Tuesday, April 24, 2007

When all else fails, faith remains.

Our topic on April 24th will be "Enduring health problems - either your own, a spouse's or a child's". I know there are many bloggers out there who post almost exclusively about their hardship with health issues... there are women out there struggling with infertility, there are children out there with debilitating diseases, there are spouse's who need constant care and attention. Some of us may only know somebody dealing with these challenges and have observed how they cope. Others of us may have personal experience with having to endure such difficulties. Please share your stories, whatever they may be!

My particular trials in life do not include having to endure health problems. My family and I have been blessed with good health, strong bodies and immune systems. I have not had to deal first hand with any issues that fall under the ‘health problem’ umbrella. Because of this, I didn’t feel I had anything of worth to contribute until I began thinking about my husband’s side of the family, particularly his grandmother and great-grandmother. I realized I could write about the great legacies of faith and courage they have passed on to their descendants; the effect the cancers that took their lives still have on the family today.

Those who are familiar with my LDS faith, and particularly our prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, have heard of his wonderful mother, Ada Bitner. She came from stout Mormon pioneer stock. She also died of breast cancer when she was fifty leaving her five children ranging in age from ten to twenty years old. Of his mother President Hinckley has said, “From Mother I learned so many things, including respect for womanhood, together with an appreciation for the tremendous strength which she carried within her, including a bright and happy zest for life.” Because he is our prophet his mother’s death, and the subsequent heartache the family felt, is a familiar story to us. Less familiar, but just as poignant, at least in our family, is the story of Ada’s youngest child, Sylvia.


Ada with her family. Sylvia is the littlest girl in front.

Sylvia was ten when her mother died. How hard is it for a child to loose the warmth, security, strength, guidance, and discipline only a mother can provide? She persevered though, staying true to her mother’s teachings. Sylvia married and eventually had ten children. She raised them to be stalwart and true to their faith. And then, quite unexpectedly, Sylvia found herself suffering from cancer, going through an ordeal much like her own mother’s battle with the awful disease. Though the science of medicine had come a long way in the forty years since her mother’s death, it was not enough to save Sylvia. She died on February 6, 1970, one month shy of her 50th birthday. Her youngest boy was seven, her youngest daughter ten. Even more tragically, they lost their father, my husband’s grandfather, only a year later. He died of a brain aneurism.


Sylvia (sitting in the middle) with her children and a few grandchildren.

This was taken the year before she died.

The earthly lives of Ada and Sylvia both ended dismally, however the lives they lived were anything but. Through their pain and suffering, their courage and faith shone as bright beacons of light to their families, their children. They put their trust in God, knowing He could heal them if it was His will. And if not, all would still be well. What was said of Ada rang true for Sylvia, “He who taught her how to live surely taught her how to die.”

The poise and grace these two women possessed carries on, as does their great faith in God. If Sylvia were alive today (she very well could be as she was the same age as my grandparents, all of whom are still alive) she would enjoy the company of not only her children and their spouses but her 105 grandchildren and 101 great-grandchildren. Our association with her will have to wait until the hereafter. So, for now, we pass her story, their story, along to our children in the hopes that they will learn, in Sylvia’s own words, “When all else fails, faith remains.”


Morning Glory said...

What an awesome story of courage and faith. We really can learn from those who came before us. Thank you so much for allowing us a glimpse into the heritage you have.

Lei said...

“When all else fails, faith remains.” Oh I love that! What an amazing story... thank you so much for telling us about your family! And I really like the new look of your blog. I have that bloground saved somewhere because I thought it was so pretty. :)

Jennifer said...

I like your title. It is very applicable to any type of struggles, health struggles or otherwise.


Florinn said...

Interesting allusion to the tendency for cancer to signal emotional strains that run in families. I hope it doesn't perpetuate in your family.

Kassie said...

Beautiful tribute to some amazing women. What an wonderful legacy they left behind them.

Susie said...

I truly enjoy reading about family history and strong women such as these!
What a wonderful legacy to have 105 grandchildre and 101 great grandchildren that will learn of their stories!

An Ordinary Mom said...

I am so glad you decided to participate this week and share the stories of the ancestors in your family. What inspiring women they are and they make me want to have more faith, especially when the trials come. Excellent post and of course I loved the pictures you included. I get giddy seeing old family photos.

Julie said...

You are part of a wonderful legacy. Those two ladies have taught their posterity some very important lessons by ultimately bearing their trials well. Thanks for sharing those stories.