Saturday, February 8, 2014

Leona Dies and the Letters Stop

March 25, 1980

Dear Perry,

Was really happy to hear from you. I'm glad you have some children living there near you. Not many of you know how to stay alone like I do. I went to church Sunday. The first I've been out since last November, and not many people have been here. I've been alone nearly every minute of the time. It did seem good to go back to church. That is what I miss. I haven't gone to many partys and things like the rest of you. I've always felt too much in the way at those things.

We had some rain and snow last night, but it is all gone. It just got cold again. That will be nice for you to come to see your children and mother and sisters and we will be happy to see you if you come out this way. I haven't had the flu this winter, so I guess it paid to stay here alone. Lots of love to you. Aunt Thelma

[From Perry's journal]

April 4, 1980: Mother died on this day.  The sequence of events of this spring vacation all seem rather singular in their significance.  At first I had not planned to go to Utah for spring vacation since I had been there so recently.  But Hazel called and said she would like me to meet a teacher friend of hers and had, in fact, even called her and asked if she wouldn’t like to meet me.  So, with this added inducement, plus a desire to see my children again, I decided to go. . . .

I arrived at Hope’s and Grant’s just as they were having breakfast.  I walked up beside Mother and put my arm around her.  She was so pleased.  She always had that beautiful, loving smile.  She said how I looked just the same as ever, even had “the same sweater on.”  That made us all laugh.  It has always been beautiful just to be in Mother’s presence.  I have said several times that, as a child growing up, I seldom remember her saying, “I love you.”  She was certainly never ostentatious about it.  But I always knew I was loved--of that there was never any question.  I have often pondered on how love was so effectively communicated.  I knew it by her calmness, her gentleness, by her constant doing.  I even knew it by her silence.  I knew it by her smile, by the touch of her hands, roughened by hard work.  When those rough hands touched me, gentleness and pure love was perceived in my soul. Mother had been looking forward with eagerness to my arrival.  It was indeed good to be with her for a few days.  I also went out and spent some time visiting with Dale, Carolyn, and children [in Salem.] On Friday morning mother got up and when we asked how she felt, she said, “Not very good.”  This was a very unusual response.  She said she had not slept well and that she was cold.  We thought she must have the flu because Hope had just had it.  Consequently, we bundled her up, put a heating pad on her back, and sat her in the big chair in the front room.  Soon she said she felt somewhat better.  But still she complained slightly from time to time, so we gave her some juice and put her back to bed.  She became weaker in the afternoon, so Grant called his doctor who agreed to stop by the house on his way home.

When the doctor arrived, Mother was unconscious and her body very limp.  The doctor said her heartbeat was very rapid and felt that it was pointless of putting her through the trauma of rushing her to a hospital and subjecting her to numberless tests.  Upon questioning, he said he thought it was not likely she would live through the night.  The doctor left and Hope and I went into the front room and talked about calling the rest of the family.  While Hope and I were discussing this, Grant came into the room and said, “Hey, she’s already gone.”  We rushed back to her room.  I tried to find a pulse.  There was none.  No breath.  Her life was gone.

I have often thought how typical Mother’s passing was of her personality.  She never wanted to put anybody out, to be any extra trouble.  She was always so thoughtful of other people.  It was as though she had said, “Perry is here now.  All of my living children are here.  Now, now would be a good time to die.”  And she did, as convenient to others as she could make it. . . . We had a beautiful funeral, the same ward building where Dad’s was held just eleven months ago, and where I had attended church with them.  All of my children came to the funeral.  Linda and Marian drove all the way from California with their children.  Harriet and Craig came from Modesto.  Renee and Cara Lee from Roosevelt.  It was wonderful to see them all together.

April 17, 1980

Dear Perry,

Leona with 4 of her 6 children, Salt Lake City
Even a life spent well and departed in peace leaves its mourners. Judging by my present experience with lingering sorrow, I cannot help but think of your most recent loss with deepest sympathy. I remember your telling me that you could not write of your "Angel Mother" so deep was your love and respect for her. Those unframed feelings must, nonetheless, meet you at many unexpected moments these days and may leave you with a sense of the ultimate loneliness. I cannot conceive of the cumulative loss you have suffered this year but can tell you that our hearts are with you. Our prayers are that comfort and peace may fill your life once more.

Perhaps you will appreciate this verse from Edna St. Vincent Millay. She titled it "The Wood Road."

If I were to walk this way

Hand in hand with Grief,

I should mark that maple-spray

Coming into leaf.

I should note how the old burrs

Rot upon the ground.

Yes, though Grief should know me hers

While the world goes round,

It could not if truth be said

This was lost on me:

A rock-maple showing red,

Burrs beneath a tree.

Please accept our sympathy and our love, Shirley and Guy [Hartman]

May 3, 1980

Dear Perry,

We were out to see Aunt Verda a few days ago and she told us that Aunt Leona had died quite some time ago. I know this letter is very late, but I still wanted to write you and express my sympathy with you at this time. I am sorry I didn't know sooner.

She also mentioned that Uncle Ashel had died. This leaves no men of the Manwarings in Vernal and Aunt Thelma is alone there.

I am sure that you miss your parents and wife very much, but the knowledge that we have of the Plan of Salvation enables us to rejoice in their continued progression and helps us to live so that we can eventually join them.

It is always difficult to make an adjustment of any kind, and I am finding for myself that keeping busy is the greatest cure for grief. I suppose you are still teaching school and that you are staying in your home, at least for the present, even though it is probably very lonely. Church work is a boon to us who are alone as well as a link to those who have gone on before us.

