Friday, December 16, 2011

Gone Fishin’—L. Milton Sealy Obituary

There is a missing piece in our hearts today as Milton—Husband, Father, Grandfather, Son, Brother, and Friend, has hung up his final gone fishin’ sign and returned to his Heavenly Home. Milton loved to fish, but will also be remembered as a fisher of men.

Leon Milton Sealy, age 89, passed away Nov. 30, 2011 in St. George, Utah, from causes due to old age. He lived life with honesty, integrity, hard work, and a sense of humor. His motto was, “Work, Work, Work!” He loved to work—work was his play.

Leon Milton Sealy was born April 27, 1922, in Thayne, Wyoming, son of Rachel Elizabeth Olsen Sealy and Leon Monette Sealy. He grew up in Logan, Utah, graduating from Logan High School in 1940. Milton married his childhood sweetheart and friend, Shirley Mae Phippen, on Sept. 17, 1941 in Preston, Idaho, later sealed for ‘Time and all Eternity’ Dec. 18, 1942 in the Logan Temple. Together they built six homes and raised five children.

Milton has always been connected to the beauty of God’s rich earth. As a child he enjoyed making clay rabbits and toys from the red soil near his home. As an adult, Milt enjoyed gardening, landscaping, cement mixing, carpentry, and raising multitudes of animals. As a sportsman, Milton enjoyed hunting, fishing, snow skiing, and water skiing—mastering jumping off the dock on one ski and holding the rope in his toe and in his teeth! However, high on his priority list of talents was his lifetime love of fishing. He and his father and two brothers more than likely fished every fishing hole from Utah to Wyoming. His humorous “Big Fish” stories will forever bring a smile to those who loved him dearly.

In his early-married life in S.L.C., Milton started his own business called, “Milt’s Quality Donuts.” Later he worked as an executive for Won Door Corporation, installing folding doors in church houses across the U.S. When Milton moved his family to Highland, Utah, he served as City Councilman. He was an avid BYU football fan and honored member of the Cougar Club, traveling to games far and near. After he retired, Milton and Shirley served an L.D.S. mission as Public Relations Directors in Atlanta, Georgia.

Throughout his life, Milton has been a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Favorite church callings included Bishopric Counselor, High Councilman, and Scouting—taking the scouts to his donut shop to make donuts for fundraisers. As a reward, each young man got to make a giant donut out of a gallon can with the regular donut cutter used as the hole!

Milton is survived by his wife, Shirley Sealy; daughter, Vicki (Richard), daughter Linda (Dale), daughter, Loni (Blaine), son-in-law, Neal, and daughter-in-law, Lori. Also survived by his brother, Ramon (JoAnn), his sister, Angela (Karl), plus 24 grandchildren and 41 great-grandchildren. Preceded in death by his daughter, Judy, son, Devro, daughter-in-law, Gayle, and his grandson, Skyler. Also preceded in death by his sisters, Eva and Ruth, his brother, Denton, and his parents.

A Fisherman's Prayer

I pray that I may live to fish, 

Until my dying day. 

And when it comes to my last cast, 

I then most humbly pray: 

When in the Lord's great landing net, 

And peacefully asleep, 

That in His mercy I be judged, 

Big enough to keep!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Eighty Eight and Counting

Milt and I are now 88 years old. I don’t think either of us expected to live this long, but here we are. We have had a good life, and have enjoyed the children Heavenly Father allowed us to raise. Our children have been choice, and we have enjoyed them.

Milt has always worked hard. I remember him lying on the floor in our Salt Lake home, rubbing his heart, wondering why he had to stop working—because he loved working! I used to worry about how much he did. I tried to get him to stop working so hard, and when he knew I was worried he would try to cut down, but always he would return to his work and end up doing even more, making up for the time he’d wasted. We used to have friends that jokingly said they wanted to insure him because they didn’t think he could ever live long. I used to pray about that a lot . . . then one night I had a dream.

I dreamt he and I were in a big swing together, attached somewhere in space and it was such a beautiful feeling—smiling and being together, swinging back and forth across the earth. I woke from that dream knowing we were married in the Temple and it didn’t matter who went first because we would be together. This brought a lot of comfort to me. ~ Shirley Sealy

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Get the Heck Out of My Life!

Our young, nineteen year old son was getting ready to serve a mission for the Mormon Church. It was something he’d prepared for and looked forward to all his life. During the days of preparation, as he worked to make the money he’d need, there were times he was tempted by the adversary. One temptation seemed to come in the form of him being more argumentative than he’d ever been in his life. As his mother I was confused and I began to be very prayerful about the situation.

