Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Tribute to My Beloved Mother

Grandma sharing an Easter devotional with some of her grandchildren.
Just less than a year ago, when it seemed my grandma would soon pass away, I decided to take all of my children down to LA to see her one last time. My husband couldn't come with me because of work, and I didn't want to drive alone, so I invited my mom to join us. She had been spending a lot of time down there herself just helping out, but was happy to come on up to Utah to make the trek.

It was a sweet experience: I got to visit with my mom all the way down and back, then enjoyed a few quiet days letting the kids play nearby as I sat and held grandma's hand, or mom would take them to the park while I stayed and listened to grandpa's memories, and murmured loving thank-yous to the woman I had known and loved my whole life as grandma. What a beautiful title, "Grand Mother." It seems so fitting. She did such a beautiful job fulfilling that role, and all her grandchildren and great grandchildren adored her. 

Grandma slipped quietly away last September, just a few weeks after my angel mother accompanied me on yet another long road trip, this time moving our family from Utah to Boston. Grandma was followed in death a couple months later by her bereaved husband, and suddenly I found myself only one generation away from the senior most in my family. I envisioned myself 30 years down the road perhaps experiencing the same with my parents, and I thought I would have plenty of time to enjoy them before I had to bid them farewell.

Around the time grandma passed on, mom started having trouble with her balance. It became more pronounced at the passing of her father. Doctors told her it was probably stress and trauma related, and to get counseling, but new symptoms arose, including short term memory loss. After more tests were done, the doctors finally concluded last week that she most likely has Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a very rare and little understood degenerative brain disease which will rapidly destroy her brain. We don't expect her to live more than a few months more.

As I write this, I am on my way to be with my family and make one last memory with our beloved matriarch. The last time I saw her was at Christmas when my husband and children and I traveled down to spend the week at my parent's house. It was just a regular Christmas. Mom was continuously apologetic that she could not do more to make it special, and I kept assuring her that it was fine, that we were just happy to be there, and could enjoy the holiday without all the extra trappings. Mom spent a lot of her days sleeping, but I did take time to go into her room and visit with her on occasion. Although cheerful, she was baffled by her symptoms, and kept trying to understand what was happening. We hoped it was psychological, and that with help, she would snap out of it and be back to normal. We talked a lot about things that troubled her that might be contributing to her symptoms. Through those conversations, I received a unique insight into the soul of this tender, sensitive, sometimes timid woman, who was nevertheless strong, courageous, and absolutely steadfast in her faith against all odds. She laid bare her heart and her longing to be whole again, whole for the sake of her family, for her husband, children and the grandchildren she adored. It was only a few weeks later that her memory began to fade, and mom truly began to slip away.

Now I'm starting to see the pieces that we are going to have to pick up when she's gone, and although I always knew I have been blessed to have such a woman for my mother, I have never been so struck by the magnitude of her contribution, nor felt so keenly the impossibility of filling in the gap she will leave behind. Mom loved to plan family trips, and since all her children have spread out over the country with our various families, she now takes great delight in planning family reunions. We just had one last summer, but she has already booked the spot for our next one in two years. It will be in Hawaii, her and dad's favorite vacation spot. We haven't had the whole family there since the disastrous rained-out camping trip of '91, a trip we still laugh about and loved anyway. She had just begun planning out all the fun things we would fill our time with, and I'm sure her plans were big. We will each have ideas about what she would have wanted to include, but only she could add that spark of anticipation and excitement. On alternate summers to our reunions, Mom held a summer school for all her elementary school aged grandchildren. This was a continuation of the summer schools she used to organize for us when we were kids to give some structure to the long summer months. She loved education, and taught us all to value it as well. That was to be this coming summer, and I know my kids were looking forward to it. We may try to put something together to take its place, but no one can be "Teacher" like grandma could be. Every grandchild got a handmade quilt when they got baptized. My oldest 2 have their quilts, but I have 3 more that will probably never be wrapped in the love-stitched warmth of a grandma quilt. They have at least 5 other cousins who would also miss that gift. I know how to sew, but I have never quilted, and if I ever learned, I wish it could have been from Mom.

