Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ruth Wilson Young, April 15, 1923-July 5, 2008

Besides losing my sister Lynda (see "Lynda Young Tuckett" below), I lost my mother this year--Ruth Wilson Young, a remarkable woman. She was the youngest child in a large family and, for most of her life, was raised by a single mother. Her father, Alfred Raymond Wilson, died when she was four. After that, her mother, Emma Jane Bingham Wilson, also a remarkable woman, raised the large brood on her own, among other things working as a newspaper reporter. Ruth helped with the reporting work at times. My cousin Grace told me that sometimes when my mother--as a teenager, I believe--was taking care of her and both were ready for bed, a phone call would come and Ruth would say, "Get dressed. We have to go cover a fire" (to pick one example).

Ruth earned degrees at BYU (a bachelor's and, in the 1960s, an Ed.D) and Colorado State (a master's). She taught at BYU for several years as a part-time teacher in Home Economics Education--though in reality she put in full-time hours, for instance, driving to various parts of the state to supervise student teachers.

Of course, I knew her best as my mother--and as one of the most powerful influences in my life. For instance, she introduced me to literature, and my love for literature was probably first inspired by hers. She was the mother to six (I'm the oldest). She also served in her community and church. But all of that you can learn more about in the obituary and the talks given at her funeral. (Here are the links: (1) obituary; (2) my talk; (3) my sister Annette's talk; (4) my brother Larry's talk; (5) my brother Daren's talk. Also, (6) the funeral program.)

Here I'll say a bit more about the events leading up to her death--with maybe just a bit after that on the funeral.

For years, especially after being hit by a truck in 1987, she has suffered from pain and from sleeping problems. But things got worse recently, especially after Lynda's death. Though Mom appeared stoic in her response to losing another daughter, Lynda's death probably hit her quite hard. She was suffering from what appeared to be depression. I took her to the doctor's, where she was prescribed a couple of medications to help with the pain and the sleep issues. They didn't help much. I then got her doctor to prescribe something for depression. (By the way, I did much of this with the strong encouragement of my brothers, who don't live as close as I do, but who are wiser and more attentive in many ways.) She was staying in bed most of the time and having difficulty taking care of herself. My brother Larry, who lives in Washington state, came down on June 16, I believe, and a day or two after that had my brother Daren and me meet with him and a medical person at Cove Point retirement center (where Mom and Dad were staying) to assess the situation. We decided that she needed to go the hospital.

She was hospitalized from that point on. It turns out she was in worse shape even than we had realized, especially with breathing problems. Larry spent time with her and with Dad that week. Daren also came down to spend time with them. I soon began visiting daily. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to spend lots of time for a couple of weeks. About two weeks before she entered the hospital, I had been given June 23 as a deadline to get my book manuscript in to the publisher. I managed to get everything but one chapter in on that date. The remaining chapter came in on June 30. The memory of being torn between these two duties--getting the book project finished and spending time with my mother--is still painful. But it's painful not so much because I wasn't able to spend a lot of time with her during part of her time in the hospital--I did end up visiting her daily for most of the time she was there, and after the book was in, the visits were longer. My main regret is that I hadn't spent more time with her before she entered the hospital. I kept in touch frequently and visited periodically. But I had always had it in my mind that we would have long talks; I would learn more about her life; I would get closer to her and make sure she knew of my love and gratitude. By the time she entered the hospital, it was hard to have conversations with her. And it became almost impossible after they started trying to work with her breathing problems. She had an oxygen mask on much of the time, usually a full face mask that made it hard for her to communicate and hard for anyone else to understand her. Little fragments of communication were drawn out.

I did, though, manage to repeatedly express my love for her, by saying the words but also by holding her hand. I showed her the cover for my book; I told her the book was dedicated to her and Dad; I even printed up a copy and left it with her, hoping she would recover and be able to read it. I think I may have left it on July 4 or at most a day or two earlier than that.

I visited on July 4, in the evening. She seemed in good spirits. Her room had a nice view of the stadium where the fireworks show would take place later that night. She wanted to see it. I asked a nurse to check later and see if she was awake for the show. My mother said things that showed she was a bit disoriented but that touched me because they showed she was thinking of me and my family. She asked how my son Rob was doing and if he was enjoying school. She also asked about my work--was another semester starting, etc.

My Dad and I visited with her the next morning. She seemed tired and so we didn't stay long. Then that afternoon--I think some time around 2 or 3--my brother Larry called and said, "Mom has died." It felt as if I'd been slugged in the stomach. I had known it was a possibility, and we had been worried that her recovery seemed to be taking so long. But she had seemed to be making progress in many ways, and I really was looking forward to having her be back in a state that would allow me to do more things with her and spend more time talking with her.