As we discussed an issue one evening, an argument quickly arose and seemed to get a little out of hand. Even though I hadn’t planned to say it, I heard the words come out of my mouth.

“Son, this isn’t like you. Are you sure you haven’t an evil Spirit with you?”

“Are you sure YOU haven’t got an evil Spirit with you, mother?” He said deviantly in self defense.

“No, I’m not sure. Sometimes it is hard to tell. I’ve been prayerful, but I’ll try again.”

No more was said that day. He went to work and I went about the many tasks I had to accomplish. It was during the evening meal that he said to me humbly and quite plainly, “You were right, mother. There has been an evil Spirit with me.”

“And what have you done about it?” I asked, relieved that he was no longer argumentative and seemed to be at peace.

“Well, I just told Satan to get the heck out of my life!” he explained.

It was that simple. In his youthful way he had simply commanded Satan to leave him alone, and Satan had been obliged to heed. I thought of one of the times Christ had commanded Satan and also the time Moses had commanded Satan to leave, and realized that was all that was needed. “Get thee behind me, Satan.” ~ Matthew 16:23

“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan.”
~ Luke 4:8

“And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.”

“And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook; and Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan.”

“And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence, even from the presence of Moses, that he beheld him not.” ~ Moses 1:20-22

Monday, February 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Devro!

Milton Devro Sealy
(Feb. 8, 1956 - July 2, 2007)

As a mother, these are the special things I noticed about my only son, Devro.

Dev had some special musical talents. He liked singing. He didn’t like to sing with the Primary but he’d sing with the family and for special things. He was in preschool when he sang a special song that Janeen Brady wrote as the fill in act for our ward roadshow. He sang it with Janeen’s daughter, Diane, in the roadshow we were doing, going from ward to ward. The song was “Wash Up the Dishes Daddy, Momma’s Going to Town.” They were a big hit with the audiences, but toward the end of the evening when we got back to our own ward to perform, he was pretty tired. So when we turned up the front curtain lights, there he was with his eyes half closed . . . picking his nose!

When Dev decided he wanted to play the guitar in grade school, we bought him a little five-string guitar. He and his neighborhood friends practiced some songs and set up our basement like a concert hall. They made some tickets and passed them out to the neighbor kids. When it was time to begin the program, nobody came. So they did the whole program anyway, in a very professional way. Later they found out they had put the wrong date on the tickets! However word got around they had a group and they were asked to be on a ward variety show. They did it! I arrived late and they were already performing . . . singing cowboy songs Dev had learned from his dad, Milt, much to my embarrassment! “There was blood on the saddle, and blood all around . . .”

Again . . . they were a big hit, but that night Dev had watched another older kid play the drums and he decided he wanted to play the drums too. We had a piano and we had previously paid for his sisters, Vicki and Linda, to take piano lessons. I felt the piano was a good basic instrument to learn, so I told him we’d get him a drum pad when he got through the beginners piano book. Linda, five years older, was assigned to be his teacher. He didn’t complain . . . he just took the lessons. As Linda demonstrated each song, Dev would look at the book and ask her to play it once more. Unbeknownst to us, that was all it took for him to memorize and play each song to perfection! He went through the whole book quickly, to say the least.

We got him a practice drum pad and he learned to play the drums on that pad. Then we got him a drum set. He did really well on that and his first performance was on stage at Sherman Elementary School. He handled it like a pro and the kids went wild over him!

Later when Dev took piano lessons from his oldest sister, Vicki, she discovered he’d gone through his entire beginning piano book completely by rote. He couldn’t read a single note of music!

However, Dev did very well with his drums. I loved to hear him practice. He could roll the drums beautifully. He didn’t ever just beat on them . . . he made good music. He went quite a ways with his drums. In Junior High he was fortunate to have a good teacher that taught him how to read drum music. He learned how to play every kind of drum, Snare drums, Kettledrums . . . he was in the concert orchestra and the jazz group. When I took him to a concert in the tabernacle down town, he fell in love with the big Kettle Drum!

The rhythm Dev learned with his drums seemed to help him in everything else he did. In football he handled the team as he called signals and had the guys moving together in perfect rhythm.

While Dev was playing the drums in junior high, I was singing with a woman’s chorus, with Burt Keddington as the director. Burt found out Dev could play the drums and he asked him to play with us. Burt didn’t have any music for Dev, he just told him what he wanted and Dev played it. I bought Dev a dark blue velvet top to go with our dark blue choir dresses. One night in the middle of a song I saw Dev throw up one stick, reach out and get it and go right on playing without missing a beat! It was impressive! Afterward, while we drove home I said, “You’re getting pretty fancy with those sticks aren’t you?” He laughed and replied, ”What do you mean fancy? I dropped that stick and had to get it back!”

