There are some posts that cannot wait to be written and this is one of them. Our family is sadden by the loss of Helen Marie Lucas Young. For the last 6 years we've grown so close to her will miss her presence greatly. She is the only 'Grandmother' my children know and love deeply.
It's hard to begin to pay tribute to a woman who was mother and grandmother to so many. From the comments on my Facebook post she is remembered as the mother bird of the nursery in church. It was a calling she truly loved and threaten life and limb of anyone who might take her from it. The little ones would cry when they first got in, but Helen always had a comforting lap, her consistent presence (and a purse full of jellybeans) would calm almost every child. By the time the two hour slot was done, you would often see her sitting in her chair surrounded by 'baby birds' with upturned hands and opened mouths asking for a candy. Hugs were often given in exchange and the relationships would grow over time to visits with her, teatime and even hand picked gifts for all her children at Christmas. While she was never the nursery leader herself, she was the backbone and heart of it. Many of those babies are grown, some are married, others are on missions and others have moved with their parents as they finished medical school. She is remember by them all.
Then there was the laughter! She made me laugh and gave perspective on life. Her exterior hide a young heart and all her jibes about knowing all the male nurses personally said with a wink transformed her back into a young lady at heart. When you really got to know her you'd realize how our bodies disguise our spirits but if we see past into the soul boundaries drop away and we are so much more alike and connected. Her spunk and spirit was a joy to be around.
I loved hearing stories of growing up in the middle of the depression, World War 2 and how it changed the definition of what a woman could do. Perhaps it is this that made her defy convention in many ways. She knew what was important - family, people who'd inevitably become friends - and she was loyal to that. While working in the food service industry she'd advise and encourage many young employees to reach for more, do better. Their lives changed and they remembered her, many keeping contact after more than 20 years, calling her on and off to share their latest news.
I was grateful she shared these stories with my children. Like the time she taught them of gratitude as she told the story of when her entire Christmas was burned down in one night. It was never preachy, just a sharing of experience that would prompt my children to ask her more. These were conversations held over 'tea times' and for 2-3 hours my oldest two would have one on one time with her, watching tv, sorting through 'treasures' and eating treats. They loved it so much it became a weekly ritual so long as everyone was well. Eventually Isaac was reading scriptures to her, Keila was making gifts for every visit and in turn she had new junk for a boy to practice his engineering skills with and a girly girl delighted with a new figurine, hair accessory, or necklace. Before we really knew it Helen had become our Grandma Young.
She was there for birthdays, for Keila's first self packed picnic lunch (and even ate the not so pretty PB&J sandwich!) , for Isaac's baptism and so many more 'little things' that mean so much. It is the first place outside of our home that Eli would sit comfortably at which has a significance words cannot explain. Long after the assignment to be my visiting teacher had past she had become a true friend.
This is the first time death has touched my children in an impressionable way. I hear them talking at time, coming a crossed a stuffed bear and jogging a memory of her. Keila wondering aloud if she will see her again, Isaac affirming in that authoritative firstborn way that she most certainly would. Then there are the silly arguments of if she would still bake cookies or make Mac and cheese for them diverging into whether or not we eat when we are in heaven. Somehow the conversation would end with a sad .little sigh of "I miss her" from Isaac and Keila would take out her "Memory Book" and write some of her favorite things about Helen. It makes me grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ that we have the knowledge that there is more than right here and right now. It brings meaning and perspective to life and our challenges. Even with that though I can't help glance down the street she lived everyday when I drive the kids to and from school. It's an old habit, an involuntary movement that echoes of love and aching.