Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says, "Oh darn... she's awake!!"

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Friend Helen

My dear friend, Helen, passed away this week. She bravely fought cancer for a year before it became too much for her.

I met Helen for the first time two years ago when our wards were split and I became a new member of her ward. Changing wards was very difficult for me and my neighbors. We were members of a great ward with a great bishop. Our neighborhood was split in half with some being left in the previous ward and about 20 families sent on to revitalize the new ward. I was able to keep my visiting teaching companion, (we have been together for more than 7 years) and we accepted our new sisters with trepidation -- could we love these new ladies as much as we loved the ones we were leaving behind?

Helen was one of those ladies. And I quickly learned that yes, I can love this new lady as much, if not more.

I still remember the first time we went to her house. The door was flung open, the biggest, sweetest smile greeted us with an enthusiastic, "Come in!! Come in!!" offered. We sat down in her formal living room and began to get acquainted. Helen was cheerful, and it was a cheer that radiated from within. Helen was one of those people that rarely let a frown cross her face.
I loved her immediately.

We enjoyed visiting with her that first year. She loved the lessons and attentively listened, even though she was the education counselor in Relief Society and had read the lesson a gazillion times already. We had many gospel centered conversations and Helen bore her testimony countless times to us. She was one of those who knew and lived the gospel.

Helen loved Adam. There were several times that I had to take him with us to her house. She welcomed him with hugs and always found a chair just the right size for him to sit in. She always had a stash of candy ready for him. Helen had traveled all over the world and collected many antique musical instruments. If Adam was admiring any, she'd get up, take it down from the shelf and let him blow in it or bang on it. This made me very nervous because it was irreplaceable, but she'd tell me to relax and that she wanted him to play it!! Helen loved my boy and my boy loved her.

The second year of our acquaintance, Helen noticed that her hip was in pain. She went to the doctor and was diagnosed with cancer. It was no surprise that she greeted this news with optimism. She wasn't finished living yet and she was going to beat it!! She immediately started treatment. It was hard for her, but she didn't lose the sparkle in her eye or the smile on her face. But we could see that she was getting tired and her hips really hurt. She maintained her calling as RS 1st counselor and did the best she could. Eventually, it became too difficult and painful to attend church. This broke her heart.

All the while we kept visiting her. Our visits became more and more frequent because she needed us. As she became bed ridden (Thanksgiving last year) my companion and I began take dinner to her on a weekly basis. Helen became entrenched in my life. I have visited with her almost every week for the past year. She became my friend and my sister, a grandma figure to me and my son. Every week we would hug, and express our love for each other.

Helen finally slipped away in her sleep on Thursday. She died about 3 hours before I was going to visit her. I have cried a lot. I will miss her, really miss her. She has changed my life and (I hope) made me a better person -- and I don't say that lightly. Helen has written about a hundred million life histories of people she knew and loved (slight exaggeration.... she has written about 20) which has inspired me to make sure I have stories written down from my life and my children's life, so that when it becomes time, I can get it in a book.
I know that she is happy now and without pain. I rejoice that she has been reunited with her dear "mama" who passed away when Helen was 7. I am so happy that she is with her sister and best friend, Maxine. Neither of them were married and they were roommates for most of their adult life. She missed Maxine terribly after she died (from cancer as well).
Here is her obituary:

1926 - 2008
Helen, 81, of *****, died Sept. 11, 2008, at Assisted Living after a courageous battle with cancer. She was born Oct. 3, 1926, to Egon and Anna in Blackfoot. She attended schools in Blackfoot. She was the first female student body president of Blackfoot High School. She attended Utah State University and served as executive president of Lambda Delta Sigma her senior year. She graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Home Economics. She later earned her Master of Science degree from Oregon State University. She started her teaching career in Rigby. She began teaching at Ricks College in 1953 and worked there until she retired 35 years later. In 1996, Ricks College renamed a women's dorm after Helen. She was a devoted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She served a mission in Denmark. She also held many positions, such as Relief Society President. She loved spending time with her family and friends. She lived most of her life with her sister Maxine. She and her sisters loved to travel. She also enjoyed writing family histories. Helen is survived by her brothers Fred and Egon (Connie) and nephew Jerry (MarLynn), all of Idaho Falls, and niece Connie (Dan) Baker of Orem, Utah. She was preceded in death by her parents, Egon and Anna, stepmother, Gretel, and her sisters Katherine and Maxine. Funeral services will be held at noon on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at the North Stake center. The family will receive friends Tuesday from 10 to 11:45 a.m. at the church prior to services. Burial will be in the Grove City Cemetery in Blackfoot.


thorkgal said...

Oh, how sweet. If only this could be printed in the paper. You should get a hold of the family with this beautiful tribute.
She reminds me of my grandma (my ex's grandma) that use to be my penpal, remember? My mailbox has never been the same since... very lonely without any hand written letters. (sniff)
At least we had them in our lives for a moment.

Yvonne said...

Such a beautiful tribute--you need to share it with her family. She sounds like a great woman.