The Preslar Family

The Preslar Family
December 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Celebration of Life

So even though I'm obviously still way behind on all of the events from the spring, before I get to them I think I'd like to finish writing about my mom and her memorial services. I'll start by saying that being with my dad and siblings and planning for mom's memorial services was one of the most therapeutic experiences I have ever had. There was something so special about sitting around together and talking about our memories of mom. I felt so connected to my siblings, so uplifted by what mom inspired in each of them. I am so longing now to gather with them again. I know every family has its weirdness and issues, and mine is certainly no exception. But when we are all together, and even when I get to be with any one of them, I just feel like we are pieces of the same weird puzzle. We can be pretty different from each other, but we fit. Most of the time that is....  Anyway. I loved planning for mom's celebrations. And I really loved how it all turned out.

Because mom was going to be donating her remains to the University of Utah, and because most of the family had just spent more than a week already in Salt Lake City, we had some time before holding her funeral. We decided to wait until Friday the 23rd and Saturday the 24th of June. It ended up feeling like a really really REALLY long wait. I think I had a lot of trouble feeling like time was moving again. Summer and indeed life in general just had to go on hold. This summer will definitely stand out in my kids' memories I am certain because it has been strange and different than any other summer, what with the major life events and time spent waiting for me to get things ready for these services. I pretty much became the lead on them because my sibs were all back at their respective homes and my dad had all he could handle with his own feelings, etc.

We began with a Celebration of Life on Friday the 23rd of June at Starks Mortuary. Let me just give a HUGE shout out to that place. They did just such a fantastic job of creating a celebration and open house for us. They took so much work out of our hands and hosted for us a party that really honored my mom. The location is just gorgeous - not mortuary-ish in any way. They have a large area, like a chapel, where my dad stayed and greeted the hundreds of visitors. There was delicious food and a pianist playing jazz and broadway tunes and some classical things too. There were photos of mom absolutely everywhere - Starks scans all of the photos you want and they not only create a slideshow but they print up about 100 of them and put them in frames all over. Lovely lovely.

There is also a special room where normally a casket would be on display but since we didn't have that they created a dedicatory space filled with her pictures, mementoes, her wedding dress, her favorite halloween costume and flowers flowers everywhere. I could have stayed there all night. In fact, I kind of did. This dedication room was towards the front doors and even though I tried to arrive to the reception early, there were already people arriving when I got there. I spent pretty much the duration of the evening in or near that room as loved one after loved one entered and I was able to greet pretty much every one. It was so special. What a high, to be absolutely flooded with love and support from simply hundreds of people, some of whom were there just to see me like dear neighborhood friends and high school friends and camp friends. I was just so uplifted and was sorry when the evening ended. In fact when it was over, my dad, my siblings and Margaret's kids just couldn't bear to leave. We stayed in that dedication room for like 2 more hours talking, eating pizza that we ordered, and feeling grateful to Troy and Sheri and Whitley for selflessly caring for our children and allowing us all the time and space we needed.

Here are a few photos from the evening. It was so hard to pick and choose since we had about 300!!

After a night of not a ton of sleep, Peter and I got up early to go pick up Adam and head to dad's Stake Center for a little more open house before the funeral began. I again felt an overwhelming sense of energy, love, support, celebration, joy...what other words? So many more! Amazing. We had mom's slideshow playing, the church was a bower of flowers, and even more dear and much-loved friends came to support us. Sooner than I could have believed it was time for our family prayer. In most Mormon funerals, traditionally with a casket, after the open house and before the funeral, the family and closest friends gather with doors closed in order to say one final family prayer before closing the lid of the casket for the last time. Even though we did not have a casket we decided to keep this tradition. We decided to sing a hymn together; I Need Thee Every Hour. And then we had a family prayer, which was given by my sweet husband Troy. The visitors then all preceded to the chapel and stood as my family and I entered. My sister and I each took one of dad's hands and walked him in. That was not planned but I was so glad we were both there to support him and sit at his sides during that amazing meeting.

