Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fiddler on the Roof

One of my favorite movies is "Fiddler on the Roof."  I have so many memories of this film, and watching it brings them back so vividly.  I believe I first saw this movie with my mom at the Scera theater in Orem, Utah.  They had a summer movie series and would show older movies on their huge screen.  It was a great experience, and I remember that the movie touched me with it's amazing music, visual appeal, and great symbolism.  I have seen it probably fifty times since then, and know every word to every song by heart.

A couple of weeks ago, it was on television a few times.  I watched it every time it was on.  This time, several of the scenes and lines of dialogue had different meaning to me.  As my children grow older, the song "Sunrise, Sunset" has new meaning.  The song they sing at their Sabbath dinner is a prayer that I offer daily--that my children will grow up in righteousness and will find their eternal soul mate.  When my grandpa passed away on April 13, I thought of the lines in "If I Were a Rich Man," where he sings about studying the scriptures being the sweetest gift of all.

As I laid on the table praying so hard that the phlebotomist would find a vein (on the tenth try!), I thought of the dialogue that Tevye has with God.  This is one of the many things I love about this movie...that he has such an intimate relationship with God, and feels he can speak to him at any time about anything.  As I found out yesterday that my viral count is still to high for me to have a safe transplant, I pictured Tevye at his daughter's wedding as the Russians were destroying the village.  He was looking up at God with a look of intense questioning. 

Two lines of dialogue keep coming to my mind:

"I know, I know.  We are Your chosen people.  But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?"

"Sometimes I think, when it gets too quiet up there, You say to Yourself, "What kind of mischief can I play on my friend Tevye?"

Someone once told me that God must love me a lot to trust me with these trials.  My head knows this, but my heart is having a difficult time understanding this.  I realize that compared to the trials of others, mine are so small, but sometimes they can seem so overwhelming.  I find myself feeling sorry for myself, and when I do, I go into a dark place where I'm not good for anyone.  And then I remember my family, and all is good again.

While I was at my grandma's house this past weekend, I noticed she had NieNie's calendar.  (For those of you who don't know NieNie, here's a link to her blog:  She is a survivor of a terrible plane crash that left 80% of her body burned.  She is an inspiration to me--and to many others.)  Anyway, April's quote was this:
"My heartache, pain, and confusion have led me to a state of mind that all is lost, but then I look into my children's eyes, and see my Savior and know that it is not lost.  It's just the beginning of a big plan for us."

I can't tell you how many times I've wondered if the quality of my life is worth the quantity of my life.  Don't get freaked out--I'm not talking about suicide or anything, but I have wondered if it's all worth it.  And then I hear my son giggle with his sister, or my daughter tells me that I'm the best mom in the world for bringing her trombone to school when she forgot it, and I realize that it IS worth it.  I honestly don't know what I'd do without them, and I know that my Heavenly Father sent them to me at this time for a reason.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


My grandma asked me to play at my grandpa's funeral next week.  I'm so honored.  I know that I received whatever musical gifts I possess from my grandparents. 

So, for the past few days I've really been struggling with knowing what to play.  I've played at my mother's parent's funerals in the past couple of years, and have always known exactly what to play.  In fact, my dad and I disagreed on what to play at my grandma's funeral, but when he heard the song I thought was more appropriate, he agreed.  It turned out that my grandma's son from a previous marriage played the saxophone when he was younger and the song I'd played was the first song he'd ever played for her.

I asked my dad for advice on what I should play, and he told me to play through the pieces I have and grandpa would let me know. 

I played through the arrangements of sacred music I have, and thought I had found the right piece to play.  I've played it before at a stake music's a medley of "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," "Our Savior's Love," and "The Lord is My Shepherd."  I even copied the accompaniment part and sent it off to my cousin who will be playing with me.  After I put the music in the mailbox, I realized that it just wasn't the right one.  It would do, and would have been fine, but it wasn't perfect.

During dialysis on Thursday, the song "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" came into my mind.  I have always loved the melody, and have heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing it several times.  I knew the lyrics, but not well.  I was going on the melody alone.  The song just wouldn't leave my thoughts.

Thursday and Friday I searched and searched for a good arrangement online.  I found several pieces arranged for voice, for piano and other adaptations, but none of them were right.  I finally found a songbook of pieces performed by Jenny Oaks Baker, a LDS violinist.  It had seven sacred pieces, including "Come Thou Fount."  I listened to her perform it on YouTube, and fell in love.

This morning, I realized that I hadn't really read the lyrics, so I looked them up online.  After reading them, I realized that there was a reason this song is the right one.  The lyrics are my grandpa's testimony.

1. Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

2. Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.

3. Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.

4. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.

