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Life's little orchestra

Let me start this post by saying, it's not's me.

Last night was Seminary graduation for Sam.  First of all, I feel like a fraud posting this picture because technically, he has a few more packets of home study to complete but the powers that be said it wasn't a big deal and he could walk with his group.

Anyways, Shelbie and I arrived a little early and a quartet of stringed instruments and their owners were practicing for the musical number.  I felt a little resentful.  It seems like it's always the same kids at every event.  The most musical, the most intelligent, the most refined, the most disciplined, the most athletic and then there's us.  We're like the little smudge on society, the wrinkled shirt, the cowlick that never stays in place...I looked at the program and they had forgotten to print Sam's name with his ward.

So, in line with my mood, I pointed it out to Shelbie and said, "Figures.  They forget my kid on the program.  Oh well, I'll just write his name in and while I'm at it I'm going to add his name as the Cello player too and class Valedictorian!"

As I sat there stewing about why I felt this way, I was carried away to some early childhood days when my dad would play the comb harmonica.  He would take a thin paper from his Mastercard receipt and place it over his black, pocket comb then hum the song...Do your ears hang low?

                        Reeling through my head...Do you ears hang low do they wobble to and fro
                                                                    can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow?
                                                                    Can you throw them over your shoulder like a
                                                                     continental soldier, do your ears hang low?

And then the quartet played their beautiful rendition but all I heard was that comb harmonica.  Its buzzy tones, not complementing the cello very well and it hit me.

 People have dedicated their life to excelling and honing in on the skills that will carry them far in life and up the ladder of success.  They work hard, practice hard; achieving is everything. Their life is mapped out and goes according to the precise plans laid out.  'A's rule the report cards at school. Everyone wants to be them.  They are the yardstick of perfection and the parents of these kids must be so proud and the kids themselves so lucky to have parents who pushed, who cheered, who prodded, who demanded, who had energy, resources and vitality.

And then there's us.  If we had a chair at the Stringed Quartet of life, we'd be the ones playing the comb harmonica.  We tried to work hard, we tried to practice and achieve but just fell short.  Life didn't go according to plan.  'A's were only found in the yellow pages and people look at us with pity and we aren't the yardstick to measure anything by.

But the biggest thought I had as I sat in that meeting?  I felt so bad for my kids that they didn't grow up with a mom who pushed them on to perfection and as the years wore on, they didn't even have a mom with energy and vitality.  I was the mom who cheered when they decided to quit T-ball because I hated sitting in the rain, watching them pull dandelions in the outfield, since they were never the kid to play something important like Short Stop.  After months of hounding them to practice the piano, I just told them to stop.  And when we got saddled with a half dozen learning disabilities, I convinced myself that there was more to life than getting an A.

In my already weakened state of single motherhood, the disease took off and they really couldn't do what the other kids did.  The only thing that mattered was trying to stay alive. Life became one of scarcity and survival.

Usually, I like the sound of the comb harmonica. It's one of my happiest memories after all. The four of us can make some really great comb harmonica music and we can belt out "Do your ears hang low" like none other!  Life is really great until we leave our little harmonica existence and venture out in the world of beautiful stringed instruments, and then we see how very, very different we are and it is painful and heart wrenching.  This disease has taken so much from us and didn't even ask our permission!

In a tender mercy, my horrible thoughts were interrupted by the Stake President as he said something to this effect, Your parents love you.  They may not have measured up, or been the best you wanted them to be or needed them to be, they may have disappointed you and not been what you expected but boy do they love you. Tears streamed down my face and without a doubt I have fallen short but boy do I love my kids.

These kids have worked against all odds, a stacked deck.  Sam will be the very first one of my kids to graduate with 12 years of public school.  Spencer and Shelbie both had to be pulled out of school for long periods of time.  Spencer was too sick to attend school his senior year and was home-bound.  Shelbie was sick for all of Junior High and was home-schooled and home-bound for her senior year as well. We've been blessed to get this far.

The evening ended with President Moore playing a clip from Elder Holland's talk...

Jeffrey R. Holland

“Don't you quit. You keep walking, you keep trying, there is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon. Some come late. Some don't come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be alright in the end. Trust God and believe in Good Things to Come.”

And with that, the night turned around...I will always feel some grief for what could have been and things aren't going to magically get any easier but somehow, it's nice to know there's hope for us.  It was a timely and inspired message last night.  Sam is really having a hard time.  Every single one of his friends leaves on their mission over the next few weeks.  I'm sure there are many jumping to conclusions about our lack of mission announcements.  It's tough.  Sam has been living everyday for just over a year with the knowledge that his heart could give out at any moment.  His lungs are riddled with holes and even a couple around his heart. His breathing complaints use to be far and few between but he mentions it often now.  I can't imagine how difficult it must be to forge ahead, planning a future when so much fear and worry overshadows it. 

But for will be a week to celebrate in our own little way.  No big parties or pomp and circumstance...just our little harmonica, toting selves, blessed to see this day and hoping for a gift of a few more. 



  1. You have very brave and talented children. They are lucky to have such a loving and supportive mom!

    1. Thank you Doris...I have thought so many times that it was this disease that led me to you! What a great blessing!

  2. Oh how I smiled during this post when I read it, for you know I have a child that is an over the top achiever.. a go getter then I have the sick child..the not so go getter..the comb player who has missed school to sit in hospitals, home IV therapy..yep we know that show. The comparisons, the not so subtle "but she doesn't look sick" comments, and as the sick Mom who has felt so much of what you have felt, I clapped and cheered you on for saying.." we are sitting in the crowd, not being in that show." Thank you for once again..being real, and saying it real.

    1. You do get it Taunya! You have the harder job of balancing both ends of the spectrum and you do it beautifully. Kelsey is not only strong and talented in many, many ways, she has the most tender, empathetic heart and I have so loved her being a part of our family and one of Sam's greatest friends. She is beautiful in every way. I don't know Jordan as well but what little I do know...she's a fighter and seems to live life to the fullest! You are a rockstar, single mom!

  3. I love that talk. I love you, and though I don't know them well, I love your kids. I love that you are so real. Ironically, I'm now and have been trying to learn how to be more like you, so take that! :)


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