Larry suggested that I should tell Dad in person. Margaret and I went to Cove Point, found him playing bingo. I got him to come out in the hall with me and told him Mom had died. He almost collapsed. He was in pain, saying he'd always thought he would go first. Margaret and I spent some time with him. Then Daren and Steve Fisher came down, went to the hospital with Margaret to collect Mom's things and be there when the mortuary folks arrived.

For the next several days we went through quite an intense time of being with each other as family and working with the mortuary on funeral and burial plans. The funeral took place on July 10. It was a truly beautiful funeral, just about exactly an hour long (which Mom had requested). We followed her plans pretty closely, but with a few modifications (maybe even improvements). Everything went almost perfectly; there was a wonderful spirit through all the events--viewing, funeral, burial, luncheon. Lots of family and friends came. We have a loving extended family, many of whom felt very, very close to Ruth. Besides the talks (see the links above), here are links to some of the comments people sent: "Guest book, part 1"; "Guest book, part 2."

I'll conclude with a bit of my talk (you can find the whole thing here):

I miss my Mom. I miss her beautiful smile; the joy you can see in some of the pictures we have of her. (It was difficult for her to smile the last while; we had to ask her to smile; and it took some effort.)

Like all of us, she wanted to be loved. I hope she knows she was deeply, deeply loved. My Dad especially showed that love by his tender care for her in her last weeks.

My biggest ache as she struggled the last few weeks was that I wanted to hear her talk (I would have been happy hearing her talk for hours). But I realize now that I also want to hold her hand, and embrace her. The apostle Paul wrote that, if Christ was not resurrected, we (who believe in him) are of all men, most miserable. I have sometimes wondered why the resurrection is such an important doctrine of the gospel. Some of us enjoy talking and thinking so much that we can imagine that life as a disembodied spirit might not be all that bad. But the scriptures tell us that in reality, we would consider the lack of a physical body a limitation, even a kind of bondage; for "spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fullness of joy; and when separated, [we] cannot receive a fullness of joy" (D&C 93:33-34).

As I've lost two sisters and now my mother, I've realized one reason the resurrection of the body is so important. I don't just want to talk with my sisters and my mother again--I want to see them in their full physical warmth and reality, and embrace them, and feel the bond of love we share not just mentally, but spiritually and physically.

This loss has been very hard for us. But we have also felt peace as we've realized that our mother is now with two precious daughters, with her mother, and with the father that she hardly knew (since he died when she was a small child). She was also the last of her siblings to go, and so she has completed that family circle. I am sure there have been and continue to be sweet reunions.

I am grateful for a loving heavenly Father who has placed us in families where we can feel what we feel for each other, and learn to love and serve and care for each other; and I am grateful to our Savior Jesus Christ for giving us the hope of redemption and resurrection, and of an eternal reunion with those our hearts have become so strongly connected with.

Thank you, mother, for your wonderful gifts and for your magnificent life.


dramatic sporano said...

A beautiful tribute.

Garry Wilmore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Garry Wilmore said...

I agree with the preceding comment. I am getting older now, which means I spend a lot of time thinking about my own mortality, and I enjoy reading obituaries and other tributes to lives well and fully lived. You done your mother real good with this one, Bruce.

Mjby said...

Bruce Young, please update your profile. You have THREE grandchildren, and the third is almost two months old.

Keith L. Brown said...

What a beautiful, loving tribute to your mother. I know somewhat of the pain and loss of someone so dear as a mother. My own mother passed away in June 1997 after a battle with breast cancer at the young age of 59. I was thousands of miles away on the other side of the world in the country of Iceland on active military duty (U.S. Navy) when I received the call that she had been rushed to the hospital. I miss her dearly and cherish the sweet memories of her. She, as I am sure the same with your mother, was a rare and polished jewel. I gave a Sacrament talk based on my love for my mother on Mother's Day, 8 May 2005, which you can read by going to Take care and God bless.

Bruce Young said...

Keith, thanks for your comments on this and other items on my blog. Do you know my wife Margaret? (If not, you definitely should.) How about our good friend Darius Gray? I don't know whether I've met you, but I've looked at some of what you've posted at the following addresses:

I assume these are all from you.

Keith L. Brown said...

Good evening from Annapolis Maryland. We have not met, but I do know your wife Margaret via email. I hope that you have enjoyed my writings that you have had a chance to read thus far. I really enjoy your blog and have it as one of the blogs that I am following and as a featured blog on my blog page at I have never met Darius Gray but hope to some day as well as having the opportunity to meet Brother Joseph Freeman some day. Take care of yourself and God bless.