Dev played the drums all through high school and he could do things that a lot of professionals couldn’t do. I loved his drum playing. Dev sold his drums when he went on his mission, thinking he would get a new set when he came home . . . but his life took on a big change after his mission.

Much later, after he was married and had moved to Atlanta, Georgia with his family, he came home to visit at Christmas. So our ward choir director asked him to play with us when we sang the “Little Drummer Boy” Christmas song. He didn’t have a drum so the director borrowed one for him. When our Bishop announced his name on the program he joked that they were sparing no expense to make our Christmas program the very best . . . even importing a special drummer from Georgia to play for us! The congregation was Dev’s old ward from his teenage years and they got a big kick out of the announcement. Dev hadn’t forgotten anything. He played the drums like he’d never been away.

Growing to manhood, Dev did a lot of construction work. He didn’t learn how, he just did it. One morning he told me he was going to pick up a Backhoe and asked me if I would go with him and follow him home with the car, as he needed to take the back roads . . . and somehow we did it. Later he told me that Stan, his father-in-law who had run a Backhoe for years, told him it would take a long time to be able to handle a Backhoe. However, amazingly enough, when Dev purchased his Backhoe and the salesman handed him the key, showing him briefly how to turn it on, Dev got right on it, driving it home like he’d been doing it his whole life! When we got home I went in the house to fix some food and Dev stayed on the Backhoe in the field by our house running it back and forth. He seemed to handle it as well as anybody I had ever watched. Later when he came in the house to eat I said, “Dev how did you learn to do that?” And Dev said nonchalantly, “Oh, I don’t know Mom. I guess it’s one of those talents my Patriarchal Blessing says I have that will be there when I need it.”

I watched many of his talents come forth. He seemed to have been born with a “computer mind.” He just seemed to understand all about computers when they became popular for home and business use. He built his first one, buying the parts as fast as they were invented.

When Dev lived in Georgia, he had a friend that had a master’s degree in computers. He went to his house one day and found the friend struggling with a computer problem. Dev watched him labor for a while and then he walked over to the computer and hit a few keys and worked out the problem! His friend looked at him and said, “Do you know you born with a computer mind?” Dev smiled and said he hadn’t thought about that.

“Oh yes,” his friend said. “A few people are actually born with a computer mind!”

That was Dev. He just seemed to think he could do anything he tried.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Want to Write a Book?

“I wish I could write.” The young girl looked at me with dreamy eyes, her emotion segregating her from the merging crowd at the youth conference where I’d lectured and taught classes.

“I wish I could too,” I smiled.

“But you have published books,” she replied.

“Yes. Does that make me a writer?” I answered.

“Of course,” she concluded.

Someone behind me touched my shoulder and said my name. I turned to answer. The crowd closed in and for the next half hour I answered questions and signed books, programs and even some napkins. When I could look up again, I searched the crowd for the face of the young girl with dreamy eyes, but I couldn't find her. Later on the plane as I flew home, I thought about her. I was that age once. I wasn’t aware then, that I wanted to become a writer. My thoughts went back. Had I ever really wanted to become a writer? And if I’d known the pain it would cause me, would I have ever gotten into the field? Where was the beginning? I thought back again. I remembered. I'd gotten into writing almost by accident.

Writing found birth into my system at BYU Education Week one summer. Education week was my personal vacation and training time. My friend and I had arrived on campus and filled up our class schedules except for one hour. For that hour we hadn’t found anything we wanted to take. “Here’s a class about writing,” I said. “I’m working on a youth roadshow. I could use some ideas.”

“Sounds good,” she said. We joined the class for that hour every day. We chuckled together as the instructor talked about submitting a manuscript of a book to different publishers. A book? My friend was an avid reader, but she had never written anything but letters. I had written a few skits for the youth, but certainly not a book! However, we found the class interesting and promised each other if we ever did write anything we would let the other one read it.

When I got home I sat at my typewriter and put together a story about young romance, based on the truths I knew about dating, friendship, and high standards. Before I had time to think or loose courage, I quickly dropped it at my friend’s house, and went home with a knot in my stomach, a little embarrassed for asking her read my words and reprimanding myself for the action.

“It's good,” she told me the next morning on the telephone. “What about letting me read it at a youth fireside?”

“You’re kidding!” I exclaimed.

“I'm not kidding. I liked it. Why don't we try it on the young people?”

“All right,” I agreed. “You read it, but don't tell them I wrote it. I need an honest reaction.”

