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.

grandchildren

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:

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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