Thursday, March 24, 2016

Happy 65th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

 This will be my last anniversary post and it's all pictures.  Some of my favorites...

Dad said that they moved up their wedding because it was just too hard to be apart while he was in school in Lewiston and Mom was in Nampa
What a great family they created!

I love their smiles in this picture!

Mom and Dad were always a very striking couple!

This was in Monticello at the first Frank Park family reunion.

Dad got a book for his 80th birthday in 2010.

Not too many couples can still fit into their high school sweaters 65+ years after graduation!

What would mom want me to say?

I really struggled trying to write a talk to give at mom's funeral. When it's your mom, it has to be better than just okay and I wasn't even getting close to that.  The words just weren't coming, no matter how many hours I spent trying to coax them out. To add to my frustration, the cough I'd had for five weeks was not going away.  

After falling in bed exhausted and sleeping soundly for nearly ten hours, I woke with the sudden thought, "What would mom want me to say?" I jumped out of bed and began typing as fast as I could.  

I think mom would hope that we knew how very much she loved each one of us.

I think mom would want us to remember how much she loved nature- birds, animals, insects, flowers, and I think she would want us to love them too.

I think it would make mom happy if you thought of her once in awhile when you listened to Country Western music. 

I think mom would want us to know that it’s okay to take the time to do and to look your best. In a world where we try to do the least amount of work to get the job done the quickest, mom understood the importance of taking a few more minutes to do and look her best.

I think mom would want us to take care of dad.

Most of all, I think mom would want us to do whatever it takes to keep our family together forever. That has always been her goal... and mine!

A Story from My Journal

It’s been over 30 years since my sister’s death. 

Last week, I attended the final musical production of Dixie High’s Mary Poppins. This marked the last theatrical production for director Russ Saxton, who is retiring after 32 years. Before the show began, the mayor of St. George gave him a key to the city, acknowledging his tremendous influence in the lives of so many.

I felt a sweet satisfaction. Many years before, my sister Kris had invited Russ into our home, to receive the missionary discussions. He accepted the invitation to be baptised, later served a mission, married a wonderful Mormon girl, and ended up in St. George, Utah. His influence on this community has been tremendous.

I looked for Russ at the intermission of Mary Poppins. I gave him a hug and said, “I’m here for Kris.” This gentle giant of a man dissolved into tears which made the experience even more sweet.

Diana's dream

Diana Jean, who is named after her Grandmother, Barbara Jean gave me permission to share a dream that she had just a few days before mom died. 

In Diana’s words… Last night I had a dream that we were able to go to a big house where we could see family members that had passed away. When we were walking through, grandma appeared but she was kind of blurry like she wasn’t quite there yet. Sitting right next to her was her mom and she was holding grandma’s hand really tight and helping her to understand where she was. I remember thinking how good and young both grandma and great grandma looked and that they were happy...

I think Diana’s dream beautifully captures what I believe …It is my firm conviction that we lived as spirits before we were born, that we shouted for joy at the chance to receive a physical body and gain earthly experience and that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will all return to live with Heavenly Father again. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. I know I will see my mother again, and that her mind and her body will be perfect.

-Kris's journal

I loved this from Kris’s journal. She recorded Mom’s "Kiss in the hand" with her students

...You tell the children that you're going to give them something special and that it can always be with them, and if they ever feel lonely or scared or sad, they can look at it and remember that she loved them so very much and that they were special. Then she had each child come up and she kissed the palm of their hand and had them close their fist up tight so it would always be there!

Would I Give Up the Blessings?

When Kris was sick, I remember riding the hospital elevator down to the main floor of the University of Utah Hospital, after our visits with her. We would pass the burn unit on our way down and sometimes someone from that floor would get on the elevator. I remember a silent prayer I once offered while riding in the elevator, “Heavenly Father, it would be okay with me if Kris’s face was disfigured and scarred from burns. Please, just let her live.”

