Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Mom's Eulogy

Given on April 30,2016

I have been assigned  the super easy and simple task of  capturing my mother’s 60 years in a way to that does complete justice to the memories of her eight very unique children and 30 grandchildren.  I hope you are all comfortable, because this is going to take hours.  Just kidding - for the sake of the 27 grandkids that are sitting in the audience, I will have to do my best to keep it relatively short.

Since my mom loved the stage, I have divided her life into three acts.

Act. I
Daughter, Sister, Wife
I have a family here on earth
They are so good to me
I want to share my life with them through all eternity

Linda Sue Parkins was born on September 15, 1955, the same year that Disneyland opened, and not far from it, in Long Beach California.  Her parents, Raymond and Joanne Parkins, celebrated this birth of their fourth daughter.  Her sisters Kathy, Diana and Pat came in the three years before and her sister Rhonda joined 5 yrs later.  With five girls in the house, it was full of laughter, pranks and games. Walking the foggy streets to school, they made up names for their imaginary pixie friends, who came up from the manholes and walked with them.  Among the sisters, my mom was the baby of the big girls, known as the dreamer and the artist.  To her little sister, she was a shining star - the popular girl who was always surrounded by friends.

There are two stories that I remember most from my mother’s childhood.  The first happened when she was 13 yrs old.  She was walking home from school one day with her next door neighbor Christie Nuttall.  My mom asked Christie if she wanted to come over.  Christie told my mom that she couldn’t because she needed to help babysit her siblings while her mom and dad went to the temple.  My mom asked her what a temple was, and Christie told her.  She said that because of temples, families could be together forever, even after death.  When my mom’s interest was evident, Christie asked my mom if she wanted to learn more and missionaries were soon knocking at her mom’s door.  I am sure that when those missionaries later baptized this bright-eyed 13 yr old and ordained her a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they had no idea the eternal impact it would have on not only her, but countless others.

The second story I remember most from my mom’s childhood happened 2 or 3 yrs later.  My mom loved to dance.  So much so that she went to not only her stake dances, but hopped around to other stake dances as well.  One summer night she looked across the cultural hall and saw a kind looking, blonde-haired, tanned surfer boy.  When a girls' choice song was announced she made a beeline straight for him and before the evening was over, they had a date planned.  Now, I have always heard the story from my mom, so I have heard about how she felt, but looking it from my Dad’s perspective, you can imagine how lucky he felt.  If you have seen pictures of my mom as a teenager, she wasn’t far off from the pixies she and her sisters talked about, with her big green eyes, beaming smile, and exuberant personality. She was just downright adorable. When they went out on that first date, my mom and the surfer boy both had a surprise for each other.  She confessed that she was not quite 16 yet, and he told her that he was leaving on a mission in a little more than a month.  They made the most of that time, seeing each other as often as possible, and when she went to school in the fall, all her friends heard about Bob Jeppson.  

In the two years he was gone, she finished high school.  Her creativity shined and she had a favorite art teacher who encouraged her talent.  She was a part of a singing group, The Sound of Youth, who traveled and performed throughout southern California.  She worked at Knott’s Berry Farm, where dressed in an old miner’s costume and once met John Wayne.

And when Bob Jeppson came home, her dream came true.  They were married on January 11, 1974 in the Los Angeles Temple for time and all eternity.  The idea that had drawn her to the church was now a reality for her.  She would have her own eternal family.

Act II
Mother and Leader
No other success can compensate for failure in the home.