The youth at the fireside responded to my story and it moved from one age group to another. I was excited about the reception of my simple story. When it was revealed that I was the author there were phone calls from some of the youth to ask me about the characters. They talked about the characters in the story as if they lived next door. It was a beginning, but what was I to do with it?

I wrote another story and an article called, “Green Willow Days,” about the way my mother raised us. I gave it to a girl to present at a mother daughter evening. Again, I didn’t let them say who wrote it. After the program quite a few people asked the girl if they could have a copy of the article. I sent it to local magazines and to my complete shock they published it! A youth story called, “All For a Date,” followed and it was published too.

“I've made it,” I remembered saying to myself. “I'm a writer!”

Foolish girl. A story the kids liked and two published articles and I thought I was a writer. But the courage those experiences gave me, allowed me to put together an entire book. The book was “Beyond This Moment.” It was the story and mystery of a religious girl, how she thinks and lives in a world that doesn't share her beliefs. The theme throughout the book was 'marry in your own kind' and look beyond this moment to all the tomorrows to come, before you make choices. It took me a year to write it.

The book went the fireside route of readers. The youth seemed to love it. Once again I tried to get it published before the fireside groups wore the manuscript out. It was time to try publishers. I contacted several I thought might be interested. The answer was always a resounding “no!” “Fiction won't sell. We don’t publish fiction. The best thing I can tell you to do is forget it,” one editor said. “Save your time and heartache.” She was an editor I admired and her words were discouraging. But I couldn’t stop there. I took it to another local publisher. After reading the manuscript, the editor called me.

“I think we need a romantic novel,” he said. “The kids haven't any good love stories to read. We'll give yours a try and see how it goes.”

Delighted, I stayed up nights going over the manuscript for one last time. However, when I met with the publisher they had decided that fiction wasn't commercially feasible, and had changed their minds about publishing my book. They were a small company and the editor explained that one book that didn’t sell would take the profit out of their business. They didn’t dare take the chance. I went home disappointed.

“I'm never going to write again,” I said to my husband. “Who wants it?” I said slamming the manuscript down on my desk. “All that work! I haven't time to spend writing if it isn't going to do anybody any good. I don't want to be a writer anyway. I never did want to be a writer.”

“You'll write,” my husband said, looking up from where he sat on the floor polishing his shoes.

“How do you know?” My voice was sharp with hurt. “You don't even read anything I write.”

“I know,” he said in his half-truth, half fantasy voice he often used. “But I've been to the movies and the heroin always gets to be a writer if she wants to . . . after she's suffered enough. That's your problem, Shirl. You haven't suffered enough! When you have suffered enough, then you’ll be a writer.”

I snorted a kind of laugh. It was hard not to laugh at Milt's kind of logic. But strangely he encouraged me and later I found out how right he was. His words became prophetic. He wasn’t judging my work. He hadn’t read any of it, but then I rationalized it was better he didn't read what I wrote, that way he could encourage without being critical.

I didn't write again for a while. I moved the manuscript from the desk to a shelf and there it stayed. My busy family life and activity in my church and community took over. I was back doing roadshows, and I put together some condensed versions of Broadway Musicals with a friend of mine who played the piano, and we toured the valley with the manuscripts. I sang all the parts and added narration while she played the piano. It was an enlightening and interesting experience. I loved singing and acting. It was much more rewarding than my writing had been.

Then one day I received a call from one of the boys in our area that had graduated and was now teaching youth in the Middle East. He’d been part of the fireside group that read my first story.

“We need some stories, Shirley. We need stories like you tell . . . some romantic idealistic stories. Write them down, will you?”

“I'll try,” I promised. Then the old nagging feeling of writing came back to me. I realized it had never left. I’d just put it off because I didn’t want to face failure. It was still inside me. I had to admit it. But that was a busy summer. We were moving. Again I shelved the book and tried to run away from what I felt inside.

We moved from Salt Lake to Highland, Utah. I was busy decorating our new house and getting the children settled in new schools. I disappeared from public appearances and church jobs for a while. But as I finished decorating and painting the new house, the nagging drive and my promise came back to me. I realized if I was ever going to write, and satisfy the inner urge that had developed through the years, that I would just have to make time for it.

Every day I'd hurry as fast as I could with my regular schedule so I'd have time to get to the typewriter. I just had to get to the typewriter. There seemed to be a nagging urgency that wouldn’t leave me alone. But once at the typewriter by myself, I'd sit and wonder what to write.

