Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother's Day from Tonga

When Elder Anderson recently visited Tonga, he met with all the missionaries - the full-time elders and sisters, as well as the senior missionaries. He counseled us that there would be some things we would bring with us from our American culture, and we would learn many things from the Tongan culture. He advised that we should keep those things from both cultures that were good, and leave behind, or get rid of, those things that were not good.

I recently learned a very good thing from the Tongan culture that I want to keep. Moana Kupu, a dear friend we have made here in Tonga, in her Relief Society lesson last week, talked about her preparations for Mother's Day. She shared that her mother made it a tradition to give gifts to all the women who were an influence for good in her life, including her own mother and her daughters. Moana has carried on that tradition.

I have been thinking about that tradition, and I like it very much. I decided I wanted to give a gift to my children this year. But, we are far away and it is difficult to send presents back and forth. So, I wondered what gift could I give. I have decided my gift to my children would be a letter to each of them, expressing my love for them, and the meaning they have brought to my life.

Ashley and Jonathon
Ashley, Jon and Tyler

Ashley, Jon, Tyler and Sara

And I want everyone else to know how wonderful they are, too. So.... firstborn. Ashley, you are every parent's dream child. You are a good big sister, looking out for your younger siblings and loving them like only a big sister can do. You are responsible and can be counted on always. You always, ALWAYS choose the right. You have allowed the Gospel and Christ's teachings to influence your life for good in all things. You stand as a witness of your testimony of Christ, and your love for Him and our Heavenly Father. You love others. Others want to be better because of your influence on them. You are pure and virtuous.

 You are smart, and geeky - in a good way :), helpful and kind, and so very unselfish. You understand people, and know how to give what they need. That is a rare gift.

A mother is supposed to be a teacher to her children. But, you have been my teacher. The words we mere mortals must use will never be enough to express how grateful I am that you are my daughter. To paraphrase a favorite song, "Because of you, I have been changed for better. Because of you, I have been changed for good."

I love you so very, very  much, and thank Heavenly Father daily that he saw fit to make you part of your family.

Jon...I miss you, Jon. I miss your smile, and your hugs, and how every morning (after you became an adult, that is) you asked me what you could do for me that you could help me. I loved that you were willing to help anyone in need...whenever and wherever. I will never forget the last time I saw you, as you and Joanna and Brielle were getting ready to board the ferry back to Sitka, how you  helped a man who had a PILE of large, black garbage bags that were his luggage??? And he was having difficulty getting them all loaded. You didn't hesitate. You immediately began to help him, and kept helping until every bag had been loaded.

I miss and love your fearlessness. You were always ready to try anything.

You have taught me one of my most important lessons - hope. Hope in Christ's promise of a resurrection. Hope that we will see our loved ones again. Hope that because of the priesthood power that sealed you and your brother and sisters to us, our family can be together forever. Not just as mere individuals, the ties of family broken at death, but really and truly together as a family unit.....FOREVER. Hope in the atonement of our Savior, that by him, and through him, we can be made clean enough and pure enough that we get to live with our families forever in the presence of Christ, and of our Heavenly Father.

I look forward to the time I see you again and will be able to hold you in my arms once more, and will get to tell you in person how much you are loved.

Joanna.......Jo, you are not mine by birth. But you are as much one of my children as those who were born to me.

I love your smile and the joy you find in all things. I love your patience with Brielle. I love that you know her so well and know just the right way to teach her about important things like the Gospel, about bugs, about her family, about riding a bike, and feeding the ducks, and enjoying life, and about love. You teach by example....not endless lectures. You are a WONDERFUL mother.

I love your desire to get an education. You work hard, but are able to balance hard work with playing and fun.I love that you love others, and are so willing to help with never a complaint. You look out for so many people. You are a wonderful daughter, sister, and friend.

I love that you are such a good sport. Garth loves to tease you, and you always take it so well. And I've noticed that you are learning to tease him back :) Good job!!

I am so grateful that you are a part of our family.....forever.

Tyler......My own very special Mother's Day gift. While my memory has faded, and I have forgotten much over the years, I remember the day you were born so clearly. You were nearly born at home because you wanted to come so quickly. And the doctor was mad that he had to come to the hospital in the middle of the night because he was so convinced I had been in labor all day Saturday, and had put off coming to the hospital until the very absolute last minute. But, were just in a hurry. And the doctor only arrived at the very last possible moment to deliver you. The nurses were panicked thinking they were going to have to deliver you themselves.

And then we slept...both of us. What a wonderful  night's rest that was. And that morning - Mother's Day - I held you in my arms in the light of day and looked at you. You had the wisest eyes...and a very mischievous mouth. I wished so very much that you could speak and share with me all that you knew and were thinking. I knew it would be profound.

I love that you are responsible and always keep your word. I love your smile. I love your hugs. I love that you look out for Joanna and Brielle. I love that Brielle loves you so much. I love your kindness and patience, your goodness and gentleness. I think you like to look all gruff on the outside, but you have a gentle soul. I love that about you most of all, I think.

Sarah Ruth......Srarah.....I love that you were named for two wonderful great grandmothers, both such wonderful of examples of womanhood.

I love that you inherited the domestic gene that skipped me. I love that you enjoy cooking, and sewing, and taking care of a home. You have a great talent. When you have to take care of me in my old age I know that at least I will be well fed....and well loved, because you are so giving and generous with your love.

I love that you are quick to forgive. As you've grown you've learned not to show your frustration or anger as you did when you were young - but you've not lost the ability to forget quickly and move on. Thinking of the times when you were younger and would get mad always brings a smile to my face and makes me laugh. You would be SOOO angry, stomping up the stairs, slamming your door not once, but twice just for good measure, and to make sure the rest of us knew you upset. Or, marching back and forth in the back yard crying and talking out loud to yourself about how no one loved you and you were going to run away. But, in five minutes it was all forgotten - the tears, the anger, the reason for your anger. It was in the past. You still have that ability to put things behind you quickly. That is a great character trait.

I love that you are willing to talk to me about absolutely anything. I don't know what I have done to earn that kind of trust. But it is a gift I cherish.

You and Ashley and Tyler all have the rare ability to be in the moment, and not be distracted by the unimportant. You have a calmness and quiet about you that helps others be calm and at peace. I gain strength from you.

Gabrielle......You are one of my most cherished blessings. I watched as you entered this world and took your first breath. I watched your mom hold you close within seconds of your birth, all the difficulty of the nine months she carried you, and the physical demands of your birth just moments before forgotten. I watched as your father held you in his arms and rocked you as you peacefully slept, so your mom could rest. You are so very loved.
I have loved watching you grow and change these last four years. When you were still very small, just an infant, people did not know that your mom was your mom, because you look very much like your dad. They thought your mom was Aunt Ashley - or even me!!! That's pretty funny, huh.

But as you grew and your personality blossomed, it is easy to see the wonderful mixture you are of both your mom and dad. You may look like your dad, but there is absolutely no question you are your mother's daughter.

 You share her love of life and her ability to find pleasure in small things. You have a dramatic flare - like you mom ;). I love it when you tell me and Papa stories, and how you get excited, and sad, and laugh all at the same time.

If as you are growing up, you will listen to your mom, and your Aunt Ashley, and your Uncle Tyler, and your Aunt Sarah, and follow the wonderful examples they are, you are going to grow up to be a magnificent young woman. And then you will get to pass on to your children and grandchildren all those same wonderful things they have taught you. And me and Papa???? Well, we're just going to spoil you and love you, and leave the teaching to everyone else.