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I was blessed to have all four grandparents alive until I had reached my thirties. However, because they were in my life for so long, losing three of them over the years has been hard. “The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.

Grandma R’s funeral was an especially intense experience because she was the first of my grandparents to go, and her death came rather suddenly. (I had just talked to her about doing a family history video where I asked her and Grandpa questions. She died less than two weeks later. I’m still sad that I never got to follow through with that idea!) It was also emotionally, mentally and spiritually draining for me because I had been asked to represent the cousins by giving a tribute at the funeral.

By the time we had the funeral and the graveside service, it was well past lunchtime, and I was exhausted. I was grateful for the chance to sit, and to eat. It was wonderful to be together in that cultural hall, basking in the love we feel as an extended family. We had the usual meal ham, funeral potatoes, rolls, and so on. It was delicious.

But what I remember most was my dessert. I had chosen a tasty, homemade ‘oreo’ cookie (makes my jaws water just thinking about it). But it’s not the yumminess of the cookie that made it so memorable (although it really was yummy!). As I savored the soft, sweet sandwich, I was overcome with a feeling of gratitude and a bit of awe. A woman I don’t know, who doesn’t know me, spent a lot of time and love making these cookies. It was a simple, even silly thought, perhaps, but yet it overcame me to think of the effort she put forth on our behalf.

That cookie became a sort of symbol to me of the love of people who made it possible for us as a family to sit together and rest and simply feel cared for and nurtured. They took care of our physical need for food so that we could be with each other and feel the healing power of love and of the Spirit as we gathered together.

Shortly after Grandma’s funeral, I was asked to teach in Relief Society. The lesson must have been on service or something related, because I talked about this experience, and how touched I was by this simple, possibly even routine act of providing food for a funeral meal.

And while I have since repented of the felt need to make handouts in Relief Society, I’m still sort of glad I made them when I taught this time, because I think it was a little bit of inspiration that was worth sharing. I wrapped up a couple of OREO cookies (the packaged kind) and attached a little paper with the following printed on it:


Sister Marjorie Hinckley was known to say, “Oh, how we need each other!” Indeed. And we may never know how simple acts of service and kindness may touch someone’s heart and life. I wish that woman who made the homemade oreos could know what her cookie meant to me.

Matt. 25:40
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren [or perhaps done one of the least acts of service?], ye have done it unto me.

Mosiah 2:17
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • mandyp September 3, 2008, 9:17 am

    Thank you for this wonderful article! I think that the smallest things we do (or have done for us) are often the biggest acts of service. It’s easy to forget how much it helps somebody when you make them dinner, or watch their kids for a few hours… I also loved your “OREO” acronym.

  • Ray September 3, 2008, 12:19 pm

    Beautiful. Truly beautiful.

  • nanacarol September 3, 2008, 4:24 pm

    Very touching article. Thank you for your kind and wise counsel.

  • facethemusic September 3, 2008, 7:44 pm

    LOVE the O.R.E.O idea!!! I’m SO going to use that the next time I have a lesson on compassion/service/charity!!

    I love little moments of “clarity” like the one you shared– where something simple yet significant lights your mind.
    It’s especially wonderful that you were able to do that in the middle of a funeral dinner for your grandmother.

    And may I say how envious I am that you had all four grandparents alive into your thirties???
    It always amazes me when I hear something like that. Do I assume then that you also knew your great-grandparents??
    My paternal grandfather died at 48 the year before I was born, and my maternal grandfather died at 52 when I was 5. I only have two memories of him– sitting on his lap in their kitchen- he was teaching me how to tie my shoe. And I remember his car– a big white Oldsmobile.
    My great grandparents died YEARS before I was even a gleam in my parents’ eyes. My paternal great-grandparents and my maternal great grandmother all died a decade before I was born. My maternal great-grandfather died in 1915– three years after my grandmother was born and 53 years before I was born. So it always AMAZES me when I hear people talk about knowing their great-grandparents– some have even known their great-great grandparents!!
    That’s just bewildering to me!!!

  • agardner September 3, 2008, 9:32 pm

    Michelle, I also loved this. It’s amazing the simple things that people do that mean so much.

    I am also envious that you knew all 4 grandparents for so long. Both of my grandmothers are still living, and I feel so blessed for that. They are amazing people in my life. My grandfathers died long ago, however. One when I was barely a year old, and the other when I was 14. At least I knew the one who died when I was 14 quite well, and I miss him.

    I also knew a couple of my great-grandparents. One great-grandma, in fact, lived until I was in college! She died my freshman year, at age 97. I also briefly knew my great-grandfather. He died on July 4, 1976 – when I was 5 years old. I remember things about his funeral. I also knew his wife, my step-great-grandmother.