I could write when the PTA president asked for a program, or I got an assignment for a youth group skit, but when I sat down to write something I wanted to write, nothing came. Then I'd reprimand myself, vowing never to write again, and give it up. For a while this was a daily routine. Then one day while I was painting with the radio on, I heard an interview with a well-known author.

“How did you learn to write?” The commentator asked the author.

“In boot camp,” he replied. “On my day off. I bought myself a typewriter and then I'd check out novels from the library and type them.”

“Type the whole novel?”

“That's right . . . I learned to write by typing book after book.”

“How long did it take you to write your best seller?” the interviewer questioned.

“I worked on it for fourteen years!”

I started thinking about that author. When I'd finished my painting and sat in front of the typewriter the next day, I reached for my favorite book, “Gone with the Wind,” opened it up and started typing. What a big help! I didn’t come up with any wonderful ideas but it put me in the mood for writing. After typing about four pages of the thousand page book, I stopped and said to myself:

“This is crazy. I just about have this book memorized. If I'm going to type a book why don't I type my own?”

I took “Beyond This Moment" off the shelf and started to retype it. It didn't take long before I began to be very glad the publishers had turned me down. The book was full of problems. It was disorganized and I was preachy and repetitious. Then I began to have fun.

The characters of the book were set. I knew each personally, as if they were real and living next door. The plot and purpose and theme were also set. Now I could concentrate on mechanics. I would read through a chapter, figure out what I was trying to say and then rewrite it. The rewriting went faster than I'd thought possible. I'd never liked rewriting before.

My husband came home early one day while I was sitting at the typewriter.

“Your book?” I nodded. “You've worked so long on that book, why don't I publish it for you?”

“No, I've taken enough classes to know that if a book is good enough, a publisher will publish it with their money. Besides, I don't care if it's ever published or not. I've learned so much about myself and other people, just having written the book that it's been worth every minute I've ever spent writing it!” I didn't know that truth until I said it.

“Don't you want to publish it?” he persisted.

“Only if it will help somebody. And I've tried every thing I know. If Heavenly Father wants this book published, he'll just have to do it himself.”

I thought I was only kidding. I’d certainly prayed enough about that book. Now, for the first time, it wasn’t my desire, it was . . . what did He want me to do with my book? The words just slipped out, but from that moment on, things began to happen.

When I’d finished rewriting all but the last two chapters, I asked my friend if she would read it for me. She liked to read and accepted the assignment readily. As I left her I was thinking how busy she was and that it would probably be a long time before she could fit my novel into her schedule. I was mistaken. She called me the next day.

“Shirley,” she said, and there was excitement in her voice. “I started reading your manuscript while I waited for my ride to an appointment. I read some more when I got home, while I left the tomatoes I should have been bottling sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor. I read until the house was cold. I got in a tub of hot water and read until the water was cold. Then I went to bed and got up to read again this morning. I'm almost to the end, and I need those two last chapters.”

With new incentive and encouragement, I finished the last two chapters and dropped them by. She was very enthusiastic about the book and thought I should try again to get it published. But where? I had already tried all the publishers I thought would be interested in my story.

The next day I went to church. As I went through the swinging doors, a friend who wrote for the newspaper passed me and said: “Shirley how are you doing with your writing?”

Surprised that he even knew I was trying to write, I said: “Oh, I'm still playing around with it.”

“When are you going to get serious?” he said, as he continued down the hall.

As I moved to the choir seats his words stayed with me. During our church meeting I observed the people in the congregation. On the front row was a man that had some of his formal writing published. I wondered if he could suggest anything to help me. After the meeting I found myself standing next to him.

“Can you tell me how I can find out if a manuscript is publishable?”

He was very kind. “I don't know,” he said, “if you’re talking about creative writing. But there are two brothers that live in Alpine and they sell books. Maybe they can tell you.”

I'm terrible at names, but that evening as I sat by my desk, the names he'd mentioned came back to me. I opened the phone book and called one of them. I didn't know him and he didn't know me. I asked him the question. “How can I find out if a manuscript is publishable?”

“I can tell you,” he said confidently. “I sell books every day.”

“What will you charge to read my manuscript?” I asked.

“I'm leaving on a selling trip tomorrow. If you want to drop it by, I'll take it with me and read it. I'll be glad to read it without charge.”

Maybe it was because he was a man, and the book was written for women and girls, and maybe because he was in the book business, not a friend, or a relative. Friends and relatives aren’t reliable critics, they are always either too kind or too critical, thinking they are helping. But this man, who called me when he got home, made me believe him.

