A Happy Story
I was called into the Young Women’s presidency in my ward a little over five years ago. A week after I got that calling, two of my girls’ mother/aunt died (don’t worry, the explanation for this is in paragraph 3). I met them six days before she died. The next time I saw them was at the viewing for their mother and told them I wanted to do whatever I could to help, knowing that those words were completely inadequate and of little comfort, coming from a virtual stranger.
Over the next two years, I’d like to think that I gave all I could to Anna* and Faith*. I worried about them a lot. I worried about the kids they hung out with. I worried about them when they had boyfriends. I worried that they’d loose interest in the Church. I worried about how they were doing in school. I worried about how they were coping without their mom. In fact, I still worry about them, and I still feel guilty—perhaps, I should have done more.
Anna and Faith were quick to befriend me and explain their situation to me—the whole mother/aunt had me confused. It all started after Anna’s mother (also Faith’s aunt) moved from Haiti to Massachusetts. Anna’s mother and father married and had Anna. They later divorced.
Faith’s mother (and Anna’s aunt), Joan*, had stayed in Haiti after her sister (Anna’s mother) had left for the US. She married Faith’s father and had Faith. They later divorced. Then, Joan and Faith moved to the US. Joan and Anna’s father eventually married, making Anna and Faith both cousins and stepsisters. Got it?
A few years before she died, Faith’s mother converted to the Church and brought her girls to Church. They were all active when Faith’s mother got sick with cancer. After a couple of years with the disease, Joan died. Joan’s death was hard; she was a lovely woman and a good mom. She gave the girls stability and structure.
Soon after Joan died, Anna and Faith moved just down the street from me, a rarity in our ward that covered several Boston suburbs. I got to spend a lot of time with them. Sometimes, they’d come over. But, mostly, we spent a lot of time in the car. I drove them to seminary, mutual, and Church meetings. Their dad wasn’t a member and didn’t have a car.
Their family life wasn’t as stable as the one I grew up in. Sometimes, Anna’s mom was around, sometimes, she was living in New Jersey. Anna’s dad had to work late a lot. They did the chores and cooking.
Sometimes, Anna’s younger half-brother and half-sister would come to live with them for short periods of time. They would come to Church with us too. And, I would watch Anna as she patiently walked in and out of sacrament meeting with whichever kid was having a hard time. Sometimes, she would miss YW’s to go to Primary with them, or sometimes, the kids would come to YW’s with us. Anna will make a great mom one day.
Faith remained upbeat and outgoing as she mourned the death of her mother. She struggled with depression but remained a good student and became a budding performer. She always has a had a gift for immediately making others feel comfortable.
DH and I talked about how we hoped that these girls would go to BYU. While neither of us went to BYU and don’t think it’s for everyone, we thought it would be great for them. They are smart girls; I suspect they’d be the first in their family to go to college. And, they’d get to be around other Mormons.
Sometimes, I wonder if I got so close to those girls because I wanted to be a mother and was struggling with infertility and they had just lost their mother. I felt a responsibility to them. I looked forward to talking to them about BYU when they were more serious about school (I was in YW’s when they were Beehives and Mia Maids).
Sooner than I expected, we bought a house and prepared to leave the ward. I felt guilty; I knew Faith was struggling with depression, and I was worried about Anna taking care of her siblings especially since she was starting to have to miss school to care for them. But, I knew several women who would take care of them after I left. I wasn’t the only one who felt the need to mother them in some small way. There were the other YW leaders and the girls’ former leaders who still watched over them after they had been released.
But, as fate would have it, they were forced out of their apartment around the same time we left, and they went to a ward that I felt was a better fit for them. It wasn’t as spread out, had more youth, and was more diverse than our ward. I called my friend, Aimee the day we had to do their emergency move. Her husband and other ward members were there that night to help with the move. Aimee was in the YW’s presidency there; she kept me updated on their progress, and I was happy to hear how their new ward watched over them.
I still get email updates from Faith every so often. But, this week, I got one that brings a smile to my face every time I think about it.
Faith is going to BYU this fall. BYU is lucky to have her. With her warm personality and life experiences, I know she’ll change people’s lives. I’m so proud of her.
*names have been changed