Monday, December 26, 2011

Scatter Sunshine

I volunteered to give a Relief Society lesson at the nursing home branch.  I chose my own theme, focusing on the Plan of Salvation, with emphasis on the spirit world.  I had a few stories to share, including one from my ancestors.  I kept feeling like I was supposed to share with the residents about how Josh gave me a hymn to arrange, "Rejoice, the Lord is King" and then play it for them in the middle of my lesson.  I recognized that many in the nursing home are elderly and so many of their loved ones were waiting for them in the spirit world, parents, spouses, and even some children.  

As the meeting began, I looked around and considered nixing the story and performance of "Rejoice, the Lord is King."  For one, the piano was back in a dimly lit corner and I could tell it the sound would be 'plunky' at best.  More than anything, I was feeling intimidated and sure that I'd mess up.  Then, we started singing the opening hymn, Scatter Sunshine.  I sang, "Oh, what care and sorrow you may help remove, with your songs and courage, sympathy and love,"  Then, I realized I couldn't let my fear and pride keep me from lifting their spirits through sharing my music.  

The gratitude and love the brothers and sisters showed me afterward were thanks enough, but I also felt a sweet whispering from the spirit that said I had done the right thing.  My heart was lighter.  My day was brighter.  I went home and started a new piano arrangement.

(After you click on the link below, the audio will begin on another window, but you may return to this window to follow along with the lyrics below.)

Words by Lanta Smith, Music by Edwin Excell

In a world of sorrow ever will be known,
Where are found the needy and the sad and lone,
How much joy and comfort you can all bestow,
If you scatter sunshine ev’rywhere you go.

   Scatter Sunshine all along your way.
   Cheer and bless and brighten ev’ry passing day.  (repeat)

Slightest actions often meet the sorest needs,
For the world wants daily little kindly deeds.
Oh, what care and sorrow you may help remove,
With your songs and courage, sympathy and love. (chorus)

When the days are gloomy, sing some happy song;
Meet the world’s repining with a courage strong.
Go with faith undaunted thru the ills of life;
Scatter smiles and sunshine o’er its toil and strife. (chorus)

Click here to listen to my arrangement of "Scatter Sunshine".

The Sunset: Abide with Me

The Sunday after Josh passed away, we had a sacrament meeting in our home with extended family. As the day wore on and people started leaving, I decided to change into more comfortable clothes. While in process, I heard in my mind, "I want to show you's outside." Although I couldn't see the western sky, I sensed somehow that it was a sunset I would see. As I took an extra second deciding what sweater to wear, I heard the voice, "Hurry, you're going to miss it!" I did hurry. As I slipped on shoes and grabbed my coat, I had a flicker of doubt ~ what if I had imagined the voice? What if there was nothing out there waiting for me? But the voice repeated then and again as I made my way across the school parking lot, "Hurry, you're going to miss it!"

There was no disappointment. I stood on the northeast side of the school track where I knew I could get a full view and I took it all in. The art in the sky was amazingly symmetrical with dark purple clouds billowing on 'stage left' and 'stage right'. Directly ahead of me was a burning bright sun that had dipped halfway below the horizon ~ making the layers of thin long clouds directly above it blaze out with silver linings. Elevated above that was a long thicker cloud and in the center of it was an unusual shaft of light shooting up from the setting sun. Above that were dozens of cotton ball-like puffs of clouds that filled the expanse to the left and right and outward toward the sky above me. I have never seen a sunset to match it's glory. I was so overcome by the divine majesty of it, I stepped back and held onto the fence for strength as I broke out in uncontrollable sobs.

(This is a different sunset that my son took a picture of.)
Of course, as I stood there in awe, the sun continued to lower and as it did, it was like a dimmer knob was lowering, not just light, but also warmth, all around me and inside my very soul. It darkened too fast ~ especially when I lost complete sight of the sun and the brilliant glow it had given the surrounding clouds was gone. It all seemed to echo the pain I felt of losing Josh ~ his happiness, his laughter, his goodness, his amazing potential. I hurt, deeply. As I acknowledged the symbolism of the darkness following the sun set and the emptiness in me from Josh passing away, a new thought entered my mind from the Holy Ghost. Simple, yet profound. "The sun sets, and the sun rises." It was a promise of the resurrection.

