I sat waiting for the family prayer to mark the end of the viewing and visiting shortly before my Aunt Doris’s funeral. I reflected on the renewal of my acquaintance with my deceased mother’s family members. I thought about my mother’s brothers, my four Christensen uncles. Their old age was becoming more obvious. I had enjoyed the visit with my cousins. My cousins from this family are mostly in the grandparent part of their lives nowadays. Our lives are busy and our interaction comes rarely, except on the superficial level of social media. Today I met some new cousins—twice removed—since they are my cousins’ grandchildren. Until now I only knew those cute little twin babies and the toddler with the wild hair from my Facebook encounters.
|Marcus Joy Christensen
An older couple from my aunt’s LDS ward approached me. Although I have never lived in that Las Vegas neighborhood, my grandparents and many of their descendants are long-time residents. This couple wasn't family, however, and they were curious about who I was. “You look like you could be Doris’s sister,” the woman said. I quickly explained that I was her niece, since she had married my mother’s brother. In doing so, I mentioned that my grandfather was Marcus Joy Christensen, patriarch to the clan. Before his death in 1987, he was also their stake patriarch.* They nodded; they knew my grandfather.
We talked for a moment and then the man, Brother Brown, lingered. “I want to tell you something about your grandfather,” he said. “I had a son who was very quiet. I felt I didn't even know him and certainly didn't understand him. That is, until the day we went to Brother Christensen’s home to receive my son's patriarchal blessing. The blessing was very beautiful,” he continued, “but what I remember most was your grandfather’s tears after he finished. He put his hand on my boy’s shoulder and told me, ‘This young man is just full of love.’”
“The Spirit bore witness to me that it was so,” Brother Brown said. “Your grandfather knew my son better than I did myself, and it was through the Spirit. I’ll never forget that experience.”
Who am I? Who are you? There are times when glimpses of our identity come forth—a blessing, a funeral, or some other deeply revelatory moment. However, it may also be possible and certainly beneficial for us to have that opportunity on a more frequent basis.
Autobiographical writing enables me to both see myself and allow others the same privilege. The process of looking within is not always comfortable, but it is generally rewarding. My thinking becomes more organized and less scattered. Insights come to me from the same source as the insights my grandfather received in his calling as patriarch. I see the turning points in my life. I understand why I believe and think the way I do. I am closer to knowing just who I am.
*A stake patriarch is an ordained priesthood office in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This person, assigned to an LDS stake, is called upon to give once-in-a-lifetime spiritual blessings with prophetic insights to members of that ecclesiastical organization.