I can't tell you how grateful I am for inspiration from my grandpa on choosing just the right song to honor him.  As I said before, after reading the lyrics, I KNOW that this is what he wants.  I hope to perform it next Saturday in a manner worthy of his love.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Giant Among Men

My Sweet Grandpa
The title of this blog gets overused.  A lot.  However, in this case, it fits the man I'm going to write about to a "t."

Last week, my grandpa suffered a pretty severe heart attack.  Luckily, my grandparents had recently moved closer to a great hospital in Provo, Utah and were able to get him there quickly.  They put a stent in his artery, and he was doing well.  So well, in fact, that they discharged him Friday and let him go home.

Early Saturday morning, he suffered a major stroke, and was once again transported to the hospital.  They tried several procedures to clear the blockage, but to no avail.  That evening he had another major stroke that left him paralyzed on one side of his body, and unable to swallow or talk.  My dad and grandma (along with other members of the family, I'm sure) decided that the best course of action to take would be to just keep him comfortable and let nature take it's course.

This has been hard news for me to take, and I've spent a lot of time over the past few days crying for my grandpa.  I love him so much.  When we first found out about the stroke, I told Gordon that I always wanted to marry someone just like my grandpa, and I know--without a doubt--that I did.  My grandpa is physically strong and has been a hard worker his entire life.  He worked in construction and was a plumber with his brothers in Southern California until the early 1980s, when he decided that he wanted to go back to school to become a seminary teacher.  I admired this so much.  He has a tremendous love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and has the most unshakable testimony of anyone I know.

My grandparents were married 63 years ago.  That's pretty amazing, especially by today's standards.  They have nine children and a zillion grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  (I say a "zillion" because I'm not completely sure how many they have...but it's a bunch!)  They have not always had an easy life.  It has been full of heartache, financial difficulties, children who have strayed, and illness, but through it all they have always had a deep and abiding love for each other.  He has always treated my grandma like a queen, and I don't ever recall hearing an unkind word from him towards her.

My sister called me last night around 2:30 a.m. and told me that he'd passed away.  My cousin Brian was with special for Brian.  Brian's dad, Tom  passed away several years ago, and I'm sure that Tom has been waiting patiently for my grandpa to come "home."  I can't think of a more appropriate person to be there when he left this life.

This is going to be a long blog, and it's meant mostly for I apologize in advance, but I wanted to share some memories of my grandpa.  Some are sacred to me, some may be a tad embellished (due to my addled mind), and some are just fun.  I'm sure I'll also add to this list as time goes on.
  • Sometime when I was young (I don't remember when,) my grandparents took me and my Aunt Sarah and Aunt Ruth on a road trip to the Grand Canyon to visit my Aunt Beth, who was working there.  On the way there, I became carsick and the only "receptacle" we had to catch my vomit was a Big Gulp cup.  I vomited and vomited until I filled the entire cup to the brim, and then I managed to stop, which was lucky for all of us!
  • My grandpa gives the best hugs of anyone in the entire world.  You feel like you're enveloped in strength and power.  I can't wait until I can have another hug.
  • When we were living in Southern California, my family was going through some hard times and we lived with my grandparents for a while.  I remember my grandpa coming home with a black and blue hand.  He said he'd been bitten by a black widow spider.  The funny thing to me at the time was that he didn't seem bothered by it at all, whereas I was completely freaked out by it!
  • My grandpa makes the most amazing oatmeal and toast.  We'd have it for breakfast just about every time we stayed at their house.  I can't remember which one would say it, but when the toast got burnt, either grandpa or grandma wouldn't complain--they'd simply say, "I love burnt toast."
  • When my grandparents moved from Garden Grove, CA to Fairview, UT, they were so excited to get away from California.  They bought a 5-acre parcel of land in a development called "Hideaway Valley."  I think the land cost them $5,000.  The first thing they did was invite the family out for a picnic and "shed raising" party.  They built a little shed, which took just a few hours, and that was their first improvement to the land.  My husband, in typical Gordon fashion, climbed on top of the shed and did a little jig. 
  • My grandpa knows more about the scriptures than anyone else I know.  He studied them diligently and knew the origins of words that were difficult to understand and could explain gospel principles so well.  I am sure that he is with other scriptural scholars right now, discussing important points of the gospel.  I can't think of anything he'd rather be doing right now.
  • About eight years ago, my grandparents were called on a mission to serve in Nauvoo, Illinois.  This is an important historical site in our church, as it was where the early members of our church were able to settle and find peace for a while.  Grandpa served as the area plumber and grandma worked in the various visitor sites.  I think at one point, she worked in the gunsmith shop, which is ironic considering I don't think either she or grandpa ever owned a gun.  The highlight of their mission, though, was performing in the musical productions.  My grandparents loved to sing, and I loved to hear them sing.  My grandma's beautiful soprano voice mixed with my grandpa's deep baritone made going to church with them so fun.  I'm positive that I got my love of music from them.
  • When he was a bit younger, my grandpa would wear Hawaiian shirts like the one below.  No one else could "rock" these shirts like grandpa!

