Grace Helen Smuin Laemmlen b. 14 Jan 1930, d. 31 Oct 1998

Today I remember my mother.  She would have been 84 years old today.  I think about my mother when I watch my daughter, Claire.  We three are very much alike, although I never would have thought that growing up.  I don’t think Claire thinks it either.  But the truth is we are.

Laemmlen, Grace Beauty Salon

Mom’s Funeral November 4, 1998
–Ann Laemmlen Lewis

A dear friend told me this morning, as I expressed concern about speaking at my own Mother’s funeral, that expectations are always low when a child speaks, because it is such a difficult thing to do. That brought great comfort. I’ll try my best to tell you about my Mom.

It’s interesting that I always felt like my Mom and I were very different. But as I look at her life, I see mine. We share the same loves and passions and many of the same talents. I am her daughter.

My Mom loved Books. We both love to read. As a small child, I clearly remember being on her knee every night with a book. She taught me to read when I was 3 or 4. I devoured books as a child. She fed them to me as fast as I could read them. Our bookshelves were always overflowing. They still are. Gladys Tabor was one of her favorite authors. Mom and I have always needed to be surrounded by books–more than we will ever have time to read. But we need them there.

You may have tangible wealth untold
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a mother who read to me.
–Strickland Gillilan

Mom loved to Write. I also chose writing as a profession. Friday morning as I visited with her, I noticed her journals from the last few years on the table. “I’m all caught up,” she reported. Her personal history, from which Leslie has shared, was complete. Mom wrote many letters to friends. She carefully selected cards and stamps. Her penmanship was beautiful. Her words were carefully selected and poetic. Her last journal entry reads:

“It is a quiet time here. Colors and muted, haze stands over this valley, shadows fall long on the lawn. The air is dreamy. The last burst of bright golden flowers blossom in my front yard. After a brief floury of winter, Indian Summer brings such warm days it’s hard to believe that winter will come.”

Mom loved Music. Especially classical. She studied the lives of the great Composers. Each month she would listen to the complete works of a different composer. Her very favorites were Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and especially Brahms, especially his 3rd and 4th symphonies. She also loved particular operas–we shared a favorite there as well: La Traviata.

Mom loved Gardening. You will not find richer soil with more steer manure and compost and worms anywhere in Utah County! Friday morning I helped her pull out her pansies. She was already planning what to put in next. As I left, she made sure I saw her beautiful garden. She was so happy that the annuals were still so beautiful and colorful.

Mom loved Nature and the Seasons. When she moved to Utah, she was like a little child. She loved any change. We’d phone each other to share thunderstorms and first snow falls. We collected fall leaves together. She loved the crisp air here. We both love fall and the harvest. And Mom loved the snow. She had never lived in snow before. She got so excited whenever there was enough to shovel off of her sidewalk.

Mom loved to study weather patterns and she had books full of weather charts. She listened to the weather channel. She kept a daily journal of the high and low temperatures and of the times of the sunrises and sunsets. When she arrived in Utah, it troubled her that none of us knew the names of the mountain peaks around us. She studied the flora and fauna of Utah and the birds here. Many of you know her as The Bird House Lady. She loved her birds and fed them and found great joy in watching them at her window.

She asked that I read the following poem, The Psalm of My Soul, by Gertrude Viehweg Todd at her funeral:

O Lord,
from wells of deep emotion,
my love flows over—
a grateful love for joys I’ve known
of soul and heart and mind:
the magnitude of space,
the scape and scope of color,
the contour, size, and shape
of plant, of shrub, of giant tree,
all are compassed—
all encompassed, Lord, in Thee!
My soul upon its knees doth walk
in gratitude and praise
for sharing Thine with me.
Through all my days,
I’ve cried to Thee
in joyous bursts of praise
when scenes of splendor
came within my view:
snowy mountains silvering in the light
or morning birds winging off in song.
You only know, dear Lord,
the lessons learned from these
of faith, of strength,
of need to trust in Thee.
My soul upon its knees doth walk
in gratitude
that I know Thee!
I see Thy face
in desert sand,
in rocky gorge,
in somber shade of gray-green sage,
in dew-wet grass,
in heaven’s blue.
I walk upon my knees, dear Lord,
yea, my soul walks upon its knees
for gifts of song,
of speech, of written word,
of compassion’s warming flame.
I walk upon my knees,
share with Thee my joy.
I thank Thee for Thy listening ear.
I thank Thee, Lord,
for Thee.

