Saturday, January 07, 2012

Eulogy for “Grandma Lee”

Lola Lenore (Bull) Allen, 1928–2011Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at Union City, CA

"The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out." (Joseph Smith)

Lola Lenore Allen – Grandma Lee to most of us – has experienced over time the joyous heights of what life here on earth can offer; also, she has suffered (patiently) the painful depths of some of life’s most difficult trials. The nature of her experience -- and especially her response -- has seared into her very soul the most important of life’s key lessons.

Of all women who bore their suffering well, Grandma Lee stands out as one of life’s preeminent, exemplar queens.

On behalf of her daughter (my wife Becky), her sons Fred and Craig, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and her entire family on this and the other side of the veil – and especially Lenore’s lone surviving sibling, her sister Jolinda Resa -- I express heartfelt thanks and love to everyone here; to and from all of us here, and those who could not make it. Care, concern, and a spirit of loving forgiveness seems to permeate the air and penetrate our hearts.

We remember and honor Lola Lenore (Bull) Allen. As a child her family grew up calling her Lenore. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren grew up calling her Grandma Lee. But, Fred, Becky and Craig grew up calling her mother. Mom: the sweetest name under heaven; and for good reason. Abraham Lincoln attributed all that he was to his loving Angel Mother. George Washington stood and acted in awe of his strong, powerful mother.

Fred, Becky, and Craig’s mother embodied the best of these and other important character traits of all the great women in history; especially the tough, strong, steady traits of the sturdy pioneer women of her own ancestors. Together as one, her combined strength and love are the most beautiful things a child can see, and a true friend can appreciate.

In the face of adversity, she was firm and dependable. She did not break. In the hard times, she was the one they all, the one we all, looked to. She was the rock.

Lenore was born in 1928, and grew up in 1930s during the depths of the depression in Arizona and in Southern California. She went to a one-room schoolhouse across the street from the family ranch for first through third grades. Jolinda remembers sitting on the floor of their parents’ bedroom, looking at their mother's trunk, handling the bone buttons, a vial of jewels, and their father’s gas mask from World War I.

Lenore and her younger sisters used to put on plays for the kids in the neighborhood. When she was 10 or 11 years old she was sent to her Uncle Walt and Aunt Bessie's ranch in Arizona all by herself to work full-time as a nanny and care-giver for her brand new cousin Kaye.

During the war years of the 1940s her mother went to work at Lockheed building P-38s 10 hours a day, six days a week. So Lenore had to take over raising her three younger sisters. Her sisters depended on her in so many ways, for their daily care; for comfort when their father, who suffered through the horrors of trench warfare in France during WW I dealt poorly with the struggles of the depression and the misfortune of bad business partners. When her sisters got older, Lenore went to work as a teen at Montgomery Wards.

During the war years after they moved back to Arizona for a six months’ stay, Lenore was the bell of the ball her sophomore year in high school going to all the school dances. Growing up and during the war, the church was very important to them. Lenore was called to be one of the dance instructors at church. Lenore both danced and taught the tango, the samba, the rumba, and led the conga line. Since Monday, since Lenore has been freed from an atrophied body, Jo says she imagines Lenore finally being able to dance again. Jo relates that she and Lenore served in the Drum and Bugle corps, where Lenore played the bugle all over Southern California, marching in parades, performing in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, the Pantages Theatre, the Shrine Auditorium, and Pershing Square. (They rubbed shoulders with movie stars such as Loretta Young, Robert Taylor and Bob Hope.) This was a welcome escape from the shared sacrifice of the war years. They also remember the searchlights, the sirens, the air wardens, the war bond rallies, and the booming cannon practicing on the Air Force bases on the coast.

After the war, she graduated in 1948 from Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra, California. Later she married and began raising her three children in Duarte during the 1950s, working alongside her husband in a bookkeeping business in El Monte, California.

In the 1960s, left alone as a single mother, she dug deep, worked long and hard, and did her very best for her three children. She gave love when that was all she had to give.

She was devoted to her own mother, who moved back to Arizona. Lenore would drive her three kids across the hot desert with a wet towel draped across the back of her neck. As her kids went outside to watch and work with grandpa and the horses, Lenore stayed inside and spent time with her beloved mother.

Ultimately, Lenore prevailed and bought a house on her own in Rowland Heights, California. A favorite pastime for Lenore and Jolinda was to get together to sew dresses for their daughters. Lenore had a keen mind and could visualize and conceptualize dresses for which she could rework and devise her own patterns. Lenore used to enjoy taking her kids to Oak Glenn in the autumn for mini-family reunions – a tradition she re-instituted as a grandmother years later. A particular favorite escape at these times was an annual week at Laguna Beach.

