Sunday, September 27, 2009

Why Bother?

This week I have had many quiet moments where I have thought about the deep stuff. Why are we here? Does what we do in this life matter? You know-the kind of stuff you think about when you attend a funeral. I attended a funeral for a man that served earlier in his life as a Stake President while teaching college here in Durango. He was active in the community and took care of his ailing wife for many years. It was a nice funeral-really long-but nice.

Only a couple of days later, another man in our ward passed away after a battle with cancer. It was during those weekdays, sandwiched between two funerals, when I wrestled in my own mind about what is really important. I ran into my neighbor early one of these mornings as I returned from dropping of the kids at school. We spoke for a while about these two funerals. It was her comments about the second man that got the wheels turning.

The second funeral was for a man that in my mind personified being 'self-sufficient.' Although he was not wealthy by worldly standards, where he lived (on less than an acre), he was able to provide almost all of the food that his family ate. He had over 100 chickens (they sold the eggs), sheep, rabbits, and hogs. His garden was AMAZING! He is actually the man that gave me the start for my blackberry bush a few years back. He grew raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and vegetables of every sort. He grew literally 100s and 100s of pounds of potatoes each growing season. He also had fruit trees lining both sides of his property-apples, pears, plums, and apricots. And this man went hunting every fall to provide meat for the year. He was the seeming poster-boy for provident living.

My neighbor was making that same observation to me. She talked about how he had worked so hard to have food storage and to be self sufficient after which she exclaimed, "For what?!" She literally threw her hand in the air and dropped open her jaw trying to understand what the point of being so 'prepared' was, because, as she put it bluntly-"He died!"

We chatted a little longer, talked about what salads we might make for the funeral luncheon, and then I went back home. And I thought. I wondered. I felt a little conflicted.

I knew it was a good thing to work hard and to grow a garden. But my neighbor's point wasn't lost on me. He worked so hard for his food storage and his garden-and then...he was gone. He didn't live to see some crazy 'last days' scenario where he would survive because he had bottled green beans. He didn't outlive a killer pandemic because he was prepared to hunker down in his well stocked pantry. He didn't even survive some intense drought followed up by some outrageous biblical type plague. No, he didn't go out in a blaze of last-days glory. He just lived. Raised his family. Worked to be self sufficient. Followed the Prophet. And then he died. Leaving behind a years worth of food for someone else to use.

I thought about it for the next day or two before attending his funeral where I listened to the story of his life lived out wholey in Durango. Although he was never wealthy by wordly standards, it was obvious that he was richly blessed. HIs was a life well lived, and it was clear that his family loved him dearly. The final talk of the service was given by two of his daughters. They took turns reading memories of their dad written by his posterity.

There weren't any memories of extravagant presents or exotic trips, in fact, I was impressed how almost all of the stories and experiences were lessons learned and happiness shared right in his back yard. One story of how pulling weeds turned into a lesson on the wheat and the tares was consistent with the theme of many of the fond memories. He was a simple man with simple means, and he simply taught his family the Gospel using dirt, eggs, and various produce as his medium.

He told a son-in-law that the happiest day of his life was when his last child was sealed in the temple, attended by all of his other children and their spouses. I thought in that moment that I would be hard pressed to ask for any greater blessing here on earth. That afternoon I was expressing to John how I had thought about all of the growing, weeding, and canning and how I had wondered if it was all worth it. He finished my thoughts for me when he said "THEY are what it was all for." Of course he was referring to all of this man's posterity and the gospel lessons they reported learning from their granddad 'on the farm.'

Too often I am living with the biblical plague in mind. I forget that sometimes we follow the Prophet just because we do. There is a lot to be learned and much to teach our children in the day to day obedience that we show. I have to say that now and then I like a good funeral to help me remember that there are a million important moments every day in the sometimes seemingly mundane. So I will try to remember that it matters what I do each day. It matters if I am obedient and living a good example for my children to follow. I need to work towards the plague less, and just enjoy the growing season.


Sue said...

Well said.
I just came home this morning from a quick trip to Idaho/Oregon where my grandmother has been in the ICU after finding that her valve replacement from her quadruple bypass 15 years ago is failing and trying to shut down part of her heart. My mom is trying to cope with the thought of having to put her in long term care. My grandma is one of my VERY favorite people. She lives in a humble home and has no money to speak of. But she's kind and thoughtful and loving and all I could think while I was there is that I grow up to be half the woman she is. Thanks for keeping it real, Michelle. You're an amazing person.

meegz said...

Interesting thoughts. I have a couple of of them is a food storage fanatic, the other..not so much. The first, who lives VERY frugal, finally talked the second, who's husband is a Dr. and she's an OT, into getting her years food storage. She got it...then a few months later she has been diagnosed with a rare and terminal breast cancer. The Dr. gave her 18 months to live. Her comment to the 1st: Well, I got my food storage, but now I'm gonna die!

It's crazy how life teaches us lessons. BUT, I have to say, that you are storage is something that she needs to teach her children, even when she's gone, they'll have her lesson taught -- food storage is important.

You're right, it's good to sit back and think these things through now and again -- we do what the prophet says -- because we should, and the Lord takes care of the rest. :)

Mimi said...


Neighbor Jane Payne said...

Simply profound. Thank you for articulating and processing so well these thoughts.

I'm so glad I found you. Thanks for commenting on my blog so that I could read this.