Funeral of Elva Bigelow Carter
Remarks of Myrna Carter Laird and the Funeral of Elva Bigelow Carter, May 14, 1996
Many of you here today have only known Elva Bigelow Carter as an old woman, hindered by a failing body. I'd like to introduce you to the beautiful, vibrant, fun loving, affectionate woman that we, her children have known.
Mother was born April 25,1899, just thirty years after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and three years after Utah was made a state. Both sides of her family were pioneers who settled Wallsburg. Her father was a student during the winters at Brigham Young Academy, (which later became BYU). One of his teachers was Karl G. Maesar, it's founder. When Mom was three years old a diphtheria epidemic took four of her sisters lives within a week. Mother was not expected to live. This tragedy left their parents with only her end an older brother living. Two boys and three girls were born later. Her family owned a store, and a farm. She took naps on a shelf under the counter while her mother waited on the customers. She grew up on that farm, and helped with the milking, and making of butter, and the other farm chores as well as helping in the store. Her formal education ended at grade nine because that. was all the formal schooling available then. She saw the coming of electricity, the automobile, the telephone, indoor plumbing, radio, and many other things we take for granted. Imagine watching the explosion of knowledge and technology in the 9? year span of her life.
Mothers personality was always gentle, loving, peaceful, generous, and fun loving. We never heard her say an unkind thing about anyone. She was patient, and uncomplaining. She was courageous and hardworking. Above all, she loved the Lord, and her faith in him showed as she served others all her life. My sister Velma said, "I've always thought that a definition of love was my Mother." My sister-in-law Mella said, "I've always loved her like a mother, for she treated me like her daughter." In the D&C 59:23 it says, "But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come." Mother earned her reward throughout her life. She set a wonderful example for us all.
Mother married the first time when she was just eighteen. It was not a happy marriage, and a divorce was obtained when Velma and Jess were very young. Mother went to work in Provo, leaving them with her parents in Wallsburg. My Father, Clyde Carter, courted her for five years before she said yes. Velma and Jess remember them coming to Wallsburg, and going for rides in the rumble seat of Dad's car. The two kids teased by paraphrasing the words to a popular song. They sang to the couple as they rode along, "Clyde's falling in love with Elva." Dad and Mother married were married in January of 1929, which of course was the year the great depression began. Dad adopted Velma and Jess. Money was very scarce during the 1930's, but ~ somehow they managed to give us a happy, secure home, always filled with love. Mother loved to play the piano, and they purchased one just before the depression hit. Somehow they managed to keep up the payments even during the really hard times. She was still playing that piano until a couple of years ago. They were forced to be very frugal. We remember coasting down hills to save gas, and when Dad was without work, the two of them would go from door to door trying to sell cosmetics, spices and other items to try to earn a few pennies for us. We girls remember mother making our clothes. She didn't have commercial patterns to use. She would take a newspaper, cut the pattern from it, and make beautiful clothing. Sometimes patterned flour sacks were used for fabric. We were well dressed, in spite of the lack of money. Velma remembers Mother beaded a beautiful design on the bodice of a lovely royal blue velvet dress as she made it. She also remembers a black one with matching bloomers on which Mother embroidered pink roses. Mother took care of us, but I remember her wearing the same black best dress for years.
Mother and Dad were faithful members of the LDS church all their lives. Velma recalls overhearing Mother and Dad talking about paying their tithing. They were really struggling financially, but they decided that if they did what the Lord asked, neither they nor their children would never want for the necessities of life. Tithing was always the first thing deducted from their check. In Proverbs 3:5-6 it says,
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
Don and I have mentioned to each other that as teenagers, we were both kept from doing things wrong by the knowledge of the pain it would bring to our parents. Mother worked in the church all her life. She was a Relief Society president. She worked in Primary as counselor and as teacher, as teacher trainer, In-service leader, and organist. She was given a certificate from Primary for 20 years service. Her last teaching position was Blazer scout leader. She was in her late 60's then, and this was a real challenge. She'd never tied a knot harder that a shoe lace, and learning the program was not easy. However, she worked with those boys, got their Interest, and for seven years was very successful. Of all the service she has given, Temple work has been the most outstanding. I remember as a young child, and throughout my years at home, watching her press their temple clothes before she and Dad left to attend a session. All her life she has enjoyed this work. After we moved back here, for eleven years, she and my aunt went to the temple with Bob, my husband, when he went to work, and came home with him when he finished. They did five sessions a day four days a week for about seven years, then cut it down to four a day. We know that during that period of time she alone did over ten thousand endowments.