I am able to go to the temple occasionally on the bus, since I have no working car, and find myself even now looking over toward the men's side to catch a glimpse of Ray since we always went together. There is not much to say. I wanted to let you know that I feel with you. "And glory shall be added upon their heads for ever and ever" is the way I feel about Ray. Affectionately, Laura Cottam [Perry's cousin]

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Gene Dies

[Entries from Perry's Journal]

August 16, 1979: On this day the footings were all poured for the wall and the end posts set.  What a day!  For days I had been working on digging the footings.  I would work for an hour or so, then come and lie by Gene’s side for a while, rest and hold her hand.  Always I kept the windows open so that I could hear her call or hear the phone ring.  I had hired a man to help me on Saturdays and after his own work.  He needed the extra money.
I finally found a cement company that could deliver in the late afternoon when my man would be here and I arranged to have Linda come and be with her mom because I knew that once we started pouring cement I could not stop.  When the truck came, the driver said he could not cross over, or within twenty feet of the cesspool.  He had to call his office, and I had to agree to pay $500 if necessary to pull that huge truck out if it went in.  What a scare!  I could only hope to stay as far from it as possible or to straddle it, and I wasn’t even sure where it was.
While we were pouring the footings, Linda came and called me saying that Gene was sick, vomiting, and was calling for me.  I came in, dirty as could be, cement all over my shoes, helped Gene as much as I could, comforted her, helped her wash out her mouth, gave some medication, and then rushed back out to the work.  I hoped Gene didn’t feel slighted.  I was so glad to get that truck off the property and back onto the street with no mishap.  What an anxious, stressful experience.  I would never want it repeated!  Ever! 

August 19, 1979: . . . I got all the column blocks laid up yesterday.  I wheeled Gene out on the front porch to look at them today.  They all look so stately and nice.  But Gene could barely appreciate it.  She doesn’t feel well at all.  I wanted her to see and enjoy this much of our plans completed, and maybe she did more than she could show or express.  She is so weak.  I have to carry her to and from the bathroom.

September 9, 1979: . . . . The total wall has cost about $2,000.  And it is all paid.  I just have some finishing up and cleaning up to do.  Then I will do the fence.  I wish Gene were able to appreciate it, but my dear love who has been with me in so many building projects, put up with and endured so much while we tried to provide for our dear family, is slipping away from me.

September 17, 1979: We took Gene to the hospital on this day.  She was so sick.  The doctor suggested we bring her by ambulance as she was so sick that I doubted that I could get her in the little Datsun. . . .  At the hospital, The doctor took me aside and suggested we put her in the hospital.  He said he admired me but felt I had done all that could be humanly expected.  I felt I had too and didn’t see how I could do more or give her all the care she needed.  And I was still trying to hold down my job.
The whites of Gene’s eyes were yellowing as is also her skin--the eyes especially.  The doctor said the cancer is affecting her liver.  How long, Oh Lord, can this go on?

Some of the family in attendance at Gene's funeral
September 21, 1979: Linda, Marian, Warren, and I have been taking turns staying with Gene.  Also the Relief Society sisters have volunteered to come in and help.  Her skin is all orange-yellow.  Tonight Warren and I administered to Gene.  I felt the time had come to ask for her release from this world if it was in harmony with the will of the Lord.  I discussed this with Warren when he came in.  Linda was there too. Gene had not said anything at all for that full day nor hardly a word for several days, and I didn’t think she was even conscious, but I asked her if she would like to have us administer to her.  She immediately responded, “Oh, yes.”  This quite surprised me.

Warren anointed and I sealed the anointing, blessing her for her devoted life and service, honoring her for living a life in her youth so that she recognized the gospel when she heard it, bringing thereby her whole family into the Church.  I then blessed her that if it was the Lord’s will she might be released from this world to join those many good and noble ancestors who had preceded her, that she might rejoice in their presence and they in hers, that she might go on with the message of the gospel among those good people as she did among her family here.  I implored the Lord that not for my sake did I ask it, that I did not ask to shun any responsibility, that I would carry on as long as he willed, but for her sake only did I ask it that she might be relieved of the pain and suffering of this disease which had progressed to such proportions. Upon conclusion of the blessing, Gene gave a very clear and audible “Amen” so we knew she heard, understood and gave her concurrence to all that had been spoken.  Linda and I were both weeping.

Memorial Day 1980 at Gene's grave
September 27, 1979

Dear Perry & family,

I'm sorry Gene had to be taken from you. I know how you will miss her, but remember the Lord was kind and didn't leave her suffering too awfully long when she got to the point she did. He left her with you a lot longer than the doctors gave you any hope for, and I'm sure that He will bring you all the comfort you need at this time if you put your faith and trust in Him.

I know, Perry, it will be a lot harder on you after the funeral and the kids all leave and you are there alone. But the Lord takes that first bitter sting away that always comes with death. Remember, there are a lot harder things to face in life than death, so may His comforting spirit be with all of you.

I'm not sending flowers, so please take this and put it on something you will need more than flowers that wilt and die. I hope all the kids will be protected in their traveling to you there and when they all return to their homes.

May the Lord bring you all the peace and comfort you will need at this time. I know what it is like to be left alone and you can get busy in the church again now that all the care you had to give Gene and your dad is gone. Rest in the fact that you took good care of them, and now they are a lot better off than us that still have to stay and suffer. May the Lord bless you all. My love to all, Aunt Thelma