Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today would have been my mother's Birthday.
This is the eulogy I gave at her funeral.
I love you Mom.

“A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”. Shakespeare wrote this long before October 31, 193* when my mother was born in IA. She was named Bernell by her Mother, D. L., after a girl friend in Denmark. Her father J. T. was working as a farm laborer, and her crib was an orange crate with a pillow for a mattress. I think she always seemed to internalize the humility of that orange crate, but to me it is lovely to think of the sweet smell of orange blossoms enveloping a newborn on a soft feather pillow. My mother hated her name. I must admit I was relieved when she emphatically assured me she did NOT want me to give it to any of my children. Whether you knew her as Bernell T., Bernell S., Babs C., Lorraine C., Babs S., or Mom, the words of Shakespeare ring true. My mother was as lovely as a rose and smelled just as sweet. She continually blossomed among the thorns of life, while sharing her beauty with those who knew her. She appreciated the variety of people she met, the places they came from, and the beauty they added to the garden. She had difficulty choosing a favorite flower, because she saw the beauty each brought in its season and habitat.

Mom grew up in Council Bluffs IA after her parents divorced when she was 6. That was always hard on her, especially being separated from her brother Larry, and sister Evelyn. Life with a stepmother was difficult, and she often wondered why her mother did not want her. She always loved having her brother Roy and the younger brothers and sisters that came from her Dad’s marriage to Margaret. It was a large family with seven step-siblings. She didn’t have a lot of material things, and started to work early. I remember mom scaring my kids by telling them about her first job at age 10. She got 5 cents an item for ironing laundry for the neighbors. She was always hated to go because she had to go down into their dark cellar basement where there were spider webs. In high school, she got to work at the Strand Movie Theatre which she always spoke of fondly. She got to be a “soda jerk” and an usher and wear a spiffy uniform, which she said was probably the nicest set of clothes she had. I think it must have been there that Mom decided she liked to have a sharp outfit. She always said how much she loved being a teenager in the 50’s with all of the fun music, fashions, and cars of the day.

It was preparing for her high school graduation that she learned encountered the first variation of her first name. Her whole life her father had told her her name was spelled “BURNEILLE”, but when she obtained a copy of her birth certificate to present for her diploma, the spelling was “BERNELL”. Imagine her surprise to learn she had been spelling it wrong her whole life. To add insult to injury, the school got it wrong on her diploma and wrote “DERNELL”.

Upon graduation she was anxious expand her horizons and tore out of Iowa as fast as she could. She headed to Salt Lake City to work as a telephone operator, which she thought was a great adventure, and was earning money to meet Dick in Hawaii so they could marry. They were married in the Hawaii temple in October, 195*. Mom loved everything but the bugs in Hawaii and gained an appreciation for a good party when she participated in the festivities of Hawaii becoming a state. She had Rick in 195*, Doug in 196*, and Jodi in 196*. They were living in Salt Lake City when she and Dick divorced. It was at this time she decided she wanted a fresh start and started going by “Babs”. She had heard this name on a TV show, and thought it was cute, and it stuck. She was terrified to be a young single mother, and was very optimistic when she married my dad, Boyd C. in 196*. From there they moved around Utah and California some before coming to Sacramento, California where they had Bradley. Things were tight with finances and mom was always trying to make bread and cookies to sell for extra money when she could.

It was in 197* they moved north to Paradise, and that was where she spent some of the happiest years of her life. I was born there in 197*. She loved the pine trees, the temperate weather, and the sociality of church members. She made many lifelong friends there, and it was there that she enjoyed a period relative comfort. In 197* she and my dad built her dream house on Valley View Dr. and it was there that she thrived. The December after they moved in their home was featured in the local Parade of Homes and she worked tirelessly to make her home “magazine perfect”. She had a talent for making things beautiful and loved attending to the smallest detail to make it just right. What she wanted more than anything in the world was to be a good wife and mother. Homemaking was her chosen career and she pursued it with passion. She was so happy to not have to work outside the home and to be able to devote her energies to her family. She had never been raised or taught the finer ways of life, and she wanted to give that to her children.

While in Paradise she served in many callings in the church including Relief Society President and as director of Girls Camp. She loved to serve and be involved in all that she could. She was constantly seeking to improve herself and to learn more. She was quick to say she wasn’t smart, but was equally as eager to find opportunities to learn. She was always attending the “know your religion” series or reading the paper. She loved to attend Education Week at BYU and would come home armed with books and tapes she would listen to as she worked around the house. She loved to listen to talk radio and write letters to the school board or city council when social issues concerned her. When she came upon a series of books about home organization she changed all of our lives forever. Sorting, cleaning, and labeling became a way of life. She spent so much time organizing, it made me wonder if it would have been faster to just lose something and look for it, but it gave her great pleasure. She would organize any kitchen she could get her hands on, and gave many lectures to groups about how to do so.

