Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memorial Day

"Waving flags are beautiful, the call of the lone bugle is tender, and the sharp report of a gun salute is a great honor, but to be held in sweet remembrance is the finest tribute of all."

Carl and Stephen working together
Last week this quote from "Music and the Spoken Word" with the Tabernacle Choir grabbed my heart. "To be held in sweet remembrance is the finest tribute of all." I hold many loved ones in sweet remembrance. The older you get, the more people there are to love, and many of them have passed on. As a family, we particularly remembered my daughter Rachel and her girls this year. First we had an outing at Thanksgiving Point, once again enjoying the Dinosaur Museum and lovely grounds there. It was our granddaughter Addie's favorite place to visit with her grandparents. Then we met again at the Rachel Stubbs McTeer Memorial Park. There a lovely monument stands to honor Rachel and we had some plans to do the same.

At the park's dedication in 2006, our family planted a tree in Rachel's memory. However, it didn't survive the winter. I felt that it was time to replant. The season was right and the ground has been prepared by our heavy spring rains this year. We bought the same type of tree, a flowering pear tree that will blossom in the spring, provide shade all summer and then show beautiful red autumn foliage. 

Olivia, Andy and Amanda celebrate the planting.
I couldn't help but ponder the symbolism of our replanting. The season of Rachel's death was difficult, but we pulled together in love as a family. The last six years have been hard on many of us and there have been heartaches and divisions. However, I believe the ground has been prepared for a season of renewing our love and family unity. I'm looking forward to basking in that love and enjoying the beautiful "foliage" of family life that surrounds us. 

Amy and Stephen compare ribbons as Tommy looks on.
An especially sweet moment occurred at the tree planting when both Amy and Stephen pulled out their pieces of ribbon from the original ribbon cutting at the park. They had each carried those little white ribbons with them for 5 years. Amy also had her little rock from that day with her. Each of us had been given an small apache tear. These little rocks look black, but when held to the light, they are transparent. This Memorial Day 2011, after the tree was planted in that beautiful spot, Jim led our family group in prayer to ask God's blessings on the park and on our family.

Park monument as it is today
We also noticed that Rachel's dreams for this piece of ground were being fulfilled. Many people were enjoying the park, its walking path, playground and basketball hoop and athletic field. It's a small park, but it has been used and enjoyed.  The monument reads "Rachel Stubbs McTeer: Alpine City Planner; A cheerful, outgoing, positive personality; Adelaide, Elizabeth (in a heart); A loving Mother." We totally agree. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Cousin Test

Quite awhile ago I asked Rachel's cousin Jeni if she would like to guest post on this blog. She said yes, but thought she should do other stuff, like complete her chemo for cancer first. (See her blog "This Isn't my First Rodeo" for other examples of her excellent writing.) I love reading her memories of those sweet years--let the new husbands and wives of the cousin group read and learn. 

Rachel, Jeni, Melanie, Martha, and Angie. We were the core of our cousin group. This was not an exclusive group, if the fabulous older ones wanted to play, Anna, Amy, Julie, Joy or the exciting and numerous younger ones, we were more than willing to expand the connection of cousins. Sometimes we even enjoyed playing with our boy cousins, especially if Nerf Guns were involved.

The core group and others ended up in the Provo area in the late 1990s. This coincided with our college, mission for Rachel, and marrying years. We lived and played together so of course we felt we could offer our opinions about who we should or should not date. This evolved into the Cousin Test. Since Rachel and I were the oldest and the alternating “voice of authority” we were the main administrators of the test. Many a nice boy was unknowingly found wanting as he attempted to date one of us. Even worse were the ones who found out we considered them unworthy of the affection of the dear cousins.

The essence of the test was the fact that we thought very highly of each other and if the boy did not act and think that way as well, he was doomed from the start.

Here are the main points of the test as I remember them:

Intelligence: Of course it would be impossible to find someone smarter than any of us. They did have to match wits, and have a love of learning. Rachel liked to debate for fun and she was so nice about it, many unsuspecting boys realized too late she had bested them. We would watch the train crash, taking notes, knowing the truly intelligent ones refused to get in the ring with her.

Fun Loving: We liked to laugh (I still think of funny things to tell Rachel - I would love to hear her appreciative laugh again), dance, and make fools of ourselves. This did not detract from our intelligence, but rather showed we knew there was a time and place for everything. Rachel was always good for a quick fierce card game of Pounce, a swim in the pool, Nerf Wars, snowball fight, or car trips. When the boys joined these adventures they needed to throw themselves into the activity completely without being too competitive. Even better was if they could make walking to school in the cold or cleaning enjoyable, like Rachel could.

Hard Worker: We all came from big families where hard work was expected. Not only did the boy need to do his share, but also attempt to do more, as Rachel always managed to do. The quiet corollary to this is that I had a bad back, and so was not expected to do heavy lifting. Of course nobody would remember to tell the poor boy, he was just expected to discern this from the look on my face as I struggled to lift something without the other cousins noticing. If he did not immediately jump in, Rachel or the cousins would, and he had failed.

Appreciative: Gestures of thankfulness were common among the cousins. Thank you notes, cookies, and hugs were everyday occurrences. Rachel made it easy to want to do things for her, because she was always so genuinely grateful. Hopefully the boys had learned the fine art of appreciation at home, because otherwise we quickly ceased wanting to do anything for them.

Family: If you cannot tell by now, family was of the utmost importance. The boy needed to be kind to the girl that he was wooing, but also to her cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, second cousins, and friends that were like family. Rachel had all these married siblings with kids that she wanted and we wanted to spend time with. Between Anna, Carl, Amy and Mark's kids, and Julia, there was always a way to see how the interested suitor acted around children. The adoring boy had to learn more names of cousins and their kids then he thought possible, and know how they were related. Hopefully he could master that in just one family Easter egg hunt, mission farewell, or game night. These were people he could expect to see at family reunions or gatherings, and read about in the newsletter. This was family we loved and expected them to love as well.

There are so many cousins getting married this year. I would like to talk to Rachel about it. She could explain the Utah contingent's positions and I could illuminate how the Nevadans feel. In the end we would both just be glad that our cousins had found someone that made them happy.