“Let me tell you about your book,” he began. I began to shiver. I always shiver when ideas take hold of me. He explained. “I like to get a lot of sleep on the first night out on a book selling trip. I picked up your manuscript thinking I'd read a little until I got sleepy. To my surprise, even though I was tired, I didn’t get sleepy. I read into the early morning hours. Then I went to sleep and woke up early to read again. I was late to my meetings the next morning because I couldn’t put your book down. After my meetings, that night, alone in my motel, I blubbered through the last chapters . . . and now I know your book has to be published.”

“I've tried to get it published but they say fiction won't sell.” I tried to stop shivering.

“I can put that book on every shelf I have. I've already talked to the bookstores about it. If you can get it published I'll market it for nothing.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because I want my children to read it and my brother's children to read it! We need your book for the youth and parents.”

Then he talked to me about the characters of the book and ended with: “I'm a skip reader,” he said, “but I couldn't skip a word of that book. If I skipped, I found myself missing something and had to go back and read the lines I skipped.”

It was a miracle to me. It was a bit of light into the darkness of rejection I had experienced. With his encouragement I went through the round of publishers again. They didn't want to read the manuscript, but they would publish it if I'd put up the money and they would buy some if it sold well. The idea wasn't attractive. I needed a publisher that would read the manuscript and put their money and marketing resources to work.

One morning my book-selling friend called me. He'd made an appointment with a publisher for me. At that meeting, on his word alone, the publishers were willing to go halves with me. They hadn't read the manuscript yet but they were impressed with the experience of the bookseller.

“I think my husband will agree to that,” I said. Then I left the manuscript with them and drove home. My husband was out of town, but before he returned I got a call from the publishers. They had read the manuscript.

“You won't have to put up any money,” the caller informed me. “Our company will put up all the money for your book, and we are starting with 10,000 copies.” A break through! I didn’t dare get too excited.

Ten thousand copies? I couldn’t believe my ears. Then I began to shake again, this time it was from concern. My book, my words, . . . in ten thousand copies? It was frightening.

My husband came home the next day. “I signed a contract for my book,” I informed him quickly. “I've sold my book!”

He stopped and looked at me a moment. “That's nice Shirl, that's really nice. Well, lets get dinner on; I've got an appointment in twenty minutes.”

My husband has always had a way of keeping me humble. That was my first ten years of writing. There were more ahead. I thought of all the ups and downs, the hurts, anxiety, and heartaches. I thought of all the living I’d been through to teach me enough truth and skills to become a writer. And I wasn’t finished. I knew there would be more ahead. Writing is like sailing. I can never learn enough. Writing is a method of learning, a method of dealing with hurts, disappointments and once in a while a touch of glamour, a touch of success . . . and a room full of fans and starry eyed people who, in a moment, want to become a writer.

A vision of my dreamy eyed little friend stayed in my mind as the plane came in for a landing, cutting off my thoughts of the past. Milt would be waiting at the airport. I gathered my handbag and the gifts they'd given me at the conference.

As I made my way down the ramp and back into the present, an anxiety made a temporary entrance into my heart as I thought about my young friend. Was it a fleeting moment, a quick desire that made her want to confess her own desire to write? How much would she have to suffer, and how much would she give up and endure to become a writer? And what would I have said to her if she hadn’t disappeared into the crowd before I could talk to her?

Smiling as I started to leave the plane, I decided what I might have said to her and to anyone who wants to write a book. “We need writers. There isn’t a better way of learning about yourself and other people. It is personal therapy. It is a great way to get the inside out and make suffering rewarding. Go ahead. Write a book! You won’t be sorry, even if it’s never published.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Memories

It is almost Christmas . . . that magical time of year that I have always loved and looked forward to. I’m wondering just why Christmas has always meant so much to me. The memories go back to when I was a child.

I remember it was in the first grade that I was selected to be on the big stage at the college. I wore a red dress made of crepe paper and I remember my dad proudly holding me in his arms while people made a fuss over me.

Christmas always meant special dresses and music. I remember walking down the isle in the big auditorium dressed in an angel costume with a silver garland around my head, carrying a lighted candle, singing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” Once I was a Snow Queen in a white sparkling dress, carrying a white basket with sparkle in it, and on cue I crossed the stage and sprinkled the green people dressed like pine trees! I remember other Christmas times when I wrote little plays and read the lines while others did the actions. Later there were times when I sang solos for programs and a time when I sang with Loni and Monette in costumes I made of red velvet and white fur. One year I made a Mrs Santa dress and entertained at a rest home for older people. In addition, there were times I sang in chorus’s and in groups. Sometimes I was asked to lead the chorus . . . I remember the women’s chorus with my son, Dev, playing the drums . . . wonderful memories.