It was during this time she sought to begin traditions for her children, especially with the holidays in mind, most notably, the legendary “C* Christmas”. I think all the children, even me at age 3, agree we remember that Christmas on Wagstaff as one of our favorites. Mom said it was the first Christmas she ever had any money to spend, and she went hog wild. The joy she had at watching our delight at the magic of Santa planted a conviction in her to always make Christmas morning as magical as she could. There wasn’t a gift given that she didn’t choose very specifically and carefully, often fretting to the last that the receiver appreciate and love it as much as she hoped. She wanted to give us all she never had and more. “Life is hard enough” she would say. “I’m going to spoil them whenever I can.” And she did. She started a self imposed tradition of staying awake all night on Christmas eve, not only because of the volume of gifts she had to wrap, but because she insisted on being so meticulous about how she wrapped them. Her love was manifest in the coordinating ribbons and bows, and perfectly crisp corners of carefully selected wrapping paper. I could never figure out why she was so tired Christmas morning when Santa was the one who had been up all night. She also started a tradition that she would stay up all night after Thanksgiving so we would wake up to our house magically transformed and ready for the Christmas Season. I confess since I have had 6 children of my own and attempted to decorate with them awake I have wondered if her motive was more of convenience than surprise, but she would never have let us think otherwise. Then, that day we would pile in the suburban and drive to her favorite tree lot in Chico and pick out a Christmas tree. She always loved how the lot owner knew her by name and would often have a tree he cut with her in mind. From there it was off to see Santa, and then to McDonalds for breakfast.

There were the Easter treats from Joy Lyn’s candy with their handmade candy eggs and chocolate baskets, homemade divinity on Valentines day, picnic cake for the fourth of July, and Clam chowder (occasionally without the clams) on Christmas eve. For birthdays, she would always make a poster filled with photos of us from birth to display. Though her birthday was on Halloween, she never complained about it being about us and our trick or treating or parties. I think she loved having her birthday on a holiday, especially because of all the treats. She would always decorate to the hilt, and enjoyed the change in seasons.

When I was a freshman in high school, she was called to be a seminary teacher. While intimidated by the challenge, she put all of her energy into being the best seminary teacher she could. She not only spent hours studying the scriptures to prepare for her lessons, but spent as much time trying to ensure she conveyed to her students her love for them, and her desires for them to have a testimony of the gospel. A dear friend of mine sent me an email this week telling how her influence on him at that time remains a light in his life to this day.

She pursued the ideal in home life for herself and her children despite circumstances that constantly challenged her selfless desires. She had great sorrow and struggle in not having the type of support she longed for in trying to raise a family to the Lord. She wanted to give us what she had never had growing up, and fought everyday to try and do so. I cannot fathom the courage and faith it must have taken, and I will always admire her bravery.

Throughout her life my mother developed a Christ like charity, and could find the best in all around her. That woman made an awful lot of lemonade in her lifetime. Only she and the Lord know the courage it took for her to create her own happiness. I can only hope to appreciate it as I daily reap the benefits from it.

January of 198*, when I was the only one left at home, she decided it was time to start out on her own again and leave my dad. It was the start of a period of great uncertainty and turmoil as she struggled to enter a competitive workforce without the skills needed to make that easy. She put on a brave face and faith and did her best, always trying to stay positive. She worked several different jobs to keep afloat. She moved between Arizona, and California before finally landing in Utah. It was while working a phone sales job there that she started going by Lorraine (Babs was difficult to understand over the phone.) Finally, at the spry age of 54, she went to cosmetology school in Provo. There she thrived. While the book study was difficult for her, she blossomed in the association with her peers. She was loved by her instructors, and particularly fellow students who enjoyed her wit, optimism, and tenacity. She was so happy to finally feel like she had a direction for herself, and her confidence grew. But, always doubting her abilities, took a job in sales again after graduating.

