Mom passed away in 1997. A heavy and ever present feeling of guilt upon my shoulders stayed for years. It bothered me. What did I do to deserve this? Did I not do my best to take care of her those last twelve years? Maybe I did not handle things well enough after her passing.
In life, I never felt that I lived up to her standards. What a strong woman, my mom. She worked hard. She ruled the roost with an expert hand. Great career, great ethics, kept a clean house. Her model guided us, her children, very well. I just never measured up. Couldn’t keep a job, or a husband. I Probably just didn’t live up to her standards of taking care of her last wishes, either.
Eighteen years after her death on this earth, in 2015, that pressure on my shoulders stopped. I missed it. Where did it go? Why nothing, after all this time? Nothing bad, nothing good, just gone. I prayed, I tried to talk to her, no results. This really upset me, the nothingness after all those years.
A few months later, I converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, or Mormon). A couple months after that, in April of 2016, I asked if I could start looking at our family tree in the church sponsored genealogy site, FamilySearch.org.
With the help of our missionaries, we got into the site and transferred my family tree from my Ancestry.com account to FamilySearch. Immediately, the family tree opened up, connected with others all along our family tree on Mom’s side all the way back to the years of 800 A.D.
What? Who did this? Then I noticed there were little insignia aside many of the names. What was that about? The missionary sitting beside me as we looked at the computer screen explained that those signified ordinance events. Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, and others back further in time had been baptized after death, but recently, all in 2015. It’s a thing the Mormons do, to ensure that those people who passed are baptized through the power of the restored priesthood.
Way back when, in Christianity, after Jesus died, the Apostles all died, with no one to replace them, thus any baptisms were done without the power of the priesthood, according to LDS. What we now refer to as “The Dark Ages”, actually continued as dark ages, until recently.
In 1832, that power of the priesthood was restored, and LDS formed. There are now fifteen million members of LDS, many of us ensuring that our families are baptized properly, with the Blessing of Jesus Christ’s current day apostles.
Emotions got me, later that same evening. I prayed, asking for answers. Where is Mom? Is she ok? What did this really mean? As often happens with me, if I get all emotional, I connect with feelings from the other side. There was just a glimmer, a short feeling of peace, fleeting, but I now know; Mom is at peace, not alone on the other side, happy she is with Grandma, Grandpa and others she loves.
The mystery of the baptism came to light also. Mom had to be baptized through a close family member, that is church policy. Who baptized Mom? A concerned Mormon, mother-in-law to my nephew, got my nephew’s permission to perform the ordinances. It turns out while I’ve been getting to know my nephew’s wife in my essential oils business for the past two years, her mom has been working on baptizing their family lines, and included our family.
Just a hint about one thing that affects Mary the rest of her life.
Mary recoiled, breaking free, but he caught her hand and started talking in a low, secretive tone. Mary couldn’t move, not just because of his hand gripping her, but because her mind refused to work.
“This stays our business,” he murmured, “we don’t talk about this to others, Mary, okay.”
Mary nodded in silent assent, pulled away, and the old man let her go, this time.
The feeling of terror, and guilt, and helplessness now forever part of her.
Before her seventh birthday, her family arrived in Alaska from the “Lower ‘48”, after driving over fifteen-hundred miles of unpaved highway on “The Alcan”. Summer bloomed when they moved into an age darkened log cabin on Sixth Street in Fairbanks.
“Mom, my tooth hurts.” Mary’s Mom lay on her side of her parent’s bed, facing Mary, in the one bedroom that the family of six shared. Mom’s face moved slightly, burrowing further into the bedding.
“Mom? It hurts,” afraid that her Mom would not respond; also afraid of Mom’s impatience and annoyance. Mary put her small hand on her Mom’s shoulder, and nudged it, just a little. Mary’s mother’s head lifted, her eyes squinted in the dark room as she woke.
“My tooth,” she put her little hand back on her left cheek. It hurt so bad, she wanted to cry, but held back tears, and felt the tightness in the back of her throat from the effort.
Mary padded behind her mother, out the door-less bedroom area, to the bathroom, where she retrieved the aspirin. Through the living room, then into the kitchen they slipped, across cold floors, patches of linoleum and wood, with the occasional interruption of thick rag rugs.
Mary choked to get the aspirin down, “It hurts my tooth.”
“Think of swallowing M&M’s,” Mom turned away from the table I sat upon.
She reached high on a shelf by the big black wood-stove, shuffling metal spice tins around. Dodging the table, she retrieved a few wooden toothpicks from above the sink. She wet the ends of a toothpick under the water faucet, dipped it into the red and white tin of ground clove, turned to Mary, and said, “Open now, cloves take away pain”, as she packed cloves into and around the offending molar.
It didn’t help much. Mom, up all night applying ground Clove and dispensing aspirin, did not get much sleep. Nothing helped for long. The next morning, the two of them went to the dentist.
The tooth area hurt terribly, and then the dentist stood above Mary, reclined in the dentist chair. The silvery needle with the syringe of Novocain rested between the dentist’s fingers, thumb poised for depressing.
“This may to hurt a little,” he lied.
Mary’s nose wrinkled at the smelled of the alcohol and pain killer, as the dentist forced the fluid into the swollen tissue around her tooth, and tears squeezed between her clenched eyelids. He withdrew the needle, turned away, then back to her with another full syringe.
“You’re doing fine,” he lied again.
Back at home, Mom tucked the patchwork quilt snugly around Mary in her bed, and came back to check on her often, bringing things to drink and more aspirin. Pain came later, after the Novocain wore off, but not as painful as the Novocain injection. Mary loved having her Mom’s attention all to herself that afternoon. Rare, with three siblings, and her Dad around for her Mom to take care of also.
“Life feels good,” Mary thought, “Mom loves me.”
This excerpt from my fictional auto-biography is dedicated to my Mom, Vivian Eileen (Foster, Orrison) Greenway.