Families Can be Together Forever

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I believe that my family will be together forever. I’ve grown up with this knowledge and understanding, it’s given me hope as I think of my older sister who died as an infant, and the knowledge that I would someday enjoy a relationship with her. It brings me joy and peace today, as I mourn the sudden loss of my mother yesterday. I’ve always found the written word to be cathartic, and I feel the need to share my heart here, and not just gloss over this time with the fun Christmas posts I have planned for this week. Those will come, but I wanted to share a little memorial to my mom, so that I can feel a bit of peace, in sharing her joy in life.

Ghana airport

{Saying goodbye at the Ghana airport in July}

JOY, she gave me that middle name, and it has embodied her life, despite her challenges. In the overwhelming influx of love and sympathy I’ve received over the last 24 hours from those that know her, they’ve commented that she exuded love and kindness. And she did, wholeheartedly. Living a life full of service, with a love of the Savior and His Atonement, always ready to jump in and help.


She cherished her role as mother, and after birthing 5 children, was heartbroken that doctors advised against having more. She doted on myself and my 3 brothers, often times more than we appreciated. She and I, we had a complicated relationship.  For some reason, I always had a hard time opening up to her and showing my vulnerability. I remember in middle school and high school, all my friends thought she was the coolest mom, and so fun, and I just had a hard time seeing it. She was so patient with me, and though we never really had arguments or disagreements, we weren’t as close as I noticed my others friends were with their moms.

It didn’t make sense to me, why I had this difficulty. She was the easiest person to get along with, and I clearly don’t have a hard time opening up myself on a public forum. I’ve always been an open book with my friends, and even shared details of my life to my best friends moms, but for some reason, I felt closed off to my own mom. I’d be so mad at myself, pray and pray for years,  feel like I was trying, and over time, we made strides. Even as a young mother, she recognized the need to zip her lips, and let me figure out the mothering thing. She respected my boundaries, and kept showing me love.  I was shocked to learn from friends that their mothers didn’t necessarily respect them figuring it all out, and I grew to admire and respect my mom more and more for that quality of hers.


When my husband finished grad school in Delaware 13 years ago, we had the option to move anywhere we wanted. We were enchanted by Oregon and Colorado, and looked at options to moving there. Though it wasn’t necessarily high on my list, I felt the strong impression that we should move to Texas, so that I could work on my relationship with my mom. My California husband wasn’t too keen on Texas either, but recognized the desire of my heart, and we landed in Austin, 3 hours away from where my parents lived in Houston. I knew my mom was overjoyed, but worked hard at containing that Joy just a touch, so as not to overcrowd my fiercely independent need. My Tyler was her first grandchild, and the year we were in Delaware after he was born, she came several times and stayed for at least a week each time, often bringing along my dad and younger brothers, but sometimes alone. Feeling overcrowding during those visits, I guess I thought if we moved to Texas, the stays would be shorter, but more frequent, and I was good with that. As a young mother, seeing how much she adored my children, more than anyone else ever could besides my husband and I, allowed me to let go of those inhibitions more and more.

mom and dad and kids

I feel peace in knowing that I made strides, my heart was pure, and I did my best to make our relationship closer. But I can’t help but feel regret that I could’ve done more, should have been more humble, and pulled down the barriers I built up around my heart. But regret won’t get any of us anywhere. I’m trying to focus on the good I did, and little ways I showed my love for her. Like, the photo afghan I brought to her when we visited in July with our family beach ball pictures on it, that she just adores, and always told me that she showed off, every time someone came into her home in Ghana. Making the effort to provide her with this gift, was my way of showing my love for her.

The picture:

beach pictures

The blanket displayed on her couch in Ghana:

photo afghan

I mean, how grateful am I that our family got to travel to Ghana last summer, we spent a solid 10 days with my mom non-stop, and I will be forever grateful that we made the effort to go. It wasn’t easy, not my #1 destination for summer travel, but we wanted to be with my parents, missed them, and wanted to experience their culture. They funded the trip to make it that much easier for us to go, they have always been so generous with their money.

Grief from the loss of a loved one is kinda foreign to me. My dad’s dad passed away when I was in college. He’d had Alzheimers for a few years, and it was a blessing when he finally passed away. His wife, my grandma, we celebrated her 90th birthday, and shortly thereafter, she had a fall, steady decline, and I was blessed to have made the trip to see her for just 2 days, and she passed away while I was there. It was quicker than I thought, but she was struggling, and it was a blessing she didn’t have to suffer any more.