Mom loved Holidays. Every single one. She loved to celebrate and make things festive. We had lots of food traditions. She was the finest cook I’ve ever known. She didn’t use many recipes. She knew how to season and flavor everything perfectly. And she was an artist in her presentation. Holidays will always be hard without her.

Even living alone, Mom had her own celebrations and special days. She was ready for Halloween Trick-or-Treaters. Her basket of quality treats was perfectly arranged with big hairy spiders guarding the candy. She also had individually wrapped treats for each of her grandchildren waiting for their arrival. My little Claire has saved some of her Halloween candy for Grama Grace (“Grama does Not have a ˜d’ in it”). I reminded her that Grandma wouldn’t be there. “I Know,” she said. “It’s for after she’s resurrected.” “But that may be a long time from now,” I said. “Will it be 30 years, or 100?” No matter. Claire’s candy will be waiting.

My Mom loved peace and order. Her home was her sanctuary. She loved to be by herself. She was a peaceful person. When I went back over on Sunday morning, I smiled as I wandered through her home. Everything was in complete order–just as she would have wanted it. Saturday, she had just come in from hosing out her garage. The front and back porches were still damp as well, and the doormats were clean and hanging to dry. All the cracks in the cement were clean.

There was no dirty laundry to be found anywhere. Not even a used dishrag. Clean laundry was in the dryer, fluffy and unwrinkled. The counters were all wiped clean. I did, however, find 2 or 3 crumbs under the toaster. Every towel in every bathroom was hung straight. Every closet was picture perfect. Every drawer, every cupboard–perfectly organized. Labels turned out, coat hangers spaced evenly, shoes in boxes. Even her piles of projects were artistically stacked.

I wonder if, someday, I’ll be like my Mom in that way. If that ever happens, the heavens and my husband will rejoice!

And Mom loved the Stars in the heavens. Her binoculars are on the table by her window. Her star charts were open to the day. She was waiting excitedly for the shooting stars that will come on November 17th at 2:30 a.m. She had already arranged wake up calls for close friends who wanted to join her in the commons to watch the heavenly display. Her view will be much better now.

Mom loved to contemplate the Heavens and Eternity. Late Saturday night, after all the Trick-or-Treaters were home tucked into bed, I walked out into the night to be with Mom. The clouds had just parted and I found some stars. I didn’t want the day to end. I felt so close to her. I believe that our earthly arrivals and departures are very very sacred occasions. “A crevice where the glory shimmers through.” (Edwin Markham).

These last few days have be incredible to me. I feel the heavens near. I feel the thinness of the veil. My dear friend told me that she believes the Mother-Daughter relationship is a sacred thing. I feel that strongly now. My Mother had many physical and emotional limitations. She was fettered with earthly restrictions. It was difficult for her to be close to others. And yet, when her Spirit was set free, I could feel her soar! I have felt an overwhelming outpouring of her love. It’s whole and complete and pure. Every time I look at my little blonde daughter’s beautiful countenance, I can almost audibly her my Mother telling me that she has always loved me just as I love Claire. I not only hear her, I feel her love pouring down around me.

Mom’s passing has been a beautiful and sacred experience for both of us. This has been the most beautiful week we have ever spent together. I know she lives. I know she has been received into “. . . a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, as state of peace, where [she] shall rest from all [her] troubles and from all [her] care and sorrow.” (Alma 40:12.) I love my Mother. I love how she has blessed my life and how she will continue blessing my life throughout Eternity.

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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4 Responses to Grace Helen Smuin Laemmlen b. 14 Jan 1930, d. 31 Oct 1998

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your dear mother. Thank you for posting it.

  2. Maureen Bringhurst says:

    Such wisdom and eternal perspective. Thank You for posting these healing words. A beautiful tribute, Ann 💕

  3. Leslie Laemmlen says:

    This is so beautifully written! Grace had so many wonderful interests and talents. It was fun to remember her today on what would have been her 90th birthday! 🙂

  4. Alexis Champneys Beckstead says:

    I loved reading this Ann. You are a great writer yourself, like your Mom. You are doing so many things to help build the kingdom of God. I am sure she is so proud of you. I remember as a child visiting your mother’s home and it was always perfectly spotless. An amazing home maker. She sure raised special kids. I could relate to your expression that her death was a beautiful and sacred experience. I had something similar with the death of my own mother. So glad your family connected with ours, however short. Best wishes, Alexis (Lex) Champneys Beckstead

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