Tuesday, July 26, 2011
To Be A Pioneer
July 24th marks a very important day in our faith and in the state in which we live. On July 24, 1847, the Mormon Pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. While pulling handcarts and covered wagons over the barren Midwestern plains, many men, women and children lost their lives. Some suffered frostbite, starvation and sickness while others had to bury their loved ones in shallow graves along the rough, dirt trails. They sought a peaceful place where they could worship "according to the dictates of [their] own conscience" but were only met with persecution and hardship. And yet they moved forward, following a Prophet of God, believing that a Loving Heavenly Father had prepared a place for them.
My ancestors were some of those Mormon Pioneers. Each came to America from their perspective countries (England, Scotland, Denmark), following their faith and leaving everything they owned to come to a new country to join others of their faith. They were strong, moral, God-fearing people who loved their families and who longed for a better life for their children.
Now - over a century later - I benefit from the sacrifices made because they decided to do a "hard thing." I have grown up hearing stories of my forebearers. In fact, our oldest is named for a baby - referred to in family journals as "Angel Emma" - that passed away while her family was crossing the plains en route to their "Promised Land." After our recent loss, I can't imagine burying my child along a dirt road in a shallow grave in the bitter winter cold. Never would they visit that sweet grave site again. Never would they be able to physically memorialize that child's life. Never would they be able to take flowers on birthdays, holidays and anniversaries in celebration of what that babe meant to them. Just the thought breaks my heart. I don't know how they did it.
In our faith, the children are taught a song from a very young age:
You don't have to push a handcart
Leave your family dear,
Or walk a thousand miles or more
To be a Pioneer.
You do need to have great courage
Faith to conquer fear,
And work with might for a cause that's right
To be a Pioneer.
My ancestors were Pioneers. Their children were pioneers. And now I am a Pioneer. In my entire extended family, I am the first person to lose a living child. This is a path that is unfamiliar to me and those that I love. I am walking it for the first time. And - while doing so - I have been made aware that others are watching.
Unfortunately, in my large and extensive family (on one side I have more than 50 first cousins), I will probably not be the only one to have an Angel Child. There will come a time when others may experience the heartache we feel. The circumstances may be different, but the feelings of disbelief, shock and heartache will be the same.
And we will be there.
We will be there with a shoulder to cry on. We will be there to hear ALL feelings. We will be there when they may need someone to talk to and we will be there after they need some space. We will be there to listen to their memories after everyone else seems to move on and we will visit their loved one's grave just because we know how much it means to their family. And lastly, we will be there to testify of a Tender and Loving God that can heal ALL wounds, who offers a Peace that surpasses ALL understanding and a Gospel that gives Hope when it seems that there is none to be had.
Because WE are Pioneers.