  • mlinford September 3, 2008, 10:27 pm

    Thanks for the comments, all.

    face and agardner, I know, I was spoiled. I knew only one great-grandfather, really. I have vague memories of Great Grandma (his wife) but she died when I was really little. He died when I was only 8. The others all died fairly young, actually, so in that sense, all but one grandparent defied genetics.

    I got married at 27 and had all four sets of grandparents in the temple. Pretty amazing. That as essentially the oldest granddaughter on both sides, too!

  • davidson September 4, 2008, 12:03 pm

    Oreos to you, my dear Mlinford! My guess is that you have been the Oreo-maker yourself on many, many occasions. If you don’t mind, I’m going to print your article and give it to every compassionate service leader and Relief Society presidency member I know. It is not uncommon for EACH OF them to spend over twelve hours serving for each funeral that comes along.

    Last week I lost a dear friend, a 93 year-old sweetheart whom I went visiting teaching to. I cried a lot for her. Not because of her death–she was very anxious to die– but because of the sorry life she was living when she passed away. Nobody cared about her. Everybody was too busy to see her. She lived alone until last year when a caregiver was hired to live with her. Her kids freely admitted they were sick of “taking care of her” and wished she’d hurry up and die. I was called on a few times to go and change her diaper; her daughter who lived nearby was too tired and didn’t want to. I went to her house a few times late in the evening because she was alone and crying. It was very difficult for her to see or hear or walk, and she shouldn’t have been alone. Heart-breaking. It was all I could do to sit on the bench in the chapel during her funeral and listen to those thoughtless people talk about how much they loved their mother and grandmother and how much they enjoyed being in her home–that is, years ago when she was healthy and vigorous and able to serve them as much as they liked being served. You know, I wanted to walk up and smack them! All of them! I am still praying for help to get these ugly feelings out of my heart. They didn’t deserve her. She was wise and wonderful and had a great sense of humor, and she was always so thankful for every single little thing done for her. Maybe I’ve told you before; she broke her shoulder when she was 71 because she was doing a cartwheel. She loved to run, until she broke her leg in a zillion places and couldn’t run any more. I hope she is running now. I hope her children don’t live long enough to be treated the way she was treated for 20 years. Well, maybe I DO hope they live that long. (That’s beastly of me, I freely admit. I will continue to try to change my heart.)

    I bet you were wonderful to your grandparents, Michelle. I knew all four of my grandparents and a few of my great-grandparents. We were thrilled to do my Nonna’s baptism and confirmation this week. My son baptized my daughter in her behalf, and my husband comfirmed her. Wonderful experience. Nonna passed away last year at the age of 93, and she gave us permission to do temple work for her. In a few weeks we will do her initiatory, endowment, and sealings. I miss her so much, but I continue to feel her warmth and encouragement near.

  • facethemusic September 4, 2008, 3:59 pm

    Davidson, (so glad to have you back!!!!) I’m so sorry about your friend. And I’m sorry that her situation was such a sad one when she passed. I don’t remember the wording exactly, but I remember hearing something once, to the effect of “If you want to know how your children will take care of you when your old and frail, take a look at the way you’re taking care of your own parents.”

  • Michelle D September 4, 2008, 4:40 pm

    Thank you, Michelle, for this post. What timing this is for me! I am a caregiver and have spent the past 8.5 months caring for one woman (occasionally a few others, as well). She is 94 and has colon cancer. I have never seen anyone so resilient! She declines and everyone thinks this is the time she will pass away, and then she bounces back! She was very ill in April, and bounced back again. She was ill 4-6 weeks ago; local family was called to her bedside. She bounced back stronger than ever! Last Thurs she took a turn for the worse, quickly declining over the weekend. She has spent most of the past 5 days in bed, sometimes able to go to the bathroom and other times not having the strength to get up. She is eating very little, drinking tons of ice water over the past few days but hardly anything this morning. It seems that she will not be able to rebound this time. Davidson, I understand how you feel about your friend. This breaks my heart. I don’t want her to suffer, but I have become attached to this somewhat crotchety old lady!

    But Michelle’s O.R.E.O. example is fabulous. What a great reminder of serving others. It is so important. I like what Mandy said:

    I think that the smallest things we do (or have done for us) are often the biggest acts of service.

    That is so true! The small things often bring the greatest blessings – to the one being served as well as to the one serving.

    Thanks for putting my emotions into perspective during this tough week.

  • mlinford September 5, 2008, 12:26 am

    Davidson, thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I’m sorry about your friend. And Michelle, I’m grateful this could bring something positive during a tough week. Hugs to both of you.

  • Sharilee10 September 6, 2008, 6:10 pm

    What a beautiful article– I will never see OREO cookies the same again. . . and what thought-provoking comments it has solicited. I have so many things to contemplate after reading this. Thanks to all–

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