Sunday, August 24, 2008

An unexpected package

One evening this past week, I came home from work to see an unexpected package on my front porch. It was from Mads & Shirley Cottrell.

Hmmm. I had to think a minute. I think I'd met Mads Cottrell once in my life. When I was 10 years old. At a Jensen family reunion in Wyoming. I met lots of distant relatives that day, and Mads is the only one I remembered because he looked just like my Dad. He's my Dad's cousin.

I opened the package, which had a book and a letter in it. The book was a spiral bound "History of Mads 'C' Jensen Family". The letter was so tender, it made me cry. Here's an excerpt from it:

"Since all of our parents and many cousins have left to reap their heavenly rewards, I have had the good fortune of receiving some very important information to all of us I would like to share with you. What made me think of this was after we had recently laid to rest another dear sister-in-law, reality hit me that we are of the older generation now and one day I am going to be gone also. I am not complaining, because I know this is part of the plan of salvation and we all must eventually reap what we have sown.

"As far as I know there was just one copy of the original information I have sent you. It frightened me to think someone, after my passing, would not realize the worth of this information and it might be thrown out, and destroyed. Therefore, I have had prepared 20 copies, one for each of you .... With these 20 copies scattered with each of us and still the original, I hope our children and grandchildren and on, can find a copy if they want one.

"I am very happy you are my cousin and I am part of the Jensen Family. I pray each of us will hold to the iron rod and live lives that it will make it possible for us to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost at all times. Hopefully we will remember, and live the 3rd Article of Faith we learned while we were in Primary: WE BELIEVE THAT THROUGH THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST, ALL MANKIND MAY BE SAVED BY OBEDIENCE TO THE LAWS AND ORDINANCES OF THE GOSPEL.

"Love you, Mads"

I was touched that Mads would go to the effort and expense to make and distribute these copies of this family history information. I plan to write him and express my appreciation. My mother had already given me and each of my siblings a copy of this history, and so if any of you who are descendants of Mads Jensen would like a copy of this and don't have one already, please do let me know and I will send you the copy Mads Cottrell sent me.

I took some time to review the life histories, and found them uplifting. I especially loved reading the life history of my grandmother Ada Jensen Conlin, since I had grown up in the same town where she lived and knew her well. My mother, who is a very talented writer, had helped my Grandma Ada write her history in a very vivid way. I just wanted to share some of my favorite passages with you.

My Grandma Ada's mother died when she was only 8 years old, and she really struggled without a mother. She was the youngest of 12 children, and so was at the bottom of the pecking order without a mother to protect her. When she was 12, her father married again, to a wonderful woman. Here's what she said about it:

"I'll never forget what I thought when I first saw Mary Ann Hansen. She had come on the train to Greybull and then on the stage 25 miles to home. Roads weren't too good in those days, so naturally she was tired. She was kind of homely like Abraham Lincoln. I went in the kitchen and I whispered to brother Lynn "Gosh, she is ugly!"

"The next morning we got up and she was fixing breakfast. She didn't look like the same person. She was actually pretty. She grew more beautiful every day of her life. O how I loved her. She didn't let the other children boss me. She was the best Mother in the whole world. We kids would do anything to please her. We called her Aunt Mary Ann. That soon changed to Aunt Mary, which meant Mother to me. What a difference she made in my home. "

I loved that phrase...."she grew more beautiful every day of her life"! I think that does happen to people who love greatly. What an amazing woman Mary Ann Hansen was, to be willing to be a loving stepmother to 12 children, and what a huge impact she had on these children!

My Grandma Ada and Grandpa Bill weren't always active in the Church, but they always were very devoted to their family and loved each other greatly. I was touched by this passage:

"Bill was asked to be the Superintendent of the Mutual. They gave him two weeks to quit smoking. It was a real challenge for him, but he did it. Every time he was ready to give up, one of the boys [my Dad or one of my two uncles] would walk in and say, "I am sure proud of my Pop today. He has gone this many days without smoking." They seemed to know his weak moments. He was always proud of this hard accomplishment. He never tasted a cigarette again."

Anyway, what a treat it was to receive an unexpected, uplifting package in the mail! I appreciate my heritage and loving family.

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