In 1939, my grandparents, newly married, decided to move to Alaska. My grandfather had spent a lot of time up there during his time as a college student, and felt that it was where he needed to raise his family. My grandmother, not quite 20, was a little apprehensive. She was not sure what life in a fairly unsettled territory would be like, but agreed to go under three conditions: 1) That she could go back to Utah every other summer to visit her family, 2) At the end of six years, she got to decide whether they stayed or not, and 3) That she would never have to iron my grandfather's shirts. He agreed, and they made the trek to the last frontier. They were, in every sense of the word, pioneers.
Living in Alaska, especially in the early days, could not have been easy for my Grandma Cora, but she did it because she knew it was where she was supposed to be. For 53 years, she worked along side my grandfather, until his death in 1992. She gave so much for her family, always serving, always looking for that last little detail that would make every act complete. She is the only 90 year old woman who would be angry if you did not give her something to do. Even in the last few months of her life, you would often hear her say, 'What are my orders?' or 'What do you need me to do?'
The last time I spoke to her, the last time I am certain she knew who I was, was the night before I left on my mission six years ago. I had been upstairs madly packing, and I came downstairs to grab something. She came up to me with tears in her eyes, gave me the biggest hug and told me that she loved me. I gave her a big hug back, and said, 'Oh grandma, you'll be here when I get back!' She was, but the early stages of Alzheimer's had set in, and she slowly began to forget. I wish now I had taken that moment more seriously, that I had told her how much her example had always meant to me, and how grateful I was for her faith. She was there when I went through the temple for the first time, and I remember seeing in her eyes how much it meant to her and thinking, 'This must be true, because Grandma believes it.'
From her, I inherited my middle name, my love for Phase 10 and any other card game, my ability to cheat, and my desire to serve. Her example has taught me so much about unconditional love, about how hearts can be changed with something so basic as fruit salad, as long as the giver truly has the best interest of the receiver in mind. I love her in ever sense of the word.
After 19 long years, my grandmother was reunited yesterday with my grandfather. I am quite certain that he was there, on the other side of the veil, welcoming her home. And that is where she is- Home. I am so grateful for a God in Heaven who has made His plan so clear to us in these last days. I know that before she came to this earth, Grandma Cora knew the trials that would face her, and that she agreed to do such hard things because she loved the Lord and wanted to prove herself. I know that she now sits, patiently, waiting for the rest of us to make the same righteous decisions, so that, someday, we will be reunited with her. I know that God lives, and that someday, when my journey is through, she will embrace me with open arms.
Until then, I hope that I can feel her near...
And that she will lead me home.