Mormons don’t wear crosses, actually.
Because we believe the atonement was worked out in the Garden of Gethsemane, and focus on the miracle of the resurrection, we understand the cross to be the mode of death.
So wearing a cross would feel like wearing an electric chair.
That’s why we quietly refrain amidst other Christians who express devotion through jewelry and other icons, sometimes even with the body of the Savior still hanging there.
My mother, however, who was very adamantly “not yet a Mormon”, sought a compromise. She had an old rosary a catholic friend had given her, and many cross necklaces collected during her years as a Baptist music minister’s wife. But once she started going to church with me, she wore a very specific cross everyday. It was a gold cross with a rose on it, and she often made the point to show it to my Mormon friends so they would know she wasn’t Mormon, but also point out the rose and tell them she knew the resurrection was the most important part.
That’s when I would be sassy and tell her it was a Rose of Sharon, which was about the gathering of Israel, which was very Mormon of her to support.
She would roll her eyes and match me for sass, saying she didn’t understand how she raised a daughter who thought it was fun to run off to war zones alone, and that if she knew I was going behind enemy lines to try and rescue church members and Jews, the she never would have let me read The Hiding Place when I was in second grade.
I was quick to assure her it was all her fault, and that I got my independent and feisty spirit from her.
That’s when she would smile and say “I know”, very proud of herself, and then get a faraway look in her eyes and say something about how I was living every adventure she ever dreamed of, and that she was glad I never took life for granted and lived every moment fully.
That’s when the sass would wash out of me, rinsed away by the tears in my eyes, and I would thank her. Really. Because I know she sacrificed everything for us, and that all my best gifts were from her.
That’s when we would exchange a look, heavy with a million unsaid things, because it was true all the living I did was because of the kind of life she made possible for me, and that it was only because she dared to dream it for her but mostly spent her life making it happen for me.
Today was a lot of living.
We let the kids sleep in while we worked on the turkey, but once it was cooking we got them up for breakfast and showers and getting dressed.
That is a serious chunk of time and energy when you have six kids, I just want to point out.
We then practiced the thanksgiving songs Nathan taught them at family home evening, piled into the car, and then drove around trying to catch friends at home where we could carol them! Yes! We went thanksgiving caroling, singing about a turkey that didn’t want to die, and had so much fun!
We went home for lunch, and Nathan drove two hours to pick up our first 5 that has been in the hospital for two months, then drove another hour to pick up 12 who has been in a different home the last month, and the drove another hour to pick up their parents. Then he drove an hour and a half to get to HIS parents, where we met them for dinner.
In the meantime, I finished the turkey, made volcano potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, glazed carrots, two kinds of squash, three kinds of cranberries, a pecan pie, and bathed the baby (again).
Oh, and also, I fed the kids lunch, during which they were crazy noisy and the fridge was a mess from the turkeys and I was trying to hurry… So I maybe accidentally put horseradish on their ham sandwiches instead of mayo. Epic fail, and way more funny to me than to them.
It kind of was symbolic of the day, really, in a Passover-on-Chanukah kind of way.
We left in time to meet Nathan and his crew at Nathan’s parents, where his sister and brother-in-law have been staying this week.
It was nuts. Crazysauce! So loud! I love being surrounded by family, but get so dizzy and nauseous from the noise, often miss comments made to me so I fail conversation, and get confused about what the actual problem is with the kids and so get in the way when I try to help. I hate it, that noise.
But the people? I love them, and we had a delightful time.
I wanted to cry when I saw 5 (the first, not our now-5) and when I hugged 12, but the parents were there so it is awkward because they aren’t my kids. Besides, the parents must miss them even more, right? We set them up a table of their own in the other room so they could have an actual meal together in privacy, their first in five months, and just let them be. Even though I was dying to hug up 5 and 12 and get their stories and sing their songs.
Oh, except I can’t sing because I have had no voice for two days. I have been super sick, except allegedly not contagious. It’s the same thing as always: my stupid messed up lungs leftover from my messed up heart that is so miraculously healed. I can’t get the stomach flu for three days, and the drown in viral asthma phlegm for the next six weeks. It’s too gross to blog, but terrifying enough I never know if another breath will actually come once the coughing starts. It is painful and exhausting, but today was important and enduring is what we do.
At 6pm, it was time for 7 (the girl one) to say goodbye to her parents and brother and sister, and I spent the last four hours driving them all home. Nathan stayed with our other kids to visit with his family, talk about thanksgiving, and share his testimony before bringing them home to watch an old black and white movie with subtitles.
I am almost home, but had to pull over to cough and then needed words to pour out instead of tears.
Because it is my first thanksgiving without my mom, you know.
And I had to drive (twice) by the car accident site, and drop off the parents down the street from the hospital where she died.
I can’t believe she wasn’t here for carmel covered cheetoes (even if they were gross).
Except she was.
Except she is.
And I wanted to remember that today. It was my goal. Instead of losing myself in mourning, I wanted to celebrate with her because I know she is.
Because temple covenants.
Because sometimes when I miss her lots, I provoke her by using the new online lingo where you turn “because” into an infinitive. That would have made her crazy.
Anyway, so I tried to live today consciously and proactively, instead of missing it for crying.
That’s why I wore her cross today, the one with the rose.
But I wore it tucked under my shirt because I want to be a good Mormon.
But today I needed to feel her, something physical, to remember her spirit is near, to feel it true.
And I did.
And it was special.
And I was okay.
With only a few moments if hiding, and only a few tears shed.
I think the coughing helped, really, because everyone knows crying only makes you cough harder, so why bother.
Many thanks to those who endured our songs this morning. It was good for the kids. And for me, it was way better than hiding under the covers being a crybaby.
Now. Let’s do Christmas and get it over with. Good times.
Really. Just don’t forget the horseradish.