Birth/Rebirth: Giving Miscarriage a Birth Story, Too

Guest post by Kathy

Image by Neal Fowler

Image by Neal Fowler

Kathy is a writer living in Phoenix, Arizona. The original version of this piece appeared as a guest post at freshly-picked.com.

 

Not every pregnancy gets a story. I’d like to change that.

My second pregnancy ended six months before I had planned it would.

When I reached out to people I needed, some of them surprised me. They told me about their own miscarriages—that had happened during the time we’d been friends.

Why did you not say anything? I asked them. They shrugged. One said, Well, you know. I didn’t know.

I respect experiences that are private, but I suspect that miscarriage stories stay untold because they don’t have the same pay-off that birth stories do. At the end, there’s no baby. What’s the point in telling them?

The point is that we’re humans.

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Birth/Rebirth: Birth and Rebirth through Divorce

Guest Post By Erin

From what I remember, (it has been almost 8 years since I pushed another life out of my body) birth is painful, messy, exhausting, and frightening. I can understand why Nicodemus might have been a little incredulous when he was questioning the need to be reborn, i.e. “You want me to do what???” However, there are times in life when a rebirth is absolutely necessary. Not because we weren’t right when we started, but because we have strayed from the person we were meant to be when we began.

Over the course of our marriage, my husband had taught me that I wasn’t enough. I couldn’t do much to please him, no matter how I tried. I logically knew that all the things wrong with our relationship weren’t my fault in total, but in order to maintain peace, I did the apologizing, I accommodated to his needs and wants, I did my best to change my verErin Guest Posty essence in order to please him through fourteen years of marriage. I was committed to my covenants and would have given up more if I could to protect my children from the spectre of divorce.

In September of 2012, my husband told me he couldn’t “do this” anymore and walked out the door leaving behind a well prepared letter of how visitation and child support and division of property and debts would proceed. I was dumbfounded, to say the least. A week before we had been making detailed lists of all the things we should plan to buy for birthdays and Christmases to prepare for a family goal of section hiking the Appalachian Trail over the next 7 years. His leaving came out of nowhere. Thankfully, the Spirit whispered, “Let him go, he knows what he is leaving and he is still making this choice. You will be okay.”

This wasn’t the rebirth, this was the conception what would be the birth of my new life.

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Guest Post: Managing Life’s Winters

Amish in Winter by Evan Tye PetersonGuest Post by Shelli

It was 16 years ago. The 21st of December was a typical New England winter day with snow and ice already making their regular appearance, and I was writing a talk. However, this was not an ordinary talk I was preparing. Not a neatly packaged sacrament sermon or a personal testimony. Rather, through a torrent of tears and profound sorrow, I was summoning God for hope and peace through words, as we buried one of our beloved young women. Not only was it winter, but it was truly a season of death and sadness that came with a jolting chill to my soul, and to the souls of all who loved Oeun.

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Ashes to Ashes

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Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, image by Robert Lawton

I recently attended and participated in my grandmother’s funeral.  She was not LDS or an active member of any church.  As a veteran, she was entitled to military honors and burial in a National Cemetery.  She passed away a year ago and was cremated, and the family planned a reunion around the memorial service.

 

My family converged on Saint Louis for a weekend to celebrate her life and honor her.  The morning of the funeral we sat together in the hotel lobby and made up a program on a piece of hotel stationary.  My aunt is a Presbyterian minister whose ministry is to visit shut-ins and ill people and she was more than happy to conduct our little service.

 

We met at Jefferson Barracks and went out to a shelter on the grounds where two Naval officers presented my mom with a flag and three veteran volunteers fired off the shots.  It was a beautiful and solemn moment.  Then we congregated around the grave and had one of the most lovely, informal and pleasant funerals I have ever attended.

My aunt welcomed us, and my mother provided a short life history.  She encouraged anyone who wanted to share a memory to do so, and a resident of her senior home who had come volunteered that she was a good bridge player.  My sister-in-law offered an opening prayer, then I read from Ecclesiastes and my cousin read a Psalm.  My uncle, who is a non-believer, felt uncomfortable participating and instead took photographs of the service. Being a carpenter, he had also made a cherry box to hold the ashes. The LDS family members sang, “Families can be together forever” because my nephew loves that song.  Technically speaking, of course, few of the people present were sealed to one another.  My brother and his wife and children are sealed, and I am sealed to my husband who was absent.  My father is not a member and my parents are divorced. The rest of the family not being LDS either of course we don’t really fit the usual definition of “together forever.”  Yet in that moment I felt very strongly that we were a family, and we would be together forever and that it didn’t matter a whit that half the people present don’t even really know about the temple.

 

My aunt spoke of the glory of the Resurrection and led us in the Lord’s Prayer, encouraging everyone present to use whatever variation of words they had in their own service. I don’t remember everything she said, so what follows is an approximation.

Father, we thank you for your servant Shirley, whose baptism is now complete in death.  We praise you for the gift of her life, for all that was good and kind and faithful.  She lived a life of service and love.  We thank you that for her death is past and pain ended, and that she has now entered the joy you have prepared, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  We commend her to you now.

Then she offered the prayer of committal, as the waiting cemetery workers interred the box that my uncle had made for my Grammy’s ashes.