Hill Kids

My mom’s parents are 91, and my heart breaks for them, as I know they are at a loss. My mom was so heartbroken to be on her mission in Ghana when they turned 90, and wanted to throw them a big party, so we changed the verbiage just a little bit, and had a big Ball Jar party as they “headed into their 90th year”  My mom’s big worry was that she wasn’t sure her parents would be around when she got back, but faithfully went forward with her mission, nonetheless, and called them weekly if not more. She was able to come home a year ago for my brothers medical school graduation, so everyone saw her then, too. She knew that serving the Lord on her mission was a test of her faith, and was homesick for us at times, but assured us that she was kept busy enough that that helped offset that homesickness. She was grateful for the Plan of Salvation that we’ve been blessed to understand.

The legacy that we will always carry with us, is how much she loved for us all to be together. Even with my parents overseas, she instilled a love and companionship in us as siblings, that we chose to get together for reunions all on our own. I love my brothers and their wives fiercely, we are very close, those ladies have become my sisters that I am oh so grateful for.

Ghana Temple picture

{In front of the Ghana LDS Temple}

I’m so grateful for the countless expressions of love I’ve received, those that are mourning along with me, whether they know my mom or not. It truly means so much. I’ve had so many offers to bring meals, and I feel so silly being a recipient of such a kind gesture. I mean, who doesn’t love a meal being brought, but is my broken heart deserving of such a gift? And who am I to deny a dear friend from having a serving heart?

My mom has had some health issues in the past few years, and when she went to get treated for kidney stones and a kidney infection in Ghana, they don’t have adequate medical care. She flew 6 hours to Johannesburg, had the procedure there, which was successful, but while still under sedation, had a blood clot and then cardiac arrest. It seems such strange timing and strange circumstances, so much so, that we feel in our hearts, that it was her time to go.

The outpouring of love continues to flow in, my heart is bursting with JOY, just as she taught me to feel in life. I’ve read so many stories today from others, that I do not remember, and my heart is swelling even more that she shared her joy with so many around her. The last time I saw her,  I took a picture of she and my dad waving through the glass as we were leaving the Ghana airport. We had such a wonderful week together, it was hard to say goodbye. How fitting of an image to leave in my mind, along with hundreds of other pictures I have of her showing love to us.

waving goodbye

So grateful for her legacy of love and faith. I will strive to live my life through her example.

To read a follow up post to this:


Here is an article our church paper released today about my mom: Raelene Hill

Another Heartwarming article about my mom published yesterday.

The title of this post, Families Can be Together Forever, is after a sweet children’s song that touches my heart. Hear it here.

For more info on what I believe about life after death, see these links:

Life does not begin with Birth

Join The Discussion



  1. I saw the news article and recognized her and quickly jumped over to your site. I am sad with you, but also rejoice in the eternal nature of families and pray for your family now.

  2. Thanks for sharing this heart-felt and genuine story about your Mom, Kristen. I’m so so sorry for your loss. When I saw people posting on your FB wall about your Mom’s passing it broke my heart for you and your family. Sending lots of love and prayers your way. ❤️

  3. I’m so very sorry for your loss, Kristen…but what a wonderful tribute to a special lady. My prayers are with you and your family… 🙁

  4. Kristen, My heart goes out to you at this emotional time. Such a genuine, loving tribute to your mom and your relationship with her. I can relate in many ways. My mom was 59 years old when she died and I was 30. I am LDS and she was not, and I regret not sharing the gospel with her more than I did, and opening myself to her. Now I am 59 with 11 grandchildren, so I can also relate to your mother’s season in life when she passed from this life. What a treasure that you were able to be with her and your dad on their mission. Thank you for sharing your heart and your testimony.

  5. My deepest heart felt condolences Kristen. I followed your summer holiday in Ghana on social media. It was wonderful that you were able to spend that precious time with your parents.

  6. Kristen I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. I too believe that family is eternal and I hope that your belief brings you comfort in this difficult time. Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

  7. Kristen, I am so deeply sorry for your loss. I lost my mom about 8 years ago, and though not sudden at all, it rocked me to my core. I can’t even imagine the sudden loss. I know you will find your way through the grief journey, but be sure to give yourself time. Saying a prayer for you today.