In these years she sought to have as much fun and as many adventures as her time and meager means would allow. She loved to see her children and grandchildren whenever she could, her dear sister Peggy in Salt Lake, and extended family when possible. She relished a trip to Disneyworld with Doug and Shauna, and a month spent in Jackson Hole one summer with me. She was active in her singles ward and found a group of ladies she enjoyed going out with. She even did a little bit of dating and formed some more dear friendships. She loved going to the theatre, traveling, cooking, and being in nature. She loved Sundance and Jackson Hole, seeing Doug and Shauna in Idaho, and an occasional visit to the old stomping ground in Paradise. She beamed with pride about her grandchildren as they came along, and always had pictures of them up everywhere. She always thought her kids were the best and brightest, and as is typical of mothers, thought we were much better than we probably were. She continued to be faithful to her covenants, and was hopeful to someday be able to marry and spend the rest of her life with someone.

Early 2002 was a thrilling time for mom when she got to be a part of the Winter Olympics as a volunteer. Just like at the Strand Theatre in Iowa, she loved wearing her bright gold and black Olympic uniform and felt privileged to be a part of something so magnificent. Mom believed anything worth doing was worth doing well, and was inspired and awed by the majesty of the mountains, the athletes, and the spirit of the Olympics. It was later that year when she met Harold. Aunt Peggy said she was like a high school girl with a boyfriend, and was so happy to marry again in July 200*. I was her escort and the temple and got a little miffed that everyone kept asking if I was the mother of the bride, but mom thought it was hilarious. Before her illness took hold, she enjoyed being able to establish a home again, have someone to cook and clean for, and to travel and make new friends. She enjoyed working in the Mt. Timpanogos temple where they were married, and doing some genealogy. Mom loved a road trip, and she and Harold took many across the country in that little red Saturn. Mom was not a difficult person to please. A stop at a gas station for a coke and a candy bar could be the highlight of day. She was perfectly happy with a Motel 6 if it was clean and meant she could be on an adventure. I remember her recounting sleeping in a tent at some music festival while on their honeymoon, and how they had sat around listening to someone play the banjo and the dobro late into the night and what fun that was. She came on a girls trip to NYC when her granddaughter Amanda graduated from high school and traipsed all over that city without a word of complaint in the August heat. She was having the adventure of a lifetime, smiling and giggling the whole time. I remember she wanted me to take pictures of EVERYTHING so she could show Harold when she got home. She was so child like in her excitement of the big city and all the things to see, taste, and experience.

She was excited to be able to move to Idaho in 2007 and be closer to Doug and Brad. It was always good for her to have something to clean and organize, and a new house provided just the opportunity. While the loss of my sister Jodi was devastating for her, she was happy to be able to see Lucas more, and found hope in the future he could now have. She delighted seeing him in his plays and dance concerts, and was so proud of his efforts at school. Seeing him grow and progress helped ease her sorrow at the loss of his mother. In my head, I keep picturing Mom and Jodi laughing and giggling as they used to now that they are together at last, free from earthly cares.

She used to comment “Oh, so and so’s so classy…I’d like to be like that.” Without her noticing, her efforts day by day helped her become the woman she so admired. She was beautiful, classy, smart, kind, and above all selfless. She loved the Lord. She loved her testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. She hated contention, and used to sing “Love at home” whenever we would argue. As much as we used to roll our eyes at that, that was what she wanted more than anything, for us to love one another.

Mom used to say she heard of gravestone engraved with the words, “She loved all, and all loved her”. She said she thought that was lovely, and would love for it to be said of her, and I think it’s safe to say that is true. That was how she tried to live her life. Even when it wasn’t easy, she tried to love all she met.

I am forever grateful to God for giving me such a mother. I testify of His goodness and grace, and love for each of us individually. I am grateful for temple covenants and the knowledge that I will be with my mother again, forever. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

*I was advised to leave out certain details to help prevent identity theft, hence the missing names/dates


jennie w. said...

That's so lovely. Babs was a great, wonderful woman!

Is that what her tombstone will say?

Deb said...

Thank you for posting that. My head was a little clearer this time around. It is so nice. Deb

Natalie said...

That was so neat to read. Beautiful eulogy! I love learning more about your mom. She seems to be an amazing woman!

Financial Aid for College said...

Your mother was a delight! She never understood her own value and beauty. I remember hanging out with her while you hung out with Jennie.
I'm sure my kids will never give me such a lovely Eulogy. It will be something like: "Our mother, Lorie, was creative, talented, inventive and weird -- which you already know. For example, you have noticed the plywood box she insisted on be buried in. "

Financial Aid for College said...

Hi, Tiff! I don't have your real email address, but I wanted to send you an email, and I figured this might work. If it does, please write me back at

Please watch this astounding video,
and then tell me how a 12 year old girl gets her voice trained to sound this way. Does it have to be natural, or can an ordinary good voice of a child be taught to open up this way?


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