Many years later, I was reminded of those thoughts as I contemplated the many blessings that had come to us since Kris's death, some of them, because of Kris’s death. My Grandpa Shurtliff became active in Church for the first time since he was a young boy. He and Grandma were sealed in the temple and became ordinance workers. My Dad was baptised. He and mom were sealed to one another and to we three children. Sandee became my bonus sister. I gained a greater understanding of the Plan of Salvation. It is a very long list.

It occurred to me that if Heavenly Father had come to me when Kris was dying and offered to save her life, but with the condition that I give up all the blessings that would come to us if she died, then I would not have hesitated even one second. I would have said, “Yes, let her live! No other blessing could be worth more than having Kris with us.”

But, today, my perspective has changed. Today, my answer would be, “Even though this has been one of the hardest trials of my life, I would not be willing to give up the blessings that have come because of Kris’s death.”

It's More Important to Be Nice

Mom truly was a virtuous woman. One of her favorite quotes was, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” She lived that.

Recently, Dad was going through some of mom’s old papers from college, and he discovered a series of letters between mom and Nampa High school that showed a side of mom that some of us didn’t know existed, not even dad.

In the first letter addressed to the Nampa high school principal, mom writes that her high school transcript did not credit her with having taken American Government when she was a senior. She requested that they correct the transcript for her college records so that she could graduate.

She received a letter back from the high school registrar that reads in part, “I am sorry but Government was not taught in the 12th grade until long after you had graduated. Sorry I couldn’t be of any help to you concerning this matter.”

Mom replied to that letter,

Dear Sir:

“...I am enclosing a copy of my report card which shows that I did take American Government when I was a Senior...she then described the class, the teacher, even a reference to the high school yearbook , made a second request for a corrected transcript and closed with these very nice words....I realize that this may be an inconvenience to you and I am truly sorry, but at the same time I did take the class and it is very important to me that this be cleared up as soon as possible.”

The next letter was from the registrar; a revised, corrected copy of mom’s high school transcript with a note of apology attached, admitting their mistake.

Mom could be stubbornly persistent when she knew she was right, but she was always nice about it.

Mom’s Genuine Belief in Me

One of the talks I had with mom that meant the most to me occurred about ten years after Kris died.  I had silently struggled to come to terms with my sister’s death.  I understood the Plan of Salvation,  I knew I would see Kris again, but I missed her terribly!  There were many times when I would steal away by myself to cry silent, lonely tears of unspeakable grief. 

It became my desire to write a play in honor of Kris, which I felt would be a fitting tribute to her.  But I was afraid I couldn’t do it.  It was an enormous undertaking for someone with no experience.  

During one of our late night talks, I confided in mom.  She was the first person I had the courage to tell about the play, and I still remember her response.  It was instant belief.  She looked at me and said, “Oh, please write it!”  There was not the slightest doubt in her mind that I could do it.  And she truly wanted me to. 

I will be forever grateful for mom’s encouragement to me that night. She gave me the courage to do something really hard, but there was so much more to it than that.

During the final days of writing Kris’s play, I realized, with amazement, that the unspeakable grief I once felt for the loss of my sister had been replaced with grateful appreciation for the blessings that have come through this trial.  I will be forever grateful for my testimony of  God’s Eternal Plan of Happiness.

Missing Mom

So many people have offered their condolences to me after mom’s death.  They speak of my loss and the tremendous hole it leaves in my life.  

But it hasn’t been that way for me.  Maybe it’s because I have been missing mom for years.  I have especially longed for the late night talks we used to enjoy.  So, if anything, my heart is lighter since her death, because now I can finally talk to her again, and know that she is listening. In the few weeks since her death, I have talked to her when I am frustrated or angry and sometimes I feel her by my side and it calms me.  I had a sweet experience recently that left me feeling happy inside.

Mike and I were visiting Disneyland with some of our kids and grandkids. It's A Small World has always been my favorite ride, ever since my sisters and I discovered it with mom and dad while on our first Disneyland vacation many years ago. So it was more than a little delightful for me to hear my granddaughter, Ramsi Lin singing along to the song as we floated through that attraction. 

I'm not sure if it was Ramsi's singing or the magic of Disneyland, but I found myself singing along, too, at the top of my lungs. And that made me think of our nightly drives whenever I was in Lewiston. Dad usually had some country western music playing and mom would sing along, with a great deal of enthusiasm.  