Mother was a wonderful homemaker. She loved a clean, uncluttered house. When I was in my teens, I didn't always keep my bed made and my clothes hung up. Mother kept after me, and one day when I came home from school, there were the clothes I'd left out, dressing a broom which was standing on the front porch. She liked to cook, and could make leftovers taste like a dish fit for a king. The house smelled So good when she'd bake bread, or goodies. Jess loved to taste whatever she had made, and if she wanted it safe until dinner she would hide it. One might find a cake in the washing machine, or in some other strange place. They used to plant a garden every year, and canned, and put enough food in the cellar to last through the winter. Mother loved flowers, and Dad would tease her because planted among the rows of vegetables would be rows of flowers. Her hands were always busy. She not only kept a lovely home, but she crocheted many beautiful articles, such as table cloths, doilies, and hot pads. She gave most of
these away. She loved to do needle point, and to quilt. When she started to lose her eyesight, at age 73, she learned a pattern she count and feel For years she made Afghans to give away. Many are here today who have those Afghans in their homes. I hope you looked at the display of a few pieces of her work.
We were taught not to get into anyone else's belongings, and Mother respected our privacy as well. She never read our mail, or our diaries. We were free to talk to her about anything, and after dates we remember going into the bedroom, where Mother nearly always remained awake until we came home, sitting on the bed and sharing our experiences. My brother-in-law, Steve Rawlins tells this story. "I recall when I was dating Carol and stayed until 4 AM talking the night before Thanksgiving. Elva came down the stairs and said, "Steve, are you still here? Carol, you get right up stairs and Steve, you go home!" I can tell you I did not wait around to argue." Mother and Dad did not put up with behavior they did not consider proper. Mothers and Dad's method of discipline was not one of physical punishment. When we were young we were told to sit or stand on chairs until we could see to repent, and apologize. Carol recalls: "As I have looked back over the years one of the things I remember most is Mothers constant love for me, even when I was disobedient. I remember one time she told me to sit on a chair until she told me I could get off; I said I didn't have to, so she tied me on the chair with a dish towel. I know there were other times I needed to be punished, but I never remember her ever punishing me unjustly; I knew I deserved to be punished, and she always showed her love for me even at those times." Sometimes the consequences of our actions was enough punishment. I remember running away from home when I had just started fourth grade. We lived in a house with a large front window, in front of which was a day bed. Carol, Don and I used to play there often, and Mother kept telling us not to jump there, that we'd fall and break the window. She was right. We did! I feared the consequences, so I took one of Mothers aprons, put in some clothes, tied them on a stick, put it over my shoulder, and started from Provo to Grandmas house in Wallsburg. About two blocks down the road, I smelled our neighbor cooking bacon, onions, and potatoes. It reminded me that it was lunchtime, and the road to Wallsburg was a long one, so I turned around and went home to get some food. Mother had been watching me all the way, and forbade me to leave again. When Dad came home all he said was that he hoped we'd learned our lesson. We never broke another window, but I remember chasing each other around in another house and breaking a lamp. When Don was a teenager, he wanted to borrow the car. Mother and Dad were going out that night so the answer was no. However, he thought that he could go where the party was, take the car for a couple of hours, return it before the party was over, and they would never be the wiser. What he didn't know was that during the party they had to go pick up the refreshments. When they went out to get into the car they thought it had been stolen. They were ready to call the police when one of their friends said, "Haven't you got a teen aged son?" They were taken down to the High School, and there was the car. After three days of avoidance, Mom told Don it was time to face Dad who just told him he had punished himself enough, that he didn't need any more. They were wise, for we did punish ourselves for disobedience.
When World War 11 started, they needed women to join the work force, so Mother went to work for the railroad. In those days gas was rationed, and alternate ways of transportation had to be found, in order to save gas for essentials. We bought a bike for Mother to ride to work. She was forty-five years old, but she had never been on a bike in her life. After dark, when no-one could see, she would get on the bike, and I would run alongside helping to hold her up, until she finally learned to balance, and ride by herself. One day, however, she came home from work all scratched up. Someone had been walking on the sidewalk, and Mother had to turn oft to avoid hitting them. She lost her balance and fell into someone's rose bushes. She made a joke of it, and had us laughing with her. After the war was over, they wanted her to continue working, but we held a family conference. There were three of us children left at home, and we were all in our teens. When we expressed how much we missed having her at home, she quit her job.