As I made my way back home, I started to sing, "Abide With Me". I couldn't remember much of the lyrics. I felt prompted that it was something I was supposed to look up, so I did. In the next few day, as extended family left for their own homes, things were quiet around here. It was healing for me to focus on arranging this hymn on the piano. I loved discovering that the last words of the 3rd verse of the hymn were, "Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, Abide with me." It was a gift given to me from the spirit that will always remind me of a voice that said, "I have something to show you..."

Click here to listen to my arrangement of "Abide With Me."
The audio will open on another window, but you may return to this window and follow the lyrics below as you listen:

ABIDE with ME!
Words by Henry F. Lyte, 
Music by Wm. H. Monk

Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens. Lord, with me abide!
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day.
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me!

I need thy presence ev’ry passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Thru cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me!

Oh, What Songs of the Heart

This is a hymn that comforted me and helped me to celebrate my knowledge of our Heavenly Father's Great Plan of Happiness.  Interestingly, our Relief Society Chorister, who didn't know I had started arranging this hymn a few days previous, chose it as our practice hymn and read to us the story behind it's birth. When I arranged it for piano solo, I left off the last two lines of each verse, so here are the lyrics that go with the arrangement.  After you click on the link below, the audio will show on another window, but you may return to this window to follow the words as you listen.

Oh, What Songs of the Heart
Words by Joseph L. Townsend, Music by William Clayson

Oh, what songs of the heart we shall sing all the day,  (Alleluia!)
When again we assemble at home,  (Alleluia!)
When we meet ne’er to part with the blest o’er the way,
There no more from our loved ones to roam!

Tho our rapture and bliss there’s no song can express,
We will shout, we will sing o’er and o’er,
As we greet with a kiss, and with joy we caress
All our loved ones that passed on before.

Oh, the visions we’ll see in that home of the blest,
There’s no word, there’s no thought can impart,
But our rapture will be all the soul can attest,
In the heavenly songs of the heart.

Oh, what songs we’ll employ! Oh, what welcome we’ll hear!
While our transports of love are complete,
As the heart swells with joy in embraces most dear
When our heavenly parents we meet!

Oh, what songs of the heart, (Oh, what songs of the heart)
We shall sing in our heavenly home!  (Alleluia!)

The Life and the Light of the World

On the day that marked a week from Josh's passing, we drove down to do temple sealings in Provo with Enos' extended family. In the Celestial room, Enos took my hand to escort me to a couch where we could sit down together. As we passed a small table, I felt prompted to pick up the Book of Mormon. After sitting, I looked up at the life size picture of Christ framed and mounted high on the wall facing us. That's when I thought to open the scriptures.

My son, Cody took this picture at the cemetery capturing the star trails in the night sky.

My eyes first rested on the word, "Behold." I continued to read what is found in D&C 11:28-30. It begins, "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the life and the light of the world." I raised my eyes back up to the Savior. His words repeated again in my mind. They reminded me of another conversation that took place after Martha's brother had passed away and had been laid to rest.

Martha said, "Lord, if thou had been here, my brother would not have died, yet I know even now thou hast the power to raise him up in the resurrection."

Jesus responded, "I am the resurrection and the life and he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. Believest thou this?"

"Yea, Lord, I believe thou art the Christ, the Son of God."

I knew this conversation by heart as I had written an Easter Duet using them as lyrics. Martha's final declaration rang in my mind as a reflection of my own testimony. Tears filled my eyes.

After a moment I felt the need to find another jewel from this treasure of scriptures held in my hands. I was reminded that I was specifically told to pick up the Book of Mormon, so I flipped back a section of pages. I did not skim the verses looking for something appropriate to my needs. The first verse I came upon was Alma 7:12.

"And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."

In a thousand pages of scripture, there was not a better verse for me to read than that one. His love overcame me and I sobbed.

Later in the evening, as the rest of the family and extended family conversed downstairs at Beth's house, I went upstairs to be alone. It had been too long since I had a release of my sorrow and on my knees, I cried so hard, I could hardly breath. The pain seemed to be consuming me, both in body and spirit. That is when the scripture in Alma was rehearsed in my mind. He took upon him my infirmities according to the flesh so he would know how to help me. The Holy Spirit did not convey to him my pain ~ he felt my pain in body and spirit. Somehow just knowing that, a calm filled the room. My tears immediately dried up and I felt at peace.