She couldn't always remember what day it was or even who I was, but she could belt out every word of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" or Buck Owens' "Tiger By the Tail".  

No doubt about it. Mom loved to sing. And, for just the briefest of moments, she was there with us at Disneyland, singing along with Ramsi and I.  

It felt so good.

More Excerpts from Mom's Book

I love Mom because many of my friends have become her friends as well. When she found out that our friend Ken would be receiving his Silver Beaver award on the same evening Rob would receive his, she and Dad made it a point to find him that night, congratulate him and give him a gift. --Linda

A very sweet memory I have of Grandma is when she and Grandpa helped us move into our apartment in Las Vegas. Grandma felt bad that she couldn't help lift any of the boxes - but she ended up being a wonderful help! The whole time, Grandma pushed Lydia around in her stroller. She kept her happy by showing her flowers and animals and talking to her. It was so fun for me to watch, and Grandma got great joy out of it as well.  --Jamie

I remember when I was in first grade, I took Grandma with me to school. She was my "show and tell." I told all of the kids that my Grandma used to be a school teacher. After Grandma left, one of the kids that sat at my table said, "I never knew that teachers could be so nice." I said, "Yes, and she's my Grandma."--Nate

One special memory I have of Mom Park is when they came for Jake's high school graduation. Russ Saxton's oldest son had died in a boating accident that weekend. I remember the urgency Mom and Dad felt to go to Russ's home and give comfort to their dear friend. I will never forget when Russ saw them standing at his door, he ran and hugged them and through his tears said, “I knew you would come, I knew you would come.” --Sandee

One of my most treasured memories of Mom is of when you came and stayed when Michael was born. Since I had to be on bedrest before and after his birth I don't know what we would have done without you! I do know that taking care of so many children's needs, as well as Bruce and me, while in your sixties couldn't have been easy, yet when I picture you during that time I only remember you smiling! You never seemed to lose patience, or get tired of us, and when you left, we all wished you could have stayed. --Babz 

As we've gotten older, several of us cousins have ended up in the northern Utah area. Unfortunately, we've struggled to ever meet and do things together as a family. This summer,  (2007) Grandma and Grandpa helped change that. They told us an evening they would be in SLC and asked if we could all get together for dinner.  In total, sixteen of us were able to make it.  (Good thing Grandpa and Grandma picked up the check!)  Grandma was concerned because she wished they would have had a large round table in the restaurant so we could all talk with each other, but we made up for it in the parking lot afterwards.  We spent at least an hour talking and catching up on each others' lives.  --Vince, Meagan, Aspen,  Kylie and Sadie

Excerpts from Mom's Book

I shared a lot of excerpts from Mom's book at her funeral, and  I thought it would be nice to post some of them here. 

To write a testimonial about Barb and keep it short would be difficult. -Uncle Bill 

I love Grandma because she is so easy to talk to; she always makes you feel like you are the smartest, most advanced kid your age. Now that I have a son, she does the same thing with him. -Kristalyn

I love Mom because she never gets tired of listening! We can talk for hours and I know she is as interested at midnight as she was when we first started talking. --Babz

I love Grandma because she never fails to give me a hug every time that I see her --David, Chuck

Mom Park has always been a mother instead of a mother-in-law. --Mike

I love Mom because of all the times we've laughed until we cried. --Babz

I would hear great reports about Mrs. Park at Lapwai and be so proud to know that you were my aunt. --Jeanine

Every time Grandma & Grandpa would come to see one of my games, I wanted to play my best and try harder because they were there. --Scott

When Grandma Park used to tell me she thought I should be a soap opera star, it would make me feel handsome! --Jake

I love Grandma because of the great friendship she has with my mom. --Aspen

I remember Grandma had these wonderful boxes of trinkets that she would pull out when we came to visit. My favorite was the box of buttons. --Aspen

I love Grandma because whenever we have our "roar" after family prayers she is always the loudest one! -- Michael