Linda’s dream was further fulfilled on August 20, 1975 when she became a mother at age 19.  She and my Dad named their daughter Christie Sue, after the dear friend who had first taught my mom about eternal families.  My dad continued working and going to college in the  Long Beach area and Robert Charles Jr was born to them there in 1977.  When my dad got his first job teaching school in a little town called Blythe, California they moved their little family there, four whole hours away from their families, the beach, and all enjoyable summer temperatures.  When my mom was expecting their third child in 1978, she decided she going to use a midwife.  The midwife had to go out of town unexpectedly very close to my mom’s due date so my parents followed her.  My brother Levi was born in an apartment in Mesa AZ and weighed in a grocery store on a produce scale.  He was given the middle name Owen after the last name of the midwife.  If you haven’t caught on yet, my mom was brave, strong and adventurous, even though I am sure she never would have described herself that way.  All those traits served her well on their next adventure to Idaho, where they lived on a farm while my dad taught high school.  I was born in there in 1981.  After a few years in Idaho, my parents decided that maybe Blythe wasn’t so bad afterall, and they moved back.  It was there that the second half of the Jeppson clan was born. Ashley Rae came in 1983.  Aaron Parkins in 1985.  In 1987, my mom served as an auctioneer for a March of Dimes auction, while she was in labor, and then went to the hosptial and had Lindsay Kay.  In 1989, she was delighted when she got with the red-head she had always wanted with Bryce Alan. He was the red caboose at the end of the Jeppson train.. 8 kids in 14 years. All of us learned to say Christie Bobby Levi Katie Ashley Aaron Lindsey Bryce...and sometimes it seemed like my mom went through each of those names before calling the right one.  

My mom got a lot of comments about how many kids she had, but she was proud to be different.  She was proud that she stayed at home as much as possible and that the work she did there was her pride and joy.  She sewed most of our clothes when I was young and they were AWESOME. I am pretty sure we have pictures of Bishop Jeppson wearing handmade hammer pants.  We can all remember hours spent in discount fabric stores during trips out of town. Not the best memories and I can only imagine how much whining my mom endured for those trips, from the both kids and my dad.  My mom went beyond sewing to artistry, modifying evening gown patterns to create modest prom dresses and sewing my sister Christie her perfect renaissance wedding dress.  The creativity that her high school teacher recognized was put to practical use in caring for her kids in every way she knew how.  

Our family vacations usually centered around visiting family members and camping.  I can still remember the massive amounts of preparation my mom put into hauling a family of ten to the mountains in Southeast Utah.  Bins of food, clothes, games, and even our own porta potty that she would set up with a tarp around it in the woods.  I told you she was a brave woman.  She didn’t think twice about nursing a baby to sleep in the tent and then hopping out to cook a full dutch oven meal.

With 8 kids in the house, my mom was always coming up with new discipline techniques that evolved right along with her parenting level.  We had job charts and time outs and groundings and FHE charts and scripture challenges and nothing was ever adhered to perfectly, but most of the time what needed to happen did happen. Family prayer, on our knees, in a circle, was always a regular event.  More than once it was interrupted by giggling, and more than once that giggling came from my mom, who could never stop laughing once she really started.

  My mom used to say that all she wanted for Mother’s Day was a clean house and happy kids.  Maybe, just maybe,  by the time it was just Lindsey and Bryce in the house she got her wish.  

The gospel of Jesus Christ was never a separate little compartment of her life.  It was in every detail and every hour.  She taught all of us that if you had a talent, you used that talent to bless others and bring them closer to God.  She served as Young Women’s President with a baby on her hip, and brought her nursing babies to girls camp.  My mom showed up early to teach seminary to moody and obnoxious teenagers for years - I would know - I was one of them, and she often had to physically drag me out of bed.  She served as Relief Society President even when her plate was full and trusted that she had divine help to help her through.   The church building was our second home. When I was 12, they combined the 2 wards in Blythe into 1 and called my Dad as bishop.It was a big change for this small town.  Someone in the ward started leaving treats on people’s doorsteps, with a poem about joining together and flying in a V, following the the lead goose. The poem then asked you to make a treat and pass it along to someone else in the new ward.  I never told my mom this, but one day I was snooping around in her drawers and I found the original copy and discovered that my mom had once again used her creativity to try to bless the lives of others.

Our family table hosted every new family that moved in, along with many people who broke down onthe freeway, or even just truckers who were driving through.  My mom welcomed everyone, and sometimes......... that welcome included a planned water ambush.  What mom tells their kids to stand on the roof of the house  with squirt guns, to throw water balloons at their dinner guests?  Our mom, that’s who.  