"I stand all amazed
at the love
Jesus offers me..."

After you click on the link below, the audio will appear in a new window, but you may return to this window to follow along with the lyrics:

Words and Music by Charles H. Gabriel

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
   Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
   Enough to die for me! Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me.

I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine.
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify. (chorus)

I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet. (chorus)

Click here to listen to my arrangement of "I Stand All Amazed."

Hymns from the Heart

I'm so glad to have Cody home for Christmas break.  He is a great go-to for any computer questions I have.  He showed me how I can share the stories behind the hymns that I have arranged. Each of the hymns tie in with special experiences that we have had that has helped us cope with having Josh in the Spirit World instead of in our home.  We miss him a lot.  Listening to the CD has been the greatest blessing to me because each song makes me feel loved and cared for.  It reminds me how important it is to look outward, to show love and concern for others.

Although I've shared some of the stories already, I will repost so I can include the actual recording of the hymn arrangements.  After reading the stories, you may click on the link at the end of each post.  My patriarchal blessing tells me that in the Premortal existance, I developed my love for music.  This is a gift I am immensely grateful for and happy to share.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


From my journal dated Feb. 8, 2008:

Last Sunday night after family home evening, I sat at the piano and played through the three hymns I have arranged.  I found myself wishing there was one more.  I even said out loud, "I want to arrange another hymn."  I started thumbing through the hymnbook but the thought of me just picking a hymn on my own was suddenly not good enough.  I closed the hymnbook with the thought, "I'll wait for the Lord to give me one."

No more sleeping on the recliner!  Although it seems to have helped me get over my cold quicker, I had Whiskers jumping up on me at one o’clock Monday morning.  I put her outside.  Apparently, Enos let her in around five, because, she was back up almost sitting on my head.  So much for sleep.  As I laid there, a hymn was playing in my mind.  It’s not one that I’m very familiar with.  In fact, it took me several minutes to work out in my mind the words to the first verse.  I had no clue about the other verses.  It kept going through my mind as I was wishing instead to be in dreamland, and then I remembered saying the previous night that I wanted to arrange another hymn.  I was a little confused at this one.  “Rejoice the Lord is King.”  I expected a comfort hymn, like “Be Still, My Soul”.  The purpose of arranging hymns right now is to help in my healing and to share with others when I make a music CD honoring Josh on the one year mark after his passing.  I went to the hymnbook after fixing breakfast and read the words.  Because the 3rd verse mentions “The keys of death and hell to Christ the Lord are given,” I decided maybe that was my comfort factor and I began arranging music with that verse in mind.  The music became addicting and I was planted at the piano much of Monday and Tuesday.  After I was comfortable playing up to speed what I had put together, I was hooked.  I played it again and again and then, just as I hit the chorus for the thirty-something time, singing in my mind, “Lift up your heart, lift up your voice, Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!”  I was told simply, “This is from Josh.”  I had to leave the piano and find the Kleenex box because my rejoicing caused quite the release of tears.  It was such a personal, sweet moment.  I realized this song was up to Josh’s speed and he does want us to lift up our hearts and rejoice.  Although this hymn hadn’t really meant anything to me before, I think it will be my favorite arrangement because I know it was Josh’s choice.

My birthday was Thursday.

When Enos, Cody & Nate came into the bedroom to wake me up to have me come see my birthday surprises, I was tucked snugly into a dream.  I'll try to describe it the best I can.  I walked into our home and there stood Josh just beyond the entryway.  I had an immediate understanding that this was a dream and it was a gift.  I approached Josh and as I got closer to him, his eyes dropped a little in shyness and after the slightest hesitation, he mirrored my opened arms and we gently embraced each other.  The next thing I remember is Josh was laying down on a bed and I was kneeling beside him.  I was running my fingers through his hair and talking to him softly, to help him relax so he could fall asleep (as I sometimes used to do).  He indulged me as I enjoyed the silky smoothness of his hair.  I also rubbed his back, feeling the smoothness and warmth of his skin.  I held his hand and started to sing.  I felt self-conscious as I knew I wasn't on pitch, but Josh started singing and pulled me back into tune.  Shortly after, Enos came into the room and walked around to the other side of the bed and was looking at me.  I was now holding both of Josh's hands and I looked up at Enos and asked him, "Can you see him?"  He didn't answer and I couldn't perceive what he was thinking but I didn't worry about it.  I looked back at Josh and didn't want to let go of his hands and I was grateful he was indulging me.  I again understood this was a dream and it was given to me as a gift.  Then my bedroom door really did open and Enos really did walk in along with Cody and Nathan.  I reluctantly left my dream and followed my boys into the kitchen to enjoy their gifts.  After I thanked them and gave them hugs, I told them about my dream.  Nathan pointed out that Josh gave me a birthday present too.

