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Holly and Gretchen


I’ve always loved this photo of Holly and Gretchen. If Holly hadn’t been early, they could have shared a birthday.

Holly was born on the morning of June 8 in a little military hospital at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, Texas. Hers was a pretty quick and simple birth. I think it was assisted by the fact that the labor and delivery nurses didn’t want to waste the labor room space on someone who was progressing as well as I was, so they used curtained room dividers to create a quiet, dark corner for me to labor in the hallway, of all places. Every once-in-a-while a nurse would poke her head through the curtains, observe conditions, and leave Rob and me to ourselves.

Other than the morning sickness the first three or so months, my pregnancy with Holly was pretty nice. I stayed relatively slim (I was back in my clothes the NEXT DAY!). I shared Holly’s acute sense of smell for nine months, which was a curiosity for me.

When Holly was six months old, I was called to be the Relief Society president. I felt so sad for myself. It seemed like I was always handing her off to someone so I could do my calling. Holly seemed to handle it well. She learned to roll with the punches at an early age.

Holly was extraordinarily observant as a baby. When she discovered her hands, she would stare at them for the longest time, turning them and looking at them from every angle. I think that is reflected in her artistic abilities. Her art has been very detailed from the time she was very little.

Holly was such a sweet, easy baby. But she had her stubborn side too. She just was very quiet about her stubbornness. Holly was always very earnest as well. She is very patient and has a great deal of self-discipline. I think all of those qualities combined to make her a very good missionary. And a very good person.


Gretchen was Rob’s mother. She was a complicated person, but I loved her and wanted to have a close relationship with her and for her to have a good relationship with her grandchildren. She and I went through a bit of a rough patch at one point, but after our difficulties were resolved, she understood my boundaries, and I can honestly say, our relationship was loving and respectful. Working things out was painful, but I have been spared the greater pain of unresolved issues.

Gretchen had a mother that was hard to live up to, so I think she underrated her own talent and gifts. She had a great eye and created a beautiful home. She had lovely prose and wrote beautiful letters to family and friends. She made truly outstanding reproduction cross-stitch samplers. Each of her children and grandchildren were the lucky recipients of her handiwork. She introduced me to British choral music and it changed my life. Literally.

Gretchen died too young. Despite having quit cigarette smoking years before, she developed lung cancer and passed away before her family was prepared to see her go. The progression of her illness left her childlike and pain-free. That was a blessing. My last days with her were a gift. I cooked for her and joked with her and helped her to bed at night. The day we took her to hospice was a warm and sunny early fall day. Rob drove the car and opened the windows and sunroof. He joked with her about it “messing her hair” (there wasn’t much) and she laughed. A genuine and guileless laugh.

I look forward to hearing that laugh again one day.