Yes, for me there was always Christmas and music . . . but more than that, there was always family and gifts. My husband, Milt, always did special things for us, all while he teasingly complained, “Christmas . . . humbug! This year we are cutting down!” Then he’d be sure to check to see if I’d forgotten anything!

For me Christmas was always a time for sewing! Everyone had to have a holiday outfit. I made outfits for the girls, shorts and matching ties for Dev and dresses for the girl’s dolls. Christmas was always a time to get a special gift for everyone, things they’d been needing all year and we’d saved the ideas up to be sure we had a very special time for everyone on Christmas. We always made as big a deal as we could for Christmas. I saved up for Milt and always got him a special tool and something to build with. I knew about tools, as my dad always had special tools and I knew about them from him. The first year I bought Milt a drill, then an electric saw, etc. He started building rabbit pens when all he had was a hand saw and a hammer! When I saw his first ones I said, “Milt you need a square,” recalling my dad building things. Milt didn’t know what a ‘square’ was.

Christmas is a time for family . . . a time for remembering family and the special blessings that come from being part of a special family. How we love and appreciate ours. As I look through my journals there is always a lot about Christmas. It was always about family coming home to eat, being together the way my children are now their own families. The best times, the things that last when the busyness of life is over, are the memories and I’m sure they will go home with us . . . to our Heavenly Home, when we again join our parents, where we were before we left.

[Pictured: My girls, Judy and Vicki, at Christmas time.]

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lessons From My Mother’s Love

In Memory of My Mother
Edna Elnora Laker Cook (Oct, 3, 1896-Oct. 9, 1945)

Mother’s Gone
By Shirley Sealy

My mother was gone. The moment I had dreaded, been warned of, and lived in fear of, was here and she was gone. I looked down at my hands and they were lying still in my lap. Why wasn’t I shaking? Why wasn’t I screaming or going through a dramatic scene like the terrible ones of my dreams when I’d searched for mother and couldn’t find her? Then I’d wake in a cold sweat and call her on the phone and know she was still here. Not this time. This time she was really gone and I was wide-awake.

As I left my duplex apartment to go to my sister’s house, to be with what was left of the family in this hour of shock and sorrow, I knocked on my neighbors’ door to let her know I’d be gone. As I talked, aware of her shocked expression while answering sympathetic questions, my chin began to quiver. Just that. No more. My chin uncontrollably quivered as if I was cold . . . but I wasn’t cold.

It has been many years since the terrible accident that took my mother from me and I still marvel at the way we all stood it. Mother had taught us so well, taught us of a life to come, where we would all meet and be together again. She had gone on ahead, as usual, to show and prepare the way. Mother had always prepared the way, been an example of what to do, how to act and what to say. Mother had earned a rest and we all knew she had gone to the best place possible because that’s the way she lived, doing good always. We didn’t resent her leaving anymore than she would ever have let us resent being born.

Mother’s funeral was different than most funerals. I wanted to go. Until that time I’d always said I couldn’t stand funerals, that I wasn’t going to my own if I could get out of it. However my mother’s was different. The foolish girl inside that thought it was “big-time” to stay away suddenly grew up, becoming a woman, with the announcement of my mother’s death.

Mother was taken at the same time that I was expecting my second child at any moment. I couldn’t do the running around and our father was in the hospital as a result of the same accident, so my sisters’ made all the arrangements and I sent the telegrams.

“Accident late tonight” . . . stop . . . “Mother killed” . . . stop . . . “Father in the hospital" . . . stop.

The words went round and round in my head like a broken record, snuffing out sleep, tearing at my overtired, numbed mind. I needed rest. I wanted to sleep so that I could attend mother’s funeral. As I tossed in my bed, suddenly a calm came over me. It was the same calm that I’d always felt when mother sat beside me and we talked. It was as if she was there beside me now, on the bed, and I fell into a deep, quiet sleep that I didn’t wake from until the morning sun fell on my face.

I felt the calm feeling again at the funeral when we stood beside her casket for the last time. We didn’t cry. It would have been selfish to cry, I felt. I remember the feeling there, as if her spirit was with all of us, busily doing things for others as she’d always done. We plucked flower after flower from the bouquet that covered her casket and we gave them to all those who wanted one to remember mother by. We were reluctant to leave that sacred spot, not because it was sacred, but because we felt her closeness with us there.

Mother’s teachings were so consistent. I know today, this very minute, what she would say if I asked her advise on any subject. She’d listen to me, weigh both sides, comment on each, express the good and the bad, and then leave it to me to make up my mind, knowing I would make the right decision. She had a way of pointing out truth that couldn’t be ignored and she always had faith in our ability to follow right. All of her children still live by that rule, remembering mother’s faith in us. And even now, I can see her smile, hear her voice in my ears, and remember what her gentle touch on my face or arm was like, even though she has been gone for many years.