During the funeral my three oldest nieces shared the responsibility of reading mom's obituary. Then we four siblings stood at the pulpit together and each took a few minutes to share our thoughts. Again, how can I put into words the exhilaration of standing in such a circle of love? I can not. After us, my mom's dear friend and most loyal visitor during her illness, Paula, sang a lullaby, Lay Your Head Down Darling. And then my dad shared a very tender message. After dad came words from a dear woman Liz Hammond, who seemed to be saying what each and every one of mom's friends would have liked to say from that pulpit. Finally, we had a special guest; Dallin Oaks, a member of the quorum of the 12 apostles for our church. He and my parents were neighbors for 20 years and we were so honored to have him there. After his talk I was able to lead the closing song, which was unconventional for an LDS funeral (that seems to be our way) - we sang a lullaby from Brighton LDS Girls Camp where mom and I both served for years. Shadows Creep. I invited camp friends to come sing with me (thank heavens there were a few there) and then the congregation sang it together. Never will I forget that experience.

Following the funeral we were to have a family lunch at my dad's ward house. Thankfully he had it catered so there was as much help as possible. I was so thankful that we, the family, could just enjoy and soak in the experience and not be troubled with pulling together details. We just floated along. It did take quite a while to exit the church - Margaret and I were the very last to arrive at the lunch. There were so many people who came up to talk to us. It was joyous. Bolstering. I'm still hunting for adjectives. 

Lunch was divine as well but I was definitely beginning to run down. We tried to get some family photos, staring with cousins on mom's side. The gym was not a great place for the pictures but trying for anywhere else was just going to be impossible!

And THEN we tried for Romney family only pictures on the back lawn....

You are not going to believe this but that isn't all.  After staying at the lunch for hours, chatting with cousins whom we hadn't seen in absolutely years, we made our way home to crash but not for long. That night we gathered with all the cousins on dad's side, again, some of whom we hadn't seen in years and years. We enjoyed dinner together (consisting mostly of leftovers from the luncheon!) and since this side of the family is smaller I felt that I could have more quality time with these cousins. Great fun, though I was so tired I was quite delirious.

And...I can't find the pictures from that night. I will post them if ever I find them.  

Whew. Are there any more words? These were too long and inadequate anyway. But I did my best. Mom, I loved celebrating your life in the way we did. I love that you are free from Alzheimer's. I love that our celebration helped clear all of that illness out of my mind and you are living in my mind now as the joyful energetic and clear-eyed woman that you truly were. Love you mom.

Here is my talk from the funeral, followed by mom's obituary, just to make sure that this is the single longest blog post of all time.

In Honor of My Mother

One Friday afternoon, long long ago, my mom was making me lie down for a nap. This was an activity I was agreeing to only because I knew that unless I took the nap, I wouldn’t be allowed to stay up late with my older sister for the big night. My mom was going to be scootching up the couch to the television and making real popcorn the real way by popping it in a saucepan with oil. We were going to cuddle up under blankets and turn on the television to watch the The Wizard of Oz, which only came on tv once a year. Mom had told us all about it and I couldn’t wait to see it too.

It was the same deal around Christmas time when The Sound of Music made its annual appearance. And again when Anne of Green Gables was aired on PBS. There was something absolutely magical about the anticipation of watching each episode one by one, looking forward all day to the rearranged couch and buttery popcorn. A huge part of that magical feeling came from my mom. Her eager anticipation was infectious. And she was like that about everything. One of her greatest talents was to spread excitement and passion to those around her. It wasn’t something she tried hard to do, it was more like she couldn’t stop herself from doing it.

It happened all the time for us. “You guys, just wait until you see this. It’s the best! You are going to LOVE this!” Every old tap-dancing movie, the pirate king of Gilbert and Sullivan, Nicholas Nickleby. The Jellicle cats. Shakespeare, Laurel & Hardy. All the records we had - the original broadway cast of Peter Pan and My Fair Lady, Bach and Night on Bald Mountain.

Mom’s musical passion extended beyond classical tastes as well. I will  forever remember the day she had us kids packed into Violet, our old blue Volvo station wagon, on our way home from doing errands. Suddenly she noticed the sign on a store window and veered into its parking lot. It turned out to be a record store. She stopped the car, firmly told us all to stay put, and dashed inside. When she emerged she was grinning and carrying a record that turned out to be the soundtrack to the most famous disco movie of the 1970’s. When we got home mom played the record and with glee made us all dance around to the BeeGee’s. 