After we grew up , married and started our own families, Mother and Dad had a "hands off" policy. They never criticized, told us what to do, or offered advice unless we asked for it. They were however, always willing to help us in any way they could and all of us have been willingly served in any capacity they could give, from that of giving advice, tending grandchildren, loaning money, or just being there to offer comfort.
Mother was never too old to learn, and she was not afraid to try new things or to rise to challenges. She learned to type when she was 65, and got her drivers licence when she was 88, but she never liked to drive. Just a couple of months after Dads funeral she drove alone to the airport to pick up my husband when he came over on a business trip from Hawaii, and for years took several ladies to the Temple a couple of times a week. At age 73 she climbed Mt. Timpanogas with the family up to Emerald lake, at the foot of the glacier where we had lunch. She was always disappointed that she never completed her climb to the top because we realized it was too late in the day to continue and make it back to camp before dark. At age 85 she rode on a tandem bike with her son- in-law Steve. When she started to lose her eyesight about twenty years ago, she shed a few tears, and prepared herself for it by memorizing as much music and poetry as possible. She could sit down and play the piano for two or three hours without repeating herself. She did this for many years. Her favorite poems were funny, and we loved to have her recite for us.
There were two sports Mother especially loved, baseball, and bowling. Allan, our son, Mother and I used to go bowling even after she lost her eyesight. We'd tell her what pins were left standing after her first throw, and many times she would end the game with the best score. People on either side would become involved and cheer her on with "Come on Grandma" She enjoyed that. She bowled until she fell and broke her hip at age 85.
Mother never lost the ability to laugh at herself. Just a few weeks ago I had finished helping her get ready for he daily bath. As she was ready to step into the tub, she put her slippers back on. I 7 asked if she intended to bathe in them, and we had a good laugh together.
The last few years have slowed her down because little by little her body was wearing out, but her beautiful serene spirit never changed. She never failed say thank you for everything which was done for her, and I always received a hug and kiss at bedtime. In II Timothy 4:7-8 it says, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me that day." Those of us who have been close to my Mother, Elva Bigelow Carter, agree that she has earned her place in the Heavens. We, her family, are grateful to have been a part of her life, for the example she set, and for the love she has so freely given for so many years.
Elva Bigelow Carter Funeral Remarks by Linda Lyster
Last week as Grandma was slowly slipping away from us, she spoke less and less. Sometimes it was hard to tell if she was asleep or awake. At one of those times, Mom told her that it probably wouldn't hurt to let her know that she would be missed and that tears had already been shed. From the bed came a quiet: "Well, I'm not dead yet!"
That's how grandma lived - one day at a time. She faced each mountain or mole hill the same - with quiet dignity and determination to make the best of whatever came her way. A favorite saying was, "We only live 'til we die!" and that is exactly what she did.
She was always busy. Cooking, gardening, and quilting were favorite jobs. She was an avid BYU fan and listened to every game, usually with a piece of handwork in her lap. When she realized her eye sight was failing she memorized music so she could still enjoy playing the piano. For years as we visited from California we had to hurry to Relief Society from Sunday School because Grandma played the prelude music. She could see the piano but not the keys yet she was still helping others and giving of her time and talents. At home she could play for hours without repeating a song.
Grandma loved poetry and memorized it all her life. She has scrapbooks of pieces she liked, cut from newspapers and magazines. I loved watching her reaction as we read to her from her collection. Her smile and chuckle will be with me forever. Grandma used to recite a poem that I loved and as I looked through her books to find it I realized that each piece saved had a powerful message but most of them were laced with humor. Do you remember Grandma rattling off this one?
There's nothing whatever the matter with me
I'm just as healthy as I can be
I have arthritis in both my knees,
And when I talk, I talk with a wheeze.
My pulse is weak, and my blood is thin
But I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.
I think my liver is out of whack
And a terrible pain is in my back
My hearing is poor, my sight is dim,
Most everything seems to be out of trim.
I jump like mad at the drop of a pin
But I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.
I have arch supports for both my feet,
Or I wouldn't be able to go on the street.