Mother had a way of making each of us, all seven of us, her children, feel special. We were “heaven-sent gifts to brighten her life,” she used to say over and over and we believed her because she made us feel that way.

We had little of the comforts of life that money could buy. Mother dressed herself and all of us on a budget most people wouldn’t believe. We had little more food than the fruit she bottled in the summer, the milk our one cow gave and the vegetables she planted and took care of in our garden each summer. Father worked away a lot. It was a time when building was scarce and my father was a carpenter and had to go where he could get work, first at one end of the valley and then the other. Yet, I never heard about the sacrifices of motherhood from our mother. I only remember how often she told me what a blessing her children were. I felt loved all my life and I know my brothers and sisters were equally loved. I wonder how she made me know that?

I remember when we had company. Sometimes relatives from out of town came to stay, or friends from the surrounding towns. When they stayed overnight we would double up on the floor, but always mother made us feel good about it. Like when she fixed dinner for company. Sometimes there wasn’t enough food for everyone so she’d ask us to be good and not say anything and after the company was gone she’d fix us something together in the kitchen with her. She ate with us and always made us feel so good that we didn’t miss what we didn’t get.

I remember times of illness, waking feverish and full of pain, to see my mother sitting beside my bed, her cool hand on my hot head as I tried to sleep. I remember sweat baths and mustard plasters, and sponge baths and clean sheets. Mother was a good nurse, had a natural touch and a divine sense of what to do in case of illness. When the fever was gone and I was still bedridden, she’d tell me stories and give readings for me. She sometimes gave her comic and serious readings in public gatherings, but when I was ill she’d do them just for me.

Mother liked to laugh. Always busy, she had only a little time for fun, but she had a way of making everything seem fun. She loved movies and especially the musicals that Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald did together. We saw the movie musical “Rose Marie” one afternoon and I remember my little sister telling Daddy she saw the man fall off the barrel three times. When the acting, the story, and the music were good, mother could watch a movie over and over!

I remember the way mother sewed. She could take an old coat or heavy dress, rip it apart, wash, press and turn it inside out, cutting a new dress from the pieces that was a modern creation of the latest style.

Mother had a way of talking, of letting me talk, of listening to my friends and making them feel welcome. My friends all loved to come to our place because mother made them feel welcome. Mother was our friend.

I believed in my mother long before I understood about God. Gradually, as I grew older, I transferred that faith in mother to a belief in God, my Father in Heaven. I can’t remember when I made the change. To me, mother and Father in Heaven were synonymous. I was quite grown up before I realized my mother was really very human and that she sometimes could make mistakes, even though she’d always told me that she did.

I liked the human side of mother too. I liked the way she frowned a little when an off-color joke was told or crude language was used, the way she fell asleep when I combed her hair, the way she smiled when she looked into the faces of her children, and the way she screamed when she saw a snake.

Mother was my cushion against the world. I could tell her more than I told any girlfriend. I could depend on her keeping my confidence, listening without judging, and punishing me when I needed it. Usually her look of disapproval was more punishment than when she deprived me of things that would help me learn.

Mother encouraged me in everything good and told me story examples of everything wrong. I was always proud of her. She always looked nice, though she worked as hard as any man, and she had to stretch a dollar a dozen ways.

We often had troubles at home, the same fights and differences all siblings have, but I don’t remember them because mother helped us work them out. We were usually sent to separate rooms to play alone until we could kiss and make up, then we’d talk the problems out and the hurts didn’t stay.

When I look into the faces of my five children I find it hard to believe they didn’t know my mother . . . the mother that has influenced their lives so much. She is still so much a part of my life that it seems only natural that my children would know her too.

Many years have passed and I’m still trying to be the kind of mother to my children that my mother was to me, not perfect, but fulfilling. I try to teach and encourage them, love them as she loved me. She showed me the way and I hope I’ve showed them the way and that they’ve showed their children.

Sometime I think of all the things I’ve missed that we might have shared together all these years that my mother has been gone, but those things are overshadowed by the knowledge of all the things I am and hope to become because of the goodness of her life.

One more thing . . . Mother, I’m remembering how we used to laugh together when people talked about the sacrifices of motherhood because you taught me that motherhood is the “best,” the top, evidence of the Lord’s love for women because His plan allowed us to learn from His children. You said it’s the best college education we can have . . . trouble, expense, effort, study, confusion, and the greatest blessings and benefit of any career. And mother, I have found out it’s true!