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mom had a lot of gall.  She unasbashedly demanded you maintain a high level of humor and hilarity while hanging with her.  Which is why the missionaries once showed up to dinner at our house wearing black trash bags with holes cut out for their head and arms - because the time before my mom had “accidentally” started a food fight with them.

My mom also served as a second mom to many a teenager.  She wanted every child to have every opportunity for growth.  Once a year, from the time Christie was in high school on,  she hauled a van full of kids to BYU at the end of August for Education Week..  Most years she rented an apartment for week, and everyone who came along knew that you got to campus for the first class and didn’t leave until after the last.  By the end of the week, everyone was giddy with physical exhaustion and spiritual rejuvenation.  My mom always came home bursting full of quotes and ideas. Her soul loved to learn and grow.  

One of the best lessons my mom taught us, that she never really even talked about, was how to treat your spouse.  None of us ever doubted her love and dedication for my father.  She supported him through all the stress and busyness of life and always spoke of him with a profound respect.  Their marriage was always solid and the security it gave us can’t be underestimated.  

My mom would probably roll her eyes if she were here and I called her a saint of a mother, but she just that. Nelson Madela said, ““I’m no saint—that is, unless you think a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.”
That was my mom.  She often saw her imperfections staring her in her face. But she kept trying, and she did it in a beautiful partnership with my Dad and with her Heavenly Father.

Granny and Daughter of God
I am a child of God.
His promises are sure;
Celestial glory shall be mine
If I can but endure

In the summer of 2002, my mom became a grandma.  This was a really big deal.  I remember my sister-in-law Audra saying that when my mom  saw her first grandson Nolan, she just could not stop talking about how cute he was.  Could not.  I hope you can all picture her in your head saying, “He’s so cute.”  She loved her children, but she LOOOOOVED her grandchildren and she unabashedly bragged about them.  Oh, you have three grandkids? I have 6...then 10, and on and on.   Every single time she went out of town, she bought a postcard for each grandkid and wrote a cute little note in her cute artistic handwriting, all about what she did and how she was thinking of them.  Each child had their own label that she created for them and printed out.   When I had Gabe, she came to help out, and when she went home she promptly created him a label, and sent him a postcard from her trip to Charlotte, telling him to be a good boy for his mommy.

Some of the best memories that my sisters and I have are of having our mom care for us after having babies.  She was so thoughtful - feeding you before you even realized you were hungry. Helping you learn how to breastfeed.Taking care of the older sibling.  Reassuring you that you were doing a wonderful job and that you could do it. Cleaning your garage, making meals, sewing blessing outfits.  The beautiful thing about it was that you knew that she wanted to do it just as much as you needed her to do it.  

Just like she did with her own kids, my mom always tried to point her grandkids towards their Savior.  She made reverent toys for sacrament meeting, and stuffed nativity sets for every family.  She sent postcards from temples and talked about getting married there.  I think one of her most precious days as a granny was being able to go to the temple to see her adopted grandkids be sealed into our eternal family.  

My mom’s two main goals for when all her kids were all grown was to be an incredible granny and to serve a mission or two or three with my dad.  She accomplished the first, but the Lord had different plans for her with the second.  Before she even had an empty house, she started to notice some problems with her speech.  Sometimes she would know exactly what she wanted to say but wouldn’t be able to find the words to say it. It was baffling, and frustrating, and depressing.  She told me that during this time, as she knew that something was going on, but didn’t know what, she went to Stake Conference.  The stake president had some open time in the program and starting calling some people on the spot to come up and say a few words.   She panicked as she realized it was all the stake auxiliary presidents.  She was the Stake Primary President at the time.  My mom, who was an incredible public speaker, was petrified that he would call on her and she would not be able to get the words out.  But she also knew that God knew how she felt, and she immediately prayed a silent prayer that she would not be called upon and knew that prayer would be answered, and it was.  This was so representative of mom: she knew God knew her by name and knew her needs.