We remember getting to feed the birds at your house and watching them flock to the yard to eat.--Sasha and Mickala

I love Grandma because I always knew I was her favorite! --Vince

Grandma Park has the kindest, most gentle eyes! --Jake

Mom always played nice in the early years when card games could sometimes get a bit out of hand. --Rob

I love mom because whenever we talk I feel comfortable. I am never at a loss for words; You are fun to listen to and you never pass judgement on me or disagree with anything I say. -Bruce

You and Uncle Bus were always there for us.--Jeanette

I remember when I came out to your school and set up the fish tank for you. ---Wendell

There are two sure signs that say Grandma is at my house: When I open the dishwasher to unload it, it has already been done, and on the rare occasions it's not, I find zip lock baggies in there ready to be washed. -- Katie

I have watched Grandma write cards and Christmas letters. She has erased, rewritten and erased again until it is just right. This makes me know that the cards I receive were written with much thought, and I treasure them. -Diana

I remember helping Grandma type up her very first email! She thought it was the most amazing thing that I could backspace and the text would be gone! --Kristin

I love Grandma because she has always treated me like I was one of her own granddaughters, even from the first time we met.--Meagan

I love to see how important it is to her to hear the great grandkids call her G.G.. -Brandon

Through the years Mom has endured my affectionate teasing with grace and dignity. 


I love Grandma because no matter how much we tease her she never allows herself to be offended. --Aspen

I remember staying up late one night when Grandma and Grandpa were in town. Mom was in bed and we decided to sneak around the house to knock on her window and scare her. When Dad unexpectedly came home, we all ran into the kitchen; worried about getting in trouble, but I remember Grandma looking the most concerned and running into the kitchen the fastest. --Annie

I remember when we were in Idaho to visit and we went to get something at the store. We were on the way back to the house and Grandma stopped at a red light. While the light was still red she took off through the intersection. I was a little scared, but it was great! --Paul

I remember going to the Dixie State game one weekend in October.  Cindy was in Colorado but told me that Grandma and Grandpa were going to be at the game. I think I may have scared them when I surprised them by showing up with a beard and longer hair. I had such a good time sitting and talking with them during halftime and the third quarter.  Even without Cindy, I felt like they enjoyed talking to me and hearing how things were going.  They are the coolest older people I know.  --AJ

Mom’s Book

Shortly before Mom’s 75th birthday in 2007, I decided to make her a book, containing short thoughts from all her family and friends. That was before the days of Facebook or Instagram, so I had to send out written letters and emails, requesting memories and thoughts about mom. I envisioned typing up the responses on note cards and having them spiral bound. About that time, I attended a craft show in Vernal and stopped at a booth advertising online scrapbooks created from digital photos and text. I loved what I saw and decided I should make mom's book using this program. I went home and worked for a solid week, trying to learn the program. But, at the end of the week, I did not have even one picture on one page to show for all my efforts.  I tried so hard. Finally, after going to bed at 2:30 one night (morning) I told Mike I had decided to scrap my plans for the Heritage Makers book. I'd have to be satisfied with the way I had originally planned it on card stock and wire bound.
That afternoon, Mike and I went to the temple. During our session, an unexpected thought came to me that, to this day, I still remember clearly. “You will find a way to make this book using the Heritage Makers program. Years from now, you will be glad you did.” On the way home from the temple, another thought popped into my mind, “Your daughters and your nieces can help with this. They are far more computer savvy than you are.” So I went home and sent them all an email. Cindy e-mailed me back almost immediately, saying she would be delighted to help. Throughout the night, it continued. Annie and Russ got online and were immediately able to format pages. Diana e-mailed me several times that night, and Kristi called and uploaded pictures to the site. Jamie got Rob to upload a huge file of pictures as well, and Sasha came up and spent several hours learning how the program works. We created the book in eight days. It will always be one of the best memories of my life. It was satisfying and humbling to see these grandkids bond together, spending hours on a project in honor of the grandmother they all loved. It became their gift to her! Many of us gathered in Salt Lake to present the book to mom on her birthday. As she began to read it, mom looked up at us and said, “I want to be buried with this book!” (she was!) I assumed that the thought I had, “Years from now you will be happy that you did” meant that the book would be a nice keepsake, but it became much more than that.  