I tried to remember what song I sang to Josh in my dream.  It seemed to me it was simply the chorus to the hymn, "Lift up your heart, lift up your voice, Rejoice, again, I say rejoice!"  It really was a gift.  I hadn't even requested it in a prayer, but I've certainly offered prayers of gratitude.

After you click on the link below, the audio recording will open in another window, but you may return to this window to follow along with the lyrics.

Words by Charles Wesley, Music by Horatio Parker

Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore!
Mortals, give thanks and sing and triumph evermore.
   Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
   Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
   Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
   Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

The Lord, the Savior, reigns, The God of truth and love.
When he had purged our stains, He took his seat above.

His kingdom cannot fail; He rules o’er earth and heav’n.
The keys of death and hell to Christ the Lord are giv’n.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Dream...

From my Tender Mercies Journal dated May 13, 2008:

"I sat outside on the steps late Saturday night trying to prepare myself emotionally for my first Mother's Day without Josh.  I looked up and when I saw the stars, I instinctively started with "Star Light, Star Bright..." but I didn't continue with the only wish I could think of because it wasn't conducive to God's will.  I just wanted Josh back and of course, I acknowledged it was God's will that I have him back, just in another time.  I thought of all the mothers that would get to hear from their missionary sons on Mother's Day.  I couldn't change that Josh was called to the Spirit World and I do see that call as a 'missionary call', but I started wishing, and then praying, that Josh would be able to communicate with me on Mother's Day.  Immediately, the question came - How? I responded, 'through a dream'.

Around eight o'clock Sunday morning there was a small procession into my bedroom ~ Enos carrying a tray with my breakfast, Nate carrying a vase of freshly picked tulips, and Cody simply carrying a happy 'I love you Mom' expression.  I invited everyone to get their food and join me for breakfast in bed.  After we were all situated, Enos asked, "Did you have any dreams?"  Interesting question, considering I hadn't shared with him what I prayed for the night before.  

I felt a little disappointed as I remembered the dream I was having when they woke me up.  I told them about it ~ how I found myself in a church parking lot at a youth activity.  Little slips of paper were handed out and I remember reading it.  It was an address: 1 24th.  Everyone was getting into cars and taking off.  I only recognized or took notice of one person.  It was Kaleb, a friend of Josh's.  Wanting him to succeed in this little treasure hunt activity, and seeing him standing there alone, I asked, "Do you want me to hop in the back of your car and give you directions?"  He said, "Sure."  I remember thinking, "We'll go over to 24th street and head down the hill until we find the address where the treasure it."  We were just leaving the parking lot when my boys brought me breakfast in bed.

I was disappointed that I didn't see Josh in my dream, but as the morning wore on, I started to wonder if Josh had communicated with me.  Was he asking me to help Kaleb?  I started to see symbolism.  It was a treasure hunt.  What treasure is there greater than the joy the gospel brings, the blessings of eternal life?  {Kaleb was not active in the church, although he had attended some YM & Scouting activities}  I wondered what I was supposed to do.  I remembered that Kaleb was driving a car; maybe this experience of helping Kaleb would happen when he was older. {At this point in time, I believe he was only 12, going on 13} Immediately I was told that this too was symbolic.  I could offer Kaleb (in my dream) to give him directions but he had to be the one to turn the key.  He had to be in the driver's seat.

Kaleb at Scout Camp
Before I took to the task of writing this down, I was out on a walk with Enos.  I shared with him basically everything I have just written.  His comment to me was, "We follow 24th street down to the bottom of the hill when we go to the temple."