At NCR she found and married in the early 1970s, the love of her life, Rol Allen. After they married, she moved to Whittier, California, and continued to improve her skills, grew in her profession and secured a good job as Comptroller, handling millions of dollars as she managed the finances of two manufacturing companies in Southern California.

I was so very fortunate to have Lee and Rol as my in-laws. The day I married Becky, they sat us down and gave us one specific, pointed piece of advice. “Be friends. With ALL that marriage is and all that it provides a young-and-in-love couple: Be friends. Be best friends.” They continued, that, in addition to all the other roles we would have and enjoy, being true friends would see us through any hard times, and in the end, when there would be an empty nest, we would have our ‘best friend’ there to live out the rest of our lives together. We took that advice and now enjoy the benefits from following their advice and their example.

On more than one occasion, Lenore and I had frank conversations, where she offered wise advice, not so much correcting any specific thing, but offering good, general principles and perspective. She surely COULD have given me very specific advice to help correct this or that issue which I needed to address, but it was the wise overarching principles she shared – about life in general, about work and finances, and about serving in the church. I have tried to follow, and see now, if I didn’t then, the wisdom of her advice and her example in these things.

Not long after marrying Rol, they took in his aging mother – who was in her early 80s. Basically, Lenore both worked full-time long hours in finance, AND took care of Rol’s mother Grace, till Grace was about to turn 100. This she did without complaint and without many verbal thanks from Grace – who otherwise was quite delightful.

Lenore was in her prime in the 1980s, bringing us all together for family get-togethers at their beautiful home in Whittier, especially memorable were her Christmas Eve dinners.

Finally, during the capstone of her life, the 1990s, Lee and Rol enjoyed a good measure of the peace and contentment that she so richly deserved. They enjoyed focusing on their grandchildren and taking some time off, to tour the East Coast, cruise the Great Northwest and Alaska, and travel to Hawaii with Lee’s sister Jolinda. After Rol’s mother Grace passed away at age 102, Grandma Lee planned and moved them to a brand new house in Las Vegas, Nevada. This offered them a handful of golden years.

Lee and Rol were totally devoted to one another. Everyone could see this. Over the years they took turns caring for the other, when some type of illness befell one of them. A few years after they moved to Las Vegas, Grandma Lee’s memory began to be negatively impacted because of a stroke. Still they had some great and satisfying years there. In 2002, they moved here to this wonderful Masonic Home in Union City, California. After only a few years here, Rol passed away in 2005.

Dignity, Last Days, Hours, Minutes
The past ten years were more and more difficult for Lenore. She lost ability to talk, then to walk. She was dignified, elegant, classy and beautiful all through her life, and especially at the end. She did not complain about the poor hand she was dealt. She went to work, caring for her loved ones, till, literally, she wore out.

No matter the circumstance, no matter the difficulty, no matter the trial or the pain or the illness, Lenore Allen was still a strong Bull woman.

Not just strong, but beautiful -- in so many ways. Her lovely, gentle face, her beautiful hair, her rock-solid dependability, her excellent example of long and hard work, her devotion to us all, her generous and forgiving and loving heart; her whole life.

Yes, Grandma Lee was strong. She was respectful of her ancestors, especially the women pioneer ancestors. In her own time, she was one of those post-war single women who found themselves alone (not by choice), who had to pick themselves up and care for a young family. She was a single woman who pioneered making her own way in the cold hard world of business. And she ultimately succeeded.

Her own pioneer grandmother wrote these words, and boys, this is also from your OWN great, great, great grandmother:

"Yes, I’ve pioneered in Arizona, but my mother was a pioneer before me – she came from Illinois to Utah with the first handcart company, and my husband’s father, James Craig, was a bugler for the pioneers of 1847 and crossed the Plains into Salt Lake City with Brigham Young… Yes, I suppose you’d say that pioneering in those early years was hard, but we were all trying to develop the country and build a better nation. No one was trying to destroy it or tear it down. Everybody worked together and tried to follow the teaching of one of the Apostles who said, ‘Stick to the good and work for the right.’

"Of course we worked hard, but hard work is good for the souls of men. Hard work kept our children out of mischief and kept men from getting into trouble. If I had my life to live over, I believe I’d take the hardships of our times rather than the problems of today. We built the nation. A lot of people now are trying to tear it apart. No matter how hard, it is easier to build a country than to keep the enemies from destroying it afterwards.

"There’s a tremendous job of pioneering for our young people today—pioneering in a wilderness of unrest, selfishness, intolerance, greed, and dishonor. True courses must be charted through this wilderness just as we broke trails through nature’s wilderness sixty-nine years ago."