I cannot sleep night after night,
And in the morning I'm a sight.
My memory's failing, my head's in a spin,
But I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.
The moral is as this tale doth tell
That for you and me who are not so well
It is better to say, "I'm fine", with a grin,
Or the other guy'll tell you the shape he's in.
This poem is Grandma. She didn't believe complaining did any good so she never did. She told me many times that she didn't think any older. It was her body slowly holding her back from things she wanted to do that made her realize she was aging. For example, her love of baseball. Even when she could no longer run she would take her turn at bat with a grandchild ready to run for her. I'm sure several of you remember the pressure of getting Grandma's hit around the bases! Although she could no longer see the television she still kept up with the nations teams. I'm sure the negotiators of the baseball strike would have tried harder to save their season if they had known that Grandma watched every televised game and listened to everything else on the radio. She never had any favorite team, she simply loved baseball. Her favorite position to play was catcher and she loved to be at bat!
She was a forever fan of BYU sports and followed each one closely. Grandsons attending BYU often talked to her about games she had listened to. She loved living near the school and the visits from her grandchildren and great grandchildren attending BYU were treasured.
Grandma loved to bake. Because of her, we all love raisin filled cookies, cinnamon rolls and warm bread. Her dinner rolls would melt in your mouth! Grandma made each of us feel special. She always baked our favorites when she knew we were coming to visit. When she visited us she always spent some time in the kitchen rolling out raisin cookies and cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon rolls were my favorite and she always let me pick the biggest one out of the middle of the pan.
She often had a quilt up in the living room and taught me how to work on it with careful, even stitches. The speed of her needle was incredible and in spite of the obvious temptation, she never unpicked anything I did. She tried to teach me the art of using a thimble and was sympathetic when I destroyed my finger because I wasn't coordinated enough to handle a needle and thimble at the same time. It looked easy when she did it! When she visited her children, making a quilt or two was often on the list of things to do. Several of us are still using the quilts Grandma made for us. I remember one project that we teased her about for years. Her frames had thumb tacks holding the fabric on and she kept a kitchen knife handy to get them out when the quilt was ready to roll. She couldn't find the knife and had to get another one. When the quilt was almost finished, there was a long lump in the middle. Sure enough, upon investigation and a little unpicking, there was the missing knife, neatly quilted into the center.
Many of us have inherited Grandma's love of exploring and wanting to know what treasure might be under that next rock. In her book of favorite poems I found one
dedicated to Elva "Rockhound" Carter - called the Rock Collector. At the bottom of the page grandma had written a quote -
"Old rock hounds never die, They just slowly petrify!"
When we lived in Hawaii, Grandma and Grandpa came to visit several times. Grandma used to go to the beach early in the morning and spend hours looking at what had washed up during the night. She brought home a load of rocks, bits of coral, shells, and 'things' each time. Her treasures lined the patio as they dried. As their trip came to an end, Grandma was forced to choose which treasures came to Utah to live in her cabinet and which treasures we had to haul back to the beach. Years later, my children loved to go up to Grandma's room and have her talk about her collection. She could always tell you where a piece came from and on which trip it was collected. She had rocks and stories to go with them from all over the world.
She loved to travel and took advantage of every opportunity. We called her the Galloping Grandma for years. She went with Grandpa first then on her own. A favorite trip was when she went around the world and managed to go through every temple built at that time. I often heard her talk about that trip but I don't remember her telling much about the wonders of the world. The high points for her were the temples of the Lord. She loved that work and her life was committed to it. Her love for the temple and her example of regular attendance has always inspired me.
Because Grandma was in the temple so often, many of our family missionaries have had precious experiences with her there. Grandma and Aunt Emily were well known and admired for their dedication. It was special for our missionaries to be able to say, "That's MY Grandma you are talking about!"
She is free now from her earthly ties and she is that Galloping Grandma again. She is with her sisters, her parents, her friends. I would have loved to watch those joyous reunions but the one I know has been the sweetest, for her, is when Grandpa took her hand. They are together now, their friendship and love can never be separated.
If Grandma were speaking to us today, she would want us to remember and learn from her life. I would like to read a couple of her favorite poems. As you listen, picture Grandma's soft smile and feel of her love and wisdom. These words express her attitude toward life and her gift of accepting with grace and humor whatever life brought her. She lived the words of this poem.