  • Last year, when I was just beginning my kidney ordeal, I was at my sister's house in Utah with several members of my family.  I had asked my dad if he could give me a blessing of health, and my grandpa was there and able to assist.  Before the blessing, he told me that when I was sick as a child, he watched me suffer so much that he wondered if it was worth it for me to even go on living.  With tears in his eyes (and mine) he said that he now knew it was worth it when he looks at my loving husband and two amazing children.  That has sustained me throughout the trials I've had the last year and a half.
  • Last month, my brother Josh was married.  At the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, I saw my grandpa for what would be the last time.  With tears in his eyes (again...we Cobabes are criers!) he told me he wasn't even going to ask me how I was doing or when I'd have my transplant because he knew I was tired of answering.  He just hugged me and told me that he loved me and was praying for me.
  • Monday, as I was on my way to dialysis, I called my sister Michelle, who happened to be in grandpa's hospital room at the time. She told me that I could talk to grandpa using her speakerphone.  I wasn't really prepared for this, but I told him that I loved him so much and that I was glad he was at peace.  My dad (who was also there) told me that as I spoke to my grandpa, he was nodding and tears were in his eyes.  My dad said that one of the last things he asked before he was unable to speak was how I was doing, and when I'd be able to get my transplant.  That meant so much to me.  I told grandpa that I think I'm trying to set the world's record for the most tranplant delays.  My dad said that he thinks I was just waiting so that grandpa could be there with Michelle and I in the operating room, watching over us.  I know he'll be there taking care of us like he always has.
Several years ago, my grandpa wrote down his testimony of Jesus Christ, of the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ, and of the family and gave it to each one of us.  It is one of the most precious things I own.  I would like to add my testimony to his that I know that families are forever and that I will see my grandpa again.  I know that when I do, he will wrap me in his arms and tell me how proud he is of me and all that I've accomplished.  I know that he will be able to tell me that it's all been worth it.  I know that he will be there to show me the way, and will introduce me to our Savior.  I know that he is one of the strong and valiant beings and is one of our Father's most chosen spirits.  I am so happy for him that he is home at last.

I love you so much, grandpa.  See you soon!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Power of Music

This month's ward newsletter article:

A few weeks ago, my son came home from a shopping trip with his dad. He had some birthday money and purchased a couple of CDs that he was pretty excited about. After looking at one of the CDs, I asked his dad why he'd let him purchase this particular CD. I had not heard the music on it, but I knew that the language and subject matter was questionable, to say the least. My son assured me that he'd purchased the "clean" version of the CD, which meant that all of the bad language had been taken out.

He became pretty upset when I told him that I didn't want him to listen to that CD. He was mad that I wouldn't let him listen to a CD he had purchased with his own money. His dad and I told him that he had the choice to do what he wanted, but I wanted to let him know how I felt about this particular artist. We looked up the lyrics to one of the songs on the CD, and my husband told him that the song contained just about every swear word he knew. Even though the words were "bleeped" out, our mind still fills in the blank. This particular artist also degrades women and condones a lifestyle that is not becoming a priesthood holder.

Music is a very powerful tool--both for good and for evil. There is a reason why Primary children spend twenty minutes each Sunday learning songs. They contain gospel messages set to music that stay with us our entire lives. We may not remember a particular Sharing Time lesson, but we do remember the songs we learned in Primary.

Satan knows this truth, and uses it to teach his "lessons" as well. The popular songs on the radio today condone violence, promiscuity, drug and alcohol use and living an unclean life. Just like the songs we learn in Primary, the lyrics and messages of these songs stay with us. There is something about messages put to music that tend to stay in our memory a lot longer than words just spoken.

As a musician, I know how powerful music can be. I have been brought to tears by a Mozart aria or Beethoven sonata. Listening to good music can lift our spirits and help us feel better. Some of the moments in my life where I have felt the Spirit the most strongly is when I am really listening to music. I know that it was created by our Heavenly Father for His purposes.

As parents, I encourage you to be involved and aware of what your children are listening to. While music can "soothe the savage beast," it can also bring out the "beast" in your children and set them down the wrong path. I encourage my son to make sure that he is listening to music that would be acceptable if Christ were to walk in the room. If we use that as our standard, we will be sure that we stay true.