Purpose of Our Extremities
A survivor of one of the worst handcart tragedies wrote on the value of their suffering. Please hear these words as though they were from Grandma Lee speaking from the spirit world about her suffering, and our own:

"Every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities! I have [pushed on] when I was so weak and weary from illness . . . that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and . . . have said, I can go only [so] far and there I must give up for I cannot pull the load [alone]. I have gone to that [point] and when I reached it, [I felt I was being carried along]! I have looked…many times to see who was [supporting me], but my physical eyes saw no one. I knew then that the Angels of God were there. . . . The price we paid [in our sufferings] to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay…."


Never Give Up
I can hear Lenore say, with Joseph Smith: “Never be discouraged. If I were sunk in the lowest pits of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top.”

A keen observation from an apostle of the Lord, “Now, this is the truth. We humble people, we who feel ourselves sometimes so worthless, so good-for-nothing; we are not so worthless as we think. There is not one of us but what God's love has been expended upon. There is not one of us that He has not cared for and caressed. There is not one of us that He has not desired to save and that He has not devised means to save. There is not one of us that He has not given His angels charge concerning. // We may be insignificant and contemptible in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, but the truth remains that we are the children of God and that He has actually given His angels ­­ invisible beings of power and might ­­ charge concerning us, and they watch over us and have us in their keeping.” (George Q. Cannon -- Gospel Truth 1:2)

We can consider that Grandma Lee is now one of those angels. Joseph Smith said of “the spirits of [our departed loved ones]” that “they are not far from us, and [that they] know and understand our thoughts, [and] feelings….”

President Spencer W. Kimball wrote (Ensign, May 1978) “When we sing that doctrinal hymn and anthem of affection, ‘O My Father’ (taken from a poem by Eliza R. Snow originally titled, “Invocation, or the Eternal Father and Mother), we get a sense of the ultimate in maternal modesty, of the restrained, queenly elegance of our Heavenly Mother, and knowing how profoundly our mortal mothers have shaped us here, do we suppose her influence on us as individuals to be less…?”

So, I can see Grandma Lee on the other side of the veil, with her mother, singing with the angels, guarding and guiding us back home through the trials which will come our way. She will not be able to prevent trials from coming our way. But she will be there to comfort and guide us through them. She wants us to hold firm, she wants us to be tough, wants us to never give up.

Yes, we shed tears of sadness that she was in pain, and now is gone -- but we also shed tears of joy, recognizing the greatness of her soul; thankful for her influence for many years in the past and for so many years to come. We remember her, and honor her.

In conclusion, Jesus offers us consolation in a sometimes hard and unforgiving world.

"I say unto you, That ye shall weep… and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. . . . These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:12, 20, 33)

Lee has now overcome this world and has passed into a better. Joseph Smith taught that, All our loses will be made up to us in the resurrection, with Christ. In fact, these very loses themselves will make our ultimate triumph with Jesus that much more sweet.

I pray we remember Grandma Lee with honor and with fondness and with love . . . in the precious name of our Exemplar and our Friend, even Jesus the Christ, Amen.

# # #

*Written but not delivered as part of eulogy.

Purpose of Life
The following paragraphs are from the seminal movie, Man’s Search for Happiness, prepared by the church for the 1960 World’s Fair in New York City. (By the way, Lenore’s mother and father attended this fair.) I have inserted Lenore into the text of the movie’s point of view. Please also put yourself in Lenore’s shoes as I share these this.

"Lenore entered mortality to further prepare for the everlastingness of life after death. Her mortal body, in which her spirit dwelt, was subject to pain, to difficulties, even to death. For it is only in opposition that she could grow in strength of character. She had to know pain to appreciate well-being; difficulties to develop courage; death to understand eternal life. . . .

"After death, though her mortal body will lie in the earth, she, her spirit self—being eternal—continues to live. . . . Like coming out of a darkened room into light—through death she will emerge in a place of reawakening—and find loved ones there waiting to welcome her. There with her loved ones, she will await the resurrection—which is the reuniting of her spirit and her body. There she will continue towards the limitless opportunities of everlasting life.

"As a daughter of God, is it any wonder that she is an eternal part of His plan and purpose; and coming from such a noble heritage, that she has possibilities far beyond our greatest dreams. Be assured that her life had real purpose. Be assured that her life was worth living (and that our life is worth living).

"This Jesus has promised her and you, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.’

“Be assured that she was here, not by accident or chance; but as part of a glorious everlasting plan.”

“…to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize…her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. . . ."