You tell what you are by the friends you seek
By the very manner in which you speak
By the way you employ your leisure time
By the way you make a dollar and dime.
You tell what you are by the things you wear
By the spirit in which your burdens bear
By the kind of things at which you laugh
By the records you play on the phonograph.
You tell what you are by the way you walk
You tell on yourself by how you talk
By the manner in which you bear defeat
By so simple a thing as how you eat.
By the books you choose from the well filled shelf
In these ways and more you tell on yourself
So there is really no particle of sense
At any effort at false pretense.
Grandma never put on any airs. She was herself and never needed to be anything else. She was always a good example to us.
This is another poem carefully typed in her book of favorites:
I dreamed death came the other night,
And Heaven's gates swung wide.
With kindly grace an angel came
And ushered me inside.
And there to my astonishment
Stood folks I'd known on Earth.
Some of whom I'd labeled as
Unfit: of little worth.
Indignant words rose to my lips,
But never were set free,
For every face showed stunned surprise -
No one expected Me.
I think Grandma is still greeting people anxious to welcome her and thank her for her service and example to them. This poem doesn't apply to her life but it's humor made her laugh while she kept her own importance on the back burner.
I love the Serenity Prayer. I think it is exactly how Grandma faced each day of her life.
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.
It is my prayer that each of us will not just miss her cinnamon rolls but that we will follow the example Grandma set for us, that we will carry ourselves with dignity, love our neighbors, live one day at a time to the best of our ability and share our blessings with others She is a true lady and I am grateful for the heritage she left us. I am grateful for the knowledge I have that I will see her again. She is my friend and I look forward to the day that we can share old memories and make some new ones. I miss her but am thankful I know where she is. I am grateful to know she was comforted on both sides of the veil as she made her transition from this life. I know that she will be there for me when it is my turn. I love you Grandma and hope I can be as valiant. Thank you for your example and for your love.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Remarks by Stephen L. Rawlins at Elva B. Carter Funeral, May 14, 1996
What an honor it is to speak on this occasion. Several years ago Elva said to me, "Steve, I want you to speak at my funeral." It was more a "you will" than a "will you" request. I didn't argue. As Myrna has told you, I had had an earlier experience with a "you will" request from Elva at 4.30 one morning in her living room. I didn't argue with her on that occasion either. I remember on that earlier occasion, as I walked home that early morning, that I was a bit terrified about meeting this women, whom I had so obviously displeased, later that day for Thanksgiving dinner. But when I came, she greeted me cheerily, with a wink, and a smile, and we both knew the incident was buried in the past.
I loved this strong-willed, fun-loving women. She knew what she wanted in life, and was never hesitant about taking the necessary steps to get it. I loved being in her home, filled with the good smells of food, especially the raisin-filled cookies and cinnamon rolls that seemed always to be there. Her house was adorned with needle work and other products her well worn hands had produced, music from her piano frequently filled the air, and her garden was always filled with beautiful flowers.
Elva and Clyde were a good pair. They enjoyed so many things together -- church, dramatic productions, sports, traveling, collecting things. But mainly they loved their family.
They stayed with Carol and me often, including helping after the birth of six of our eight children. They were both such gracious and pleasant guests, always helping wherever they could, but never taking over, nor giving advice we did not ask for. They were so f\:in to be with. We'd go bowling with them, and usually get beaten. We camped, went boating, or whatever there was to do that was fun. We loved them.
Clyde died suddenly in 1968. What a loss. It was too early. He was so much fun to be with, and no one missed his laughter, his practical jokes, his love for life and excitement as much as did Elva. But I was amazed at her response. There was no giving in or lamenting the loss. She seemed never to look back. We knew that she knew beyond a shadow of doubt that Clyde's absence was temporary, and her job was to get on with the rest of her life. She got her drivers license and took over in the driver's seat of the big red Mercury Clyde had so recently purchased. She assumed responsibility for the financial records and other tasks that Clyde had previously done, and set out on another phase of life. She filled her life with friends, music, family, church, and among other things, BYU baseball. Grandchildren loved her because she was young, and fun loving, even though her body was beginning to get older and less capable.
Carol and I will never forget the time when she was in her early 70's that she and her sister, Winona, traveled with us on a business trip that took us to several countries, including Israel. We were on a bus tour, that included a stop at the Masada, a fortress built on a steep-sided promontory, by Herod the Great, not far from the