In 2007, my mom was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia.  Her future suddenly looked very different.  We all knew at that point that she would lose her ability to speak, but it was hard to really take in the enormity of her diagnosis.  She had to slowly mourn the loss of her dreams, and we all had to slowly mourn the loss of our mother and granny.  

My mom had her moments of sadness and frustration, but she tried oh so hard to stay positive. She even started a blog called Joy in the Journey, as a reflection on her valiant effort to look for the beauty in what was left of her life.

My parents moved here to Charlotte to be close to family and every week she came to my house and we sat at my computer typing out her email to her red-headed missionary. It was hard for her, and humbling, but she just had to be a missionary mom to her baby boy.  

She sewed for as long as she could.  She flew across the country for babies and baptisms as long as she could.  She served in the temple as long as she could. She planted flowers and painted. She decorated her house with her typical artistry and every year asked each of us for a new family picture for her family wall so that she could keep bragging about her grandkids, even if it was done through a beaming smile and pointing.

She still continued to use her talents to bless others.  She and my Dad served in the nursery at church, and her smile was bestowed on a huge group of little toddlers.  I am sure many of you can still picture her with a big bag full of sippy cups, or in the kitchen getting the snacks ready.  That is what Linda Jeppson did.  She served in every way she knew how and even without speaking continued to bless the lives of others.  For nine years, she did just that.

Sometimes you hear someone describing their priorities in such a way as:  God First, Then your spouse and then your kids.  When I was writing this I wondered to myself if I could describe my mom’s priorities in that way, and I can’t.  All three were so intertwined to her. They were all a part of her eternal family.  There is a scripture that I learned in seminary from my mom in Moses 1:39, that says, “For behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of Man.”  It is the Lord speaking, saying that all of this - the earth, this plan, the atonement, the scriptures, the prophets - all of it is for one purpose - the immortality and eternal life of man.  I think it is safe to say “For behold, this is Linda’s work and her glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of her husband, her sisters, her children, and her grandchildren.” She loved all of you so much. All of this - all her efforts, had one purpose.   There is nothing she wanted more than to bring you all back to your Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.

I have no idea if my mom made a choice before she came to earth to bear the burden of PPA, but I do think that if she thought that it would help us draw close to God in a way that nothing else could, she would chose to carry it in a heartbeat.  So I hope we all will allow this sorrow and this trial to do that.  Use this to draw closer to God. She has already taught us compassion and patience through PPA.  I hope we all take our broken hearts to the only one who can truly heal them - our Savior.  

I know that my mom is with Him, and her greatest desire is to greet us all again, with a perfect body and a perfect mind, able to talk and talk and talk and talk some more.  

Remember who you are.
Return with Honor.

I say these things In the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ Amen.


Sami said...

Thank you Katie for sharing this.

I have thought a lot about your mom over the years but even more since I heard of her death. My favorite memory of your mom was when Levi, someone else (I think Sara) and I wanted to participate in Spirit Week at the high school. It was twin day or something. We had this grand idea for a costume and went to your house after school and asked your mom to sew costumes for us. It is obvious to me now but not then how very busy your mom was. It would have been incredibly easy for her to say she was too busy and we needed to come up with something on our own. But she put down what she was working on, lead us to her fabric and made 3 costumes between the time after school one day and seminary the next day. As a mom of busy kids I realize what a HUGE sacrifice that was for her. But she never led on. She just happily made the costumes.

There are so many amazing memories of your mom in my mind that I could sit here all day and reminisce. You captured her life beautifully. A life I have constantly try to emulate. She was such an example of Christ that by trying to be like her it's like trying to be like Christ.

Thanks Katie for sharing your mom with others.

Sami Thompson

Karen Dick said...

"The gospel of Jesus Christ was never a separate little compartment of her life. It was in every detail and every hour." A beautiful tribute to a life beautifully lead. Your mom was a huge role model to me, and really she still is. With Sami I say, thanks for sharing her!