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]

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