My brother offered a closing prayer, and then my aunt, who is justifiably famous for her shortbread, offered some to each of the mourners and we chatted in the park like atmosphere.  I gather that my brother quietly dedicated the grave in the LDS tradition, but it was not part of the main group.

 

I write all this because I loved having every part of the service be conducted by family members.  I love that every person participated in the way that they felt comfortable, and that two different faith traditions met seamlessly and beautifully.   I love that every part of it was about remembering and loving my grandma, and we did exactly what we wanted and needed for closure and peace.  I loved seeing my aunt minister to us, reminding us of the resurrection and of the joy and peace my grandma now feels.  I loved that she knew exactly what to do and took our disparate ideas of what we wanted and shaped them easily and with very little notice into a memorial service.

In an LDS funeral a woman could never conduct or preside, even if the family felt she was the proper person to do so.  Whether by policy or tradition, it seems LDS funerals always have at least half the time spent on a talk about the Plan of Salvation by the local Bishop, regardless of whether that meets the needs or desires of the deceased or their family, or whether the Bishop even knew the deceased well.  LDS tradition discourages cremation for reasons that are obscure to me.

After attending the funeral I realized that if I had my wish, the last thing I would want would be an LDS funeral. I am only twenty-nine, so I don’t anticipate dying any time soon.  Still, the beauty and peace of that service made me reflect on what I would want.  I definitely want to be cremated. I do not want a canned talk about the Plan of Salvation designed as a missionary tool for my non-member friends and family.  I want everyone who loves me to be able to participate in the ways that are meaningful to them, untrammeled by tradition or prescribed gender roles.  I want the women in my life to have the same opportunities as the men to express grief, and to offer consolation.  I suppose that means I want a funeral outside the church building, run by my family however they think it best.  It means more work in some ways, but it also means freedom to express and share grief in ways that to me feel more authentic.

How do you feel about LDS funerals? What aspects are meaningful for you? What parts of the tradition would you change? What elements from other faiths have you found to be powerful?

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Ah! Turn Me Not Away

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Stephanie Lauritzen, an OW action participant, being turned away from Priesthood Session. Photo taken by Josh Johnsen.

On Sunday morning I flipped through picture after picture of women being turned away from the doors of our worship places. The Mormon Tabernacle choir sung in the background. Tears streamed down my face; many of those women are my friends. All are my sisters.

Ah! Turn me not away, Receive me tho unworthy. Hear Thou my cry, Behold, Lord, my distress.

I have performed this song countless times but the cry remains with me always. Hear Thou my cry.

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Death Itself Shall Die

One of my favorite hymns comes from the Sacred Harp hymnal, and is called “How Long, Dear Saviour,” also known as “Northfield.”  The original song is about the Savior and uses entirely masculine pronouns to discuss the Millenium and Christ’s second coming.

 

Sacred Harp is a musical tradition that originated in the southern United States.  The music is sung a capella and the singers divide by section and sit in a square, facing each other. The notation uses not only ordinary staff lines but also a different shape for each note, indicating the place that note occupies in the scale.  This is meant to help untrained singers to learn music, and generally Sacred Harp groups will sing through using the shape names (fa sol la) first, before singing with words. The music is more about the experience than it is about performance and it tends to be characterized (at least around here) more by enthusiasm than by dynamics, blending or other common features of choral music.  There are many groups around the United States, as well as internationally, who keep this musical tradition alive.

 

My local group (which my mother affectionately calls the Sacred Harpies) chose to feminize the last verse of the song.  While the music is from a Christian tradition, many people who participate embrace other faiths or no faith at all.  As far as I know we are the only LDS people who participate in our town, and I only go on rare occasions. In an effort to acknowledge other faith traditions and be inclusive, the group sometimes changes words or sticks a supplement in the hymnal with alternate versification.

 

Ever since I first heard the feminized version of Northfield I felt like it was speaking to me and I really can’t hear it the other way.  I took the liberty of feminizing the entire thing to make it about our Heavenly Mother instead of the Saviour, not to denigrate our Lord but to acknowledge the glorious truth of His Mother. As we talk about the need for an anthem, the need for answers and the need for knowledge, perhaps sacred music not subject to church correlation should be the first place we look.  The following are the lyrics to the hymn, as I have changed them.  The original lyrics can be seen here, and you can watch a performance of it here or here.

 

 

How Long, Dear Saviour (Northfield)

Lyrics: Isaac Watts (1707)

(Some modifications of gender, by me)

————–

How long, dear Mother, O how long

Shall this bright hour delay?

Fly swift around, ye wheels of time,

And bring the promised day.

————–

Lo, what a glorious sight appears

To our believing eyes!

The earth and seas are passed away,

And the old rolling skies.

————–

From the third heaven, where God resides,

That holy, happy place,

The New Jerusalem comes down

Adorn’d with shining grace.

————–

Attending angels shout for joy,

And the bright angels sing;

Mortals, behold the sacred seat

Of our descending Queen!

————–

Her own soft hand shall wipe the tears

From every weeping eye;

And pains and groans and griefs and fears

And death itself shall die.

 

In the last year as I have lost two family members and succumbed to the worst bout of depression I’ve ever had those words came back to me again and again.  Her own soft hand shall wipe the tears from every weeping eye.  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  Pains and groans and griefs and fears, and death itself shall die.

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