She was passionate about other things too and was proactive in her quest to improve the lives of her children. This included making up a chant we were supposed to repeat together when tempted to eat sugar. It went, and I’m not joking about this, “Wooga wooga wooga, I hate sugar.” Sorry to say, it didn’t work at all. Despite mom’s efforts to feed us carob instead of chocolate, dates instead of candy, we resorted to getting sugar by eating straight from the jar of Tang in the cupboard. We would lick our fingers, shove them three knuckles deep into the jar and then suck off all the sour orange powder that stuck there, repeating the process multiple times.

I’ve thought so much about and been so grateful for the playful and creative childhood I had. My mom had a huge store of this playfulness in herself as well. A perfect example of this has to be her love of Halloween. Actually, love isn’t quite the word. Adoration and obsession is a more apt description. My mother was completely nuts about Halloween. I'm sure it was the one day a year she felt she had total permission to behave very badly. She started dressing up yearly once she began teaching at West High School. She started with cute things like: a mime. A clown. But it wasn’t long before she ventured into the truly horrible. I had taken a stage makeup class early in my high school career so I became her accomplice. Every Halloween at 5:30 in the morning I had a date with Mom. Some memorable outfits we created were a werewolf, complete with a rubber dog nose and false hair glued all over her face. Mom hammed it up by loping around school with her knuckles practically dragging on the floor. The Bride of Frankenstein. I created a scar with real stitches that spanned the entire circumference of her throat and another up the side of her face. The true kicker was the year she decided to play the Grim Reaper. I painted her face as a skeleton. She wore a long black wig and an even longer red cloak and clutched a scythe in one boney hand. This alone was scary enough but she wasn’t done yet. Mom rented actual painters stilts that fit perfectly under the cloak. With them on she was fully seven feet tall. Not only did she spend the school day eerily roaming the halls of West High, she also paid an alarming visit to my new husband’s office as well as my dad’s place of work, the University of Utah. She just walked around campus staring at people, or hovering outside of elevator doors, waiting for them to open. I think it was the happiest day of her life.
I loved sharing that with mom, just like I loved sharing music with her. Music was so important to my mom and to me that it became the best and eventually the last way we had to communicate. Over the course of her disease as she was less and less herself, she was sometimes anxious when she was in my care and away from dad. I wish I had thought sooner than I did to play music for her. Eventually I did learn this comforting practice, just to put on broadway musicals and sing together with her. Nothing made her happier. When mom moved into the Legacy Village care center and began to truly decline a few months later, it became impossible to carry on a conversation with her, so we just walked the halls and sang the songs of Oklahoma. And when walking got hard for her, and I was never sure if she knew who I was, we would sing the songs of Brighton Girls Camp. I Know a Place, and Ash Grove and The Zulu King. She knew every word, and sang along with me as best she could even up until a couple of weeks before she passed away. I’m so grateful I had music as a connection to my mom, so much of whom we lost long before that. 
Our closing song today is Shadows Creep. It is a tune that can be found in the French hymnbook and was written by Dvorak, but at Brighton LDS Girls Camp the staff sings this song together every night before going off to bed. It is a lullaby mom sang to me and I still sing to my own children. When it is time for the closing song we’d like to invite any former staff members of Brighton Camp to come up to the front and sing this together once before we sing it again with the entire congregation.

I can’t put into words my gratitude for the joyous things mom brought into my life, or for the passion she showed me. She took tap dancing lessons and got a masters degree in her 50s. She wrote poetry. I miss her laugh and have had that sound ringing through my head a lot these past two weeks. I express my glad testimony in the eternal nature of our spirits, and in the plan of salvation. We are beloved children of our Heavenly Father, I testify.