All those things are just peripheral to the wisdom and love and counsel and joie de vivre she filled our lives with. She will leave a very, very big gap. There's no way we can ever replace her or make up for her passing. But she filled our lives in ways that will continue to influence our own families, and many others for good. She never stopped being our mother, and she has given it her all, every moment, her whole life. I can't imagine the Lord being any more pleased than he is with the life she has lived. I can't believe this is happening, but somehow, at the core of it all, I see the hand of God, and his peaceful voice whispering to us all that this was and always has been his plan for his daughter, Kathy. She may leave us feeling incomplete without her, but her life will be perfect in its completion. There is still hope for a miracle healing, and we are putting our trust in God, but should she be called home, she will do so leaving nothing undone that she was meant to do, and for that we can rejoice. 


  1. That was beautifully written. Thank you, Rachel. I have fond memories of being in your home, sharing in some great "Hoffman" activities, and seeing your beautiful mother's smile. Love and prayers are being sent to you and your family at this time.

  2. It doesn't matter how old we are, losing our mother is losing the connection that brought us to earth, and it is difficult. Gratefully, through the knowledge of God's eternal plan for His children peace can be found. Bless you dear Rachel for your goodness and beautiful words, for your life well lived, and for the tribute you are to your mother. I'm sure she is so very proud of you. Please let me know if there is anything I can do during this difficult time. We send our love.

  3. Oh my goodness!! This is so sad and touching.. missing her love and enthusiasm and engagement in your family life will be very hard!! We love her with you. Very thankful for your openness and sincerity to share the pain. She is a wonderful, lovely woman.

  4. Yes Rachel, this is all so shocking to me as well. I love Kathy and she has been a great mentor in my life and in the gospel. I have admired her gospel knowledge and I have learned much from her. Thank you for sharing your wonderful feelings.

  5. I have been in agony for you all since Angie told us Sunday. You all are in our thoughts & prayers. Your angel mother is an example to all of us!

  6. Oh, Rachel! There are no words. I'm so sorry! I'm sorry for the pain you've felt and for the emptiness that will come. My thoughts and prayers are with you all!

  7. Beautifully penned words. Our love to you and your family, Rachel.

  8. This is a beautiful tribute. I will never be able to find words enough to tell you what your mom has meant to me. From being our Nagyanya in my 2nd grade class to being such a dear, sweet, kind, loving friend to me. I cherish the time I have in her home. I feel her here all the time. This has been a shock for all of us. As you say, there is no one more prepared to meet the Savior. Everyone that has ever known her has been touched by her example. I love your mom. You are blessed.
    Kristine Bennett

  9. Rachel,
    Thanks for sharing such personal feelings and emotions with us. We were shocked and saddened by the news of your amazing mother. She was an example of strength and faith to so many. Our love, thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Ursula Bohn

  10. Rachel,
    I just heard about your mother today, and I am so grateful that you wrote this beautiful tribute and shared the details. It was hard enough to have your parents move away. I have so enjoyed depending on her influence in my life that has persisted even with her so far away. I know that her love and service to all of us, especially her beloved family will not be restrained even beyond the veil. When I passed the house today I had such wonderful memories of what a breathtakingly creative and intellectually, and spiritually stimulating place she created. She motivated my love of the scriptures and opened up such a bright vista of doctrine and history that stretched me each time I talked with her or had the benefit of her instruction. I encourage you to write, and write and write and gather up as many detailed memories as you can. While your children may never wrap up in a special grandma made quilt, they should enjoy as many of the rich traditions as possible and have the benefits of her legacy any way they can. You will be amazed at how much of her will carry forward in yourself. Much love to you and your family. Thank you for sharing her with the rest of us.