  8. What a beautiful and honest tribute Kristen! I loved it all! Hugs friend – so so sorry for your loss! Love you! xoxo!

  9. I am so sorry. I feel for your Dad and pray that he will be comforted at this time as well as your families. thank you for sharing.

  10. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m so glad you and your family were able to visit your parents this summer… What beautiful memories.

  11. Oh Kristen, I’m so so sorry about your mom passing away!! Especially so suddenly and so far away! May God bless these sad circumstances, that good may come out of them. I will be praying for you and your family. Hugs, Jacqueline

  12. Awwww I am so sorry for you!!!!! Even though we know that life and families are eternal there is still the loss and sadness. President Hinckley said something about how our testimonies can take away the sting of death but not the sadness of missing them (he said it a lot smoother but that’s the idea). I think its really true. You’ll miss her and that is part of our life here without our loved ones. But our knowledge of life after death and the sealing powers of the temple give us comfort in our losses. Big hug to you!!!!

  13. So very sorry for your loss Kristen! She sounds like an amazing woman! Prayers to you and your family.

  14. Im sorry for your loss Kristin. Writing is definitely therapeutic

  15. Kristen,
    What an incredibly beautiful sentiment to your Mom. I am so sorry for your loss- but find comfort in the fact that I too believe our families will be together forever. I just want you to know that strangers you will never meet, but have allowed to get to know you through this blog are sending prayers and love to your family. Thank you- I will try to practice the patience with my children as you describe your Mom doing with you. Thank you for sharing your story Kristen. Take care!

    A friend in Nebraska

  16. You brought tears to my eyes… what a beautiful tribute. Made me think of my mom… she is also one of those rare moms and lets me figure out this parenting thing, and when I ask, she listens and gives advice. May God bless you all during this difficult time. Having faith does not mean the pain goes away, or even that it’s any easier, but the sunshine of hope makes things bearable. You are in my prayers.

  17. I love that quote by Elder Nelson, what a perfect way to put it. You have been given a gift of understanding and I hope if I ever face this challenge I will be given the same. What a wonderful post.

  18. Kristen, I’m so very sorry your loss. This is a wonderful tribute to your mom. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  19. I am so sorry for your loss and pray for you and your family at this hard time. What a sweet tribute to your wonderful mother! Lots of love for you, xoxo

  20. I am so very very sorry for your loss. Find comfort in those around you and in those quiet moments when you know you need a little solitude. This was a wonderful tribute, and I am sure your mom is smiling down on you and your family. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  21. Staci Rocha says:

    Prayers for you and your family! Lots of prayers from those of us who you don’t even know but the power of prayer is real and will uplift and strengthen you through this trial! I suddenly lost my Dad three years ago from a massive heart attack and it was really hard. The Gospel and the companionship of the Holy Ghost will be a tremendous blessing for you and will get you through this. Hugs and Prayers and may you be” encircled about eternally in the arms of HIS love”
    Staci Rocha From Idaho

  22. Kristen this post was amazing. I love how honest you are about your relationship with her and how hard you were trying. She just adored you!! I’m so glad you got to go to Ghana this summer. Such a blessing. I also love that blanket you gave her! How cool. I love you Kristen. 🙂

  23. So sorry to hear about the passing of your mother. Glad that you all got over to Ghana this past summer! Trusting that good memories will help comfort your family at this time.

  24. Goodness gracious, you have me crying now. I loved everything that you said and truly feel your genuine love for your mom. What a great woman! And what a great life and family she had!

  25. What an eloquent way to share the memory of your mom. I’m so sorry for your loss. She sounds like an amazing person.

  26. What a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to your mother. Your honesty about how you built a relationship with your mother is touching. What a gift to know you made so many connections over the years. My sympathy i s with you and your family.

  27. I am so sorry for your loss. Hugs and prayers for your family in this sad time.

  28. Alisha Taylor says:

    **tears***. The pictures of your mother and family really really touched me. She really had a light. Thank you for sharing such a tender, honest post. Love you

  29. I’m so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute, my prayers are with you and your family xxx

  30. I’ll be praying for you and your family!!

  31. Teresa Cline says:

    I’m so sorryfor the loss of your mother. She sounds like a wonderful mom and grandmother.

  32. Kristen, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. What a wonderful post – I got to know your mom through it. Love to you all from Johannesburg (of all places!)