I have received a spiritual witness that Josh cares about Kaleb's spiritual progression.  It wasn't the Mother's Day gift I expected but it makes sense coming from a missionary son.

Best Christmas Present Ever!

My most cherished Christmas gift from this year was given to us back in April. Our family invited someone from Enos' work over for Christmas Eve last year because we knew he would otherwise be spending it alone. Terrance brought his new camera and he followed us around the house recording even mundane things. Although it wasn't a planned program, the evening turned to music sharing. During Nathan's duet at the piano, Terrance gets a close up of Josh's face breaking into a shy and adorable smile. Amazingly, Terrance never deleted the footage. After Josh passed away, he downloaded it onto our computer. It means the world to me.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A 'hug' returned from heaven

My grandma passed away on Thursday. When I shared the news with Enos, he said, "She did it; good for her." He made it sound like death was an accomplishment, like giving birth. He gave me a long hug and when he pulled away his eyes were swimming with tears.

Grandma Margret & me

How can we not be happy for grandma? Her husband and all four children, plus her parents and several siblings were waiting to greet her with eager hugs. But how can we not feel sorry for ourselves? We have what seems like a long time before we can get in that hug line.

I know that Josh already got a hug. Grandma promised me that she would give him an extra one from me and tell him how much I love him. Somehow thinking about Grandma in the spirit world has caused my heart to ache for Josh. In the few days since I got the news, I have been kept busy with funeral to-do's. I made initial calls to family members, and then follow up calls giving more details. I typed up and submitted the obituary. I worked with my brother in making all the assignments for the funeral program, including getting music to people to sing the three songs she requested. I ordered the flowers to go on the casket. Everything was done except making the trip. I took some time to sit down. I picked up the July Ensign that had come in the mail that day. As I thumbed through it, I let out an audible gasp. Cody and Enos shot me a look of surprise and inquiry. What would cause such a reaction? There on page 9 was a photo with Josh in it. Our Josh. It was taken around five years ago and was used in the Ensign then but we weren't notified that it would be printed again. Under the picture is the text, "We feel the joy of God's plan for us on earth."

Wow. It's one of those moments when there is no inner wall tall enough to hold back the tears. Heavenly Father knew when Grandma would be called home. He knew how our hearts would be drawn out to Josh. And he sent us a personal message.

Journal Entry June 29, 2011 "We got to the funeral early enough for the viewing.  What I will never forget is being at the piano during, “A Hero”.  I played the intro, all the cousins came in singing.  I was focused on playing the right notes and staying with the singers.  We were on the third stanza when I heard, “Now Deanne, you’re going to sing too…”  I remembered how many times Grandma had asked me to sing that song for her funeral and every time I had said, “Grandma, I can’t sing.”  She’d respond, “Oh, you can too!”  I was so grateful back on Friday when Melvin had told me that everyone would be singing it.  Sitting at the piano focused on playing the piano, it hadn’t occurred to me to sing.  Until I heard her.  I couldn’t really argue since nobody else but Grandma and I would hear me sing.  I found myself smiling through the rest of the song and feeling as comfortable as I would have been playing and singing in my own living room.  It wasn’t until later when I shared this with Enos that I cried, when I realized what a tender mercy it was for me to be given to know that Grandma was right there with us.  I still smile when I think about how Grandma didn’t let me get away without singing the song I wrote for her.

On my way back from the airport, I drove up the hill and did a session at the Bountiful temple.  I saw a deer on the hill and took a picture.  I wondered during the endowment who might have escorted Grandma from mortality to the spirit world.  There were many choices: parents, husband, siblings, children.  Then, when I stood at the veil, and listened to the elderly male voice on the other side, I knew with all my heart that it was Grandpa.  The spirit bore witness so strong; I could hardly speak my part at the end.  I was grateful for that enlightenment and when I received it, I realized the answer was what I should have surmised all along.  About two weeks later, Melvin sent an email that let us know something interesting.  He had taken Grandma to the doctor the day before she died.  After she had passed and Melvin was called in, he saw something that he hadn’t seen the day before on her kitchen table.  Notices of Grandpa’s passing from fifteen years ago."

George & Margret Butt  ~ 50th anniversary