When a person passes from this earth, we reflect on that person's life, how they lived and the impact they had on our lives. Unfortunately, I have had this opportunity with members of my family, with whom I had a close bond. Starting with my dear Grandma, Ona Shippen, and her kind loving ways. And then my Grandpa, Tom Shippen, and his tough exterior, yet unwavering faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And then my mom, who was one of my best friends and biggest cheerleaders, who stared down challenges and walked through life's storms with unbelievable strength.
Most recently with the passing of Bill's mom, I have reflected on the woman she was and the incredible influence she had on the lives of so many. Although she was my mother in law, we were very close. I learned so much from her. She taught me how to be a mother in law. She taught me to not sweat the small stuff. She taught me how to love unconditionally. She taught me that baby blessings and baptisms and ordinations and Eagle Scout awards and high school graduations and missionary farewells and homecomings are events too important to miss. She taught me that sharing a meal together as a family is more important than serving a fancy one...it's about the love that goes into the preparation. Many joke about Mom not being a great cook. I was always satisfied by everything she prepared and served.
The 21-gun salute that was performed for her at her grave side service, was a perfect example of how she lived her life. I am guessing that her association with the veterans in St. George came as an assignment for work (she ran Senator Orrin Hatch's Southern Utah office), yet, although it was work, she was dealing with people. And she loved, and was loyal to, those she served. And they knew it. This overwhelming honor came as a result of her loyalty.
On a trip to St. George last spring, I was reading in Mom and Dad's bedroom and noticed on the bookshelf a row of copies of the Book of Mormon. There were several (more than 10) and each had a label on the binding. On those labels were written words like, "faith", "forgiveness", "prayer", etc. She had studied the Book of Mormon many times and focused on a different topic each time. Simply amazing. Her love for and testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ was obvious.
I had the opportunity to spend time off and on over the past 2-3 years in Mom and Dad's home while visiting our kids in college nearby. It was not unusual for Mom to disappear into the office to do a batch of "indexing" for family history. She would also visit the sisters in her ward regularly...not just her visiting teaching route, but others who needed extra love and encouragement. I appreciated her example of quietly serving the Lord by serving those around her.
Mom also was always full of gratitude. We loved to travel with Mom and Dad and included them in trips to Hawaii, Disney World and a couple of cruises...cherished memories for sure. It was perfectly normal to receive a "Thank You" in the mail from her. She would even send "thank yous" to the kids if they had given up their bed to them on a visit to our home. Mom never missed an opportunity to say "Thank You." I loved that about her. It made perfect sense to me to receive these kind notes in the mail. However, I had no idea that she was sending kind notes to a variety of people. To a Stake President who had touched her in some way during his remarks in Stake Conference, or a kind Bishop who served their ward tirelessly, or a young woman who had shared a sweet testimony. She showered people with her love. And the beauty of it all?...she did it quietly. I never witnessed these cards being written. She moved quietly, always being grateful, always looking for ways to lift someone up, never wanting or needing recognition. I loved that about her.
She was strong, courageous, kind, faithful, compassionate, incredibly smart, hard-working...but most of all she was humble. As I reflect on Mom's life and attributes, I feel incredibly blessed to be married to Bill, who I have come to realize more than ever, possesses all of his mom's finest traits. Marreen Casper is one of my heroes. I miss her, but am so grateful that I invested time into getting to know her and that our children knew her well too. We have been blessed by her presence in our lives. 'Til we meet again...