Kathryn Cannon Romney
April 22, 1942 - June 11, 2017

Our cherished wife, mother, friend, sister, teacher, grandmother and cousin Kathryn Cannon Romney has passed from this life to the next at the age of 75 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. She has donated her body to the University of Utah School of Medicine for purposes of medical study and research.
Kathryn was born April 22, 1942 in Salt Lake City to Paul Bennion Cannon and Oa Jacobs Cannon, with four older siblings who adored her. In her own words, “There were a million places to play and mother didn’t call us until dusk set in. The neighborhood kids loved to play ‘run-sheep-run’ and ‘capture the flag.’”

She attended Highland High School and the University of Utah, where she received a bachelor's degree in English and History, as well as a teaching certificate. She also received a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing from Utah State University in her 50’s. 

As a young adult, one of her favorite places on earth was Brighton LDS Girls Camp. Some of her favorite memories were of the early morning bell to wake the campers (which she once quelled by hiding it in the fridge), songs with friends, and sunrise hikes. 

She married Leonard Cahoon Romney on August 6, 1965. In her words, “My husband and I married after college and we began looking for adventure. We decided to go away to graduate school—try something entirely new in the midwest.” While in Indiana she taught in the last one room schoolhouse in the state. “After a few moves, we made our home in the jewel of cities, Boulder Colorado. Boulder had all we’d hoped for - breathtaking scenery, a relaxed sophistication, and a spirit of celebration, which hung perpetually over the city.”

Here, her four children were born, Margaret, Rachel Lyn, Adam Daniel, and Peter Miles. 
Kathryn filled her childrens’ lives with the arts. She relished explaining still life paintings, appreciating musicals, teaching Shakespeare with puppets, and sharing a sense of wonder at Bach, Handel and Vivaldi.

Life took a turn away from Boulder when Kathryn had to explain to a woman selling burial plots why she couldn’t be buried in Colorado. Her response “had to do with disjointed fragments about this statue on Temple Square where these people were pushing handcarts and how I always shed a little tear when I saw it because these people represented in the statue were my people.” She told the woman she had a ‘Utah Body.’ Kathryn moved with her family back to her familiar home town where, she said, “we recaptured the feeling of growing up in a world where we were part of a whole tradition much greater than the sum of its parts.”

Once back in Salt Lake, her passion for humanities drew her to teaching. The students of South High, West High, and Rowland Hall were lucky if they had “Mrs. Romney.” In one student’s words, “she taught me to write, enlarged my vocabulary with exotic words, and helped guide my fire towards life.” In 1990 she won teacher of the year from the Salt Lake City School District. 

She retired from teaching in 1999 when she and her husband were called to lead the Russia Moscow South Mission. In Russia, Kathryn not only learned to speak Russian, cook Russian food, and navigate the huge city, but worked to serve women in prison and bonded with hundreds of young missionaries.  

The list of immediate family who will be missing her is capped by her husband of more than 51 years, Leonard, with whom she loved to hike, travel, move into new houses, run, garden, dance, and serve their church faithfully. She is also survived by her children, Margaret Watts Romney, Rachel Lyn (Troy) Preslar, Adam Daniel (Whitley Clark) Romney, Peter Miles (Sheri Larsen) Romney, and 14 living grandchildren with whom she loved to read, collect hats, and share paper dolls of historical American women. 

She was preceded in death by her parents as well as her siblings Norma Lloyd Dean, Charles Parkinson Lloyd, Charlene Lloyd Mulkey, and is survived by her sister Lynne and her sister-in-law Alta. 

Please feel welcome in joining us in a celebration of her life which will be held at Starks Funeral Parlor, 3651 South 900 East, Salt Lake City, the evening of Friday, June 23rd from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. Guests are encouraged to use the complimentary valet parking on the north side of the building. A funeral service will be held on Saturday, June 24th at the Holladay North Stake Center, 4395 South Albright Drive at 11:00 a.m. The family will be receiving friends from 9:30 - 10:45 a.m. prior to the service.  

Kathryn’s family would like to deeply thank her many loving helpers at Brightwork Cottage, Legacy Village, BrightOn Hospice Care, Right at Home Care, and especially John and Elizabeth Peake. 
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or the Utah Opera.

1 comment:

Linda R said...

Amazing. Thank you for sharing.