In just a few short years, mom’s memory was gone and she had become anxious and easily agitated. One of the very few things that could calm her down was when we would sit and read from her book. It was amazing and delightful for us to have her read comments over and over again, always reacting as if she was hearing them for the first time! “Years from now you will be glad you did” had taken on a whole new meaning.  

And then last summer, something very special happened. It was mom's last visit to our home in St. George.  We realized that her Alzheimer's had progressed to the point where it was no longer safe for mom and dad to travel.  After a long night, and a particularly stressful morning, all of us were exhausted. I had reached the point where I had begun to forget what it was like before Alzheimer's.

I got out mom's book. Mom and I took turns reading. (Fortunately, mom's ability to read was never taken from her) As she sat and read stories and memories of her past, I was suddenly overwhelmed with deep gratitude. For a brief moment, I had my mom back. And the words, “Years from now, you will be glad you did.” came to my mind.

In that instant, I realized that the "you" who would be glad was me! A loving Heavenly Father who knew the end from the beginning had planned and provided a way, not only for mom to have some comfort during her illness, but to provide a grief stricken daughter some comfort as well. What a sweet and tender mercy that was!

Great Grandma GG

Mom loved little kids right to the very end. And she especially loved her great grandkids. My niece’s son, Jack had a very special relationship with his Great Grandma GG. He got to spend a few days up in Lewiston last summer and she and Jack bonded in such a sweet way, as they played peek-a-boo and she held him on her lap. After they returned to Denver, Jack often mentioned that he loved and missed GG.

Babz and I were talking on the stairway the morning after the funeral when Jack joined us. Pointing to me Babz said, “Do you remember who this is?” With a nod of his head, little Jack proudly stated that I was “Great Grandma GG”. It melted my heart, even though Babz was a little embarrassed. I think she was worried that I would be offended. Quite the opposite, I felt a little like the baby skunk in Disney’s Bambi. “That’s all right. He can call me Flower (GG) if he wants to. I don’t mind!”

Mom and Dad's Anniversary

Today is Mom and Dad's 65th Anniversary.  They won't be able to celebrate it together, and that's going to be especially hard on dad.  In anticipation of this day, I decided to add some posts to my blog.  A new one will be posted every hour or so throughout the day.  Most of the posts are about mom; things I said at her funeral and other thoughts I've had since her death. There are also a few posts about Kris.  I hope they bring a little sunshine.  Love you, dad!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Mike and I were asked to participate in our ward Christmas program this year. It was such a good experience for us! I wanted to share it with my dad this Christmas, so I am adding it to our blog. (When we presented it to our ward, we had a large screen that we projected pictures onto. Mike and I took turns talking as the pictures were displayed.)


When Kristin asked us if we would participate in the program tonight, she mentioned that she wanted to show a short Youtube video; and wondered if I had seen it.
It was a nativity production, featuring the Piano Guys, David Archuleta,  and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, with a Christmas ornament at the end.  

I excitedly told her,

“We are in that video!  Mike and I are a part of the nativity ornament!”

We thought it would be fun to share with you some behind-the-scenes stories about our experience.

We first became aware of this video project through our friends, Ray and Jill Eves, a couple we met while on our mission to Samoa. Their son Derral, was the associate producer of the video, so we have a lot of insider information!


For instance, from start to finish, the video was conceived, funded and produced in just 6 weeks, which was nothing short of miraculous!


This was the brainchild of the organization known as RADIANT- a nondenominational interfaith foundation established to promote Christ in the world.  

Their idea was to break the Guinness world record for number of people in a live nativity.  


Filming took place at Rock Canyon Park in Provo, Utah.  Most of us were angels who came together at the end of the video to create a living ornament.

To accomplish that, we were assigned individual places on the field which had been mapped into a grid. Here I am, pointing to my spot on the grid.


Here’s a better view of the grid.

The grid covered over 42,000 square feet.

It took a crew of 3 people 2 full days to mark it out on the field

Over 800 people were needed to fill the spaces on the grid. Here are a few people looking for their spots.


The "angel costumes we wore were made from a lightweight fabric, like you find on box springs.

There was a circular tube at the bottom  and battery powered lights.

It slipped over your head and was really ugly and awkward to wear,

but so effective when it got dark!
It took an army of 50 families to sew all those costumes.  


A camera was suspended up in the sky to shoot the final nativity scene picture.

Weather balloons were attached to the stabilized camera.

They had to tether the balloons together.

The weather had to be perfect for this to work.  


One of the many miracles that took place on the day we filmed was that the Lord tempered the weather, which was really important, because we had to be there all day long, even though the actual filming could not take place until it got dark.


Originally, a storm was forecast for that day. But, as you can see, we had blue skies and sunshine! 

Once the sun went down, however, it got very cold! Every one of us was shivering as we waited for the filming of the ornament scene.  Had it been stormy weather, we would have become so chilled during the day that  many of us would not have lasted.


At one point, we needed to be counted, to see if there were enough of us to set a new world record. (If you look really close, you can see Mike and I in this picture!)

 They corralled us all into a central spot where we nervously waited as the last few stragglers trickled in.
Suddenly, a large group of people arrived, all dressed in white.  They belonged to one of the local Christian churches, had heard about the event, and had come to join with the many others, all celebrating the birth of Christ.  That was one of my favorite memories of the day.


The ornament scene at the end was actually produced backwards.

We all started out on our designated square and then dispersed into the outer fields.  When the video was produced, it was played in reverse.


I was so excited to see this video! But,  I’ll never forget my initial disappointment!  After having spent an entire day, and nearly freezing to death before  we were finished, our part  was reduced to a second or two at the very end and my tiny little light was indistinguishable from all the others!  


Well, I watched it again, got over myself, and began to understand just what an honor it was to have been even a tiny part of that great whole.

Several years ago, I received an oil painting from a dear friend. One morning, as I was admiring the fine details of the painting, it suddenly occurred to me that this beautiful rose bouquet had started out as an empty canvas.  My artist friend had added every detail- every single speck of paint had been thoughtfully and purposely placed.  

Heavenly Father has created in the human race, his masterpiece.  Each one of us is just a tiny part of the great whole, but He knows where we are because He put us in the picture!  

We did set a new  Guinness world record for number of people in a live nativity, but it is important to note that the original record still stands. Each one of us here tonight was there that night over 2 millennia ago, when our Savior and King was born in a stable and laid in a manger.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"... and 38 others like this."

According to my daughter's blog, it's been nine months since I last posted.  That's too long for a catch-up post.  Way too many things to leave out.  Way too many pictures to put a caption to.  Not enough time to do a proper job of it.  So, I will begin with last week and move forward.  That's a much more attainable goal.  To begin, I want to share a life lesson from a recent facebook post.

Last week, I posted this picture of Mike and I at the Payson Utah Temple open house.    I debated posting it because...well, look at me!   After getting 3 hours of sleep the night before and unsuccessfully trying to sleep in the car on the way up, I was a wrinkled mess.  Not only that, but the wind was blowing and it was raining outside which wrecked havoc with my uncontrollable hair (which was waiting to be cut by Sasha the minute we got to Vernal the next day).  It's an okay picture of Mike; he has always been handsome and can pull off a good look most of the time. And the Payson Temple is truly one of the most gorgeous temples I have ever seen.

So, even though I really did not want to post such an unflattering picture of me,  I was brave and did it anyway.

I had so many nice comments, saying things like, "beautiful" "still looking good..." "I like it!" "Oh so cute, luv you".  There was a comment from an old college roommate who I hadn't seen in 40 years who said I looked the same. (I loved that one!)  Perhaps my favorite comment was the one that said, "This photo just makes me happy."

The "likes" kept coming in for days.  I was so surprised.  It made me feel so good.  I learned a couple of lessons from the experience.

First, with a good looking man by your side, and a temple as your backdrop, you really can't go wrong.  

Second, going out of your comfort zone takes courage, but it is worth it.