a lot about what it means to be a feminist and part of a family; I realize there are a lot of misconceptions out there about feminists and there is almost nothing positive written about their relationships with their own families.  Perhaps this is our fault, so I thought I would endeavor to fill that gap by writing a series of posts on my experience as a feminist and how it affects my relationship with my husband and children, how it affects my parenting style and domestic prowess.  These are, of course, my own experiences and I would expect that many of you have experienced something different.  I invite you to share them here.  We are all striving to do what is best for our families no matter what role we play; perhaps in sharing our individual experiences we can maximize the good effects of our feminism on our families.

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Invocations

Posted on June 28, 2009. Filed under: Family, Poetry | Tags: , |

For Dad and Mother

Wearing at evening,
After the alarm clock,
Oatmeal,
Lunch pails,
Car pool,
Grocery bags
Up ten steps
Two by two,
Tuna fish
And noodle soup,
School bus,
Socks and blue jeans,
Swimming lesson,
“Papa Haydn”
At the keyboard,
Stacatto oratory
From the first grade reader,
Knights in armor
On their sofa cushion steeds,
Urgent calls
From six-year-old admirers,
Skinned knees

And Band-Aids,
Broken bike chains,
Missing mittens,
Quarrels of unknown origin,
Kitchen strewn with leavings
Of creative genius,
Frying pan
And soapsuds,
Fork on the left,
Spoon on the right,
Gymnastics after dinner,
Toothpaste and pajamas,
Stories,
Singing,
And the very latest tactics
For bedtime delay–

I do well to remember:

Someone thought
That I was worth it,
Every day.

~Margaret Rampton Munk

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In Gratitude for Present Fathers

Posted on June 20, 2009. Filed under: Family, fatherhood, Gender roles, Mormon Life | Tags: , , , |

fathershand

by mraynes

My life is almost entirely female oriented.  Everyday I hold a baby girl to my breast and let the wonder of the woman body nurture her early existence.  I go to work and negotiate the personalities and emotions of the women I work with.  I listen to the nightmares of female victim after female victim and wonder, why?  Between my responsibilities as mother and counselor, I think.  I think about female oppression and suffering.  I think about the dysfunction of a society that values women more for the way they look than the way they act.  I think about God and women…Whether God is a woman and whether God loves women.  I am consumed by my own womaness and the female experience around me.  And yet I realize that this is a privileged consumption.

I think of that cliched phrase at times, “Behind every great man is a great woman.”  I don’t know if that is true but I do know that behind this woman are great men and wonderful fathers.  I so often complain about patriarchy and violent, misogynistic men that I wonder if the real men in my life know how grateful I am for them and how important I think they are.

My own father taught me how to see shades of grey.  He taught me that there are no hierarchies between children of God, we are all equal and we all deserve compassion.  It is from my father that I learned how to praise God through poetry and music.  He dragged me to art museums, historical monuments and operas, all in the hope that I would expand my mind.  And when I did, he got out of the way and let me experience the journey.  Perhaps the most important lesson my father taught me was how to persevere through the reality and injustice of life and find happiness in spite of it.

Maybe it is un-feminist of me to say, but I would be nothing without my husband.  He is the one who makes my issues with life and God bearable.  He provides the safety for me to question and reach for the things that I want.  It is my husband who nurtures our family.  Every morning he wakes at 5:30 with our baby so that I can sleep an extra hour or two.  It is he who cleans the house, changes the diapers, wipes little noses, kisses boo-boos, plays the baby games.  For all of his work he is rewarded with two children who love mommy best.  His is a thankless job.  But I thank him for it because I know that as our children get older, he will give them the strength to dream without limit.  He will teach them how to work hard and reach the goals they have set.  My children are the lucky ones, they have a father who is present and will provide them with every opportunity.  It is men like my husband and father who are slowly changing the world because they know that what makes them a real man is living a life of respect, compassion and equality.  

Somewhere in our society we convinced ourselves that men really aren’t necessary and that fathers bear little more responsibility than providing a genetic deposit.  I see the effect of neglectful and abusive fathers every day; their children walk around with a hole left in their soul by their fathers’ absence.  There is no social program or therapist that can heal that loss.  And unfortunately, we women share much of the blame in allowing this to happen.  Yes, women have been oppressed and minimized throughout history.  Yes, women were told that the home was their sphere.  But that shouldn’t keep women today from demanding that the fathers of their children step up

Despite the two holidays devoted to parents, the sad truth is we undervalue the roles of fathers and mothers. While mothers are most often taken for granted and overlooked, society simply lets fathers off the hook. So let us celebrate the fathers who fulfill their role with relish and joy, who nurture and mentor and love their children as they deserve.

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Moving days are coming

Posted on May 19, 2009. Filed under: Changes, transition | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

coast to coast by Brooke

For the past four years, I have been expecting to move away. My hopes have wandered all over the country as my husband interviewed for teaching jobs at universities and colleges. You may be able to imagine how thrilled I was–my shock and joy, but not without some wariness (what if they changed their minds?)–when this February, my husband got that elusive job offer. We have been excitedly preparing for the move from southern California to southern Connecticut ever since.

But. There looms a sort of sadness, a kind of regret about leaving this home. It’s understandable as we have lived here for 8 years. I feel very comfortable. I know where things are. I still haven’t gone places and done things in the area that I heard were super cool. I have close, wonderful friends. My children, my husband, all of us have wonderful friends. And though we’ve said goodbye to good friends every summer, one of the hazards of living in the graduate student community, we have never had to say goodbye to everyone. Suddenly I’m not sure I want to to move anymore. I was desperate to have a good reason to leave this place that I knew would be only temporary. And now that it’s happening, everything has shifted. Part of me (about 51%) doesn’t want to go.

I have shifted from thinking about all the exciting things there will be to discover in our new home to all the unknowns that scare me. I have shifted from my constant stream of mental criticism of the Orange County lifestyle to savoring the weather and feeling nostalgic about the short drive to the beach even though I never felt like I owned it the way I did with familiar drives in my Utah home. Here, I have always felt more like a visitor than a resident–not ever quite at home (the general atmosphere is rather vacation-like). I’ve never felt like a true Californian, but now I’m afraid I will only feel like an outsider in our next place.

My only other big move as an adult was from Utah to here. We were moving away from our families, but we had a couple of friends to look up. This time, I absolutely don’t know anyone out in Connecticut–no family or friends to speak of (although I did meet one of my future neighbors on a short trip to our new place a couple of weeks ago). Naturally, I am nervous. I tend to think a lot about place, belonging, and how geography affects my sense of self. I want to make this work. So I am asking those of you who have moved recently or frequently–and anyone else–for advice. What do you do to feel part of new places? How do you settle in and make it your home? Is there a specific geographical place where you feel is your home and is that place where you live now? If not, how do you deal with feeling displaced?

Also, is there anyone out there living in Connecticut who wants to be my friend?

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Remembering our Loved Ones: What would you ask?

Posted on May 14, 2009. Filed under: Belief, death, Family, Mormon Life, parenting | Tags: , , |

DSCN2055

by Alisa

Most of us have had someone close to us pass away. Occasionally there’s something sensory or tangible we have to remember them by, other times we have only our memories. My grandpa passed away when I was nine, but I have a CD (made from a tape recording) of a fireside he did for his posterity. It means so much to me now to listen to it with my adult perspective.

My father is seriously ill. My dad’s doctor has prepared him with about a year to live. Right now he feels OK, but I know over time his energy will deteriorate.

We have a special bond, he and I. Although I usually consider my parents’ home a strictly patriarchal one, he raised me nearly identically to my two older brothers, encouraging me in my aptitude for math and science. He suggested I become an engineer like him, and when I instead turned to English, he suggested that I would make a good technical writer (my current profession). These gifts of encouragement and praise make me want to take advantage of the time we have now, while he still feels relatively well, to create those things I want to remember him by.

I like my grandpa’s CD because the audio medium very much appeals to me. I hear a lot of a personality in vocal inflections, and I’m more likely to listen to a CD than watch a video. My MiL suggested that I interview my dad for NPR’s StoryCorps. Unfortunately, I missed the travelling StoryCorps van at my city by a matter of weeks, but going to their site has got me started on a list of some good questions I want to ask my dad as we create the audio recording I will to use to remember him. It may not get archived in the Library of Congress, but it will reamin with me, which is what’s important.

My current list is 40 questions long, but here are a few of them:

  • What is your favorite memory of me?
  • How do you think you and I are similar?
  • Is there anything that you’ve never told me but want to tell me now?
  • Do you remember any of the bedtime stories you used to tell me? Can you describe them now?
  • Was there a teacher or teachers who had a particularly strong influence of your life? Tell me about them.
  • How would you describe a perfect day when you were young?
  • How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
  • What were your parents like?
  • What was it like to have your mother pass away while you were away on a mission?
  • What was it like to be a child during the start of the cold war?
  • What do you enjoy most about hiking in nature?
  • Who has been the kindest to you in your life?
  • What was the most profound spiritual moment of your life?
  • What do you think the afterlife will be like?
  • What would you like to say when you meet God?
  • Can you tell me about your illness?
  • Do you look at your life differently now than before you were diagnosed?
  • If you were to give advice to me or children to come in our family, what would it be?
  • What have you learned from life? The most important things?
  • How do you want to be remembered?

I want to ask you, what would you want to know from your parents, grandparents, and close loved ones? What questions would you ask? If you could now ask one thing of someone who has departed, what would it be? If you had only limited time to spend with someone you loved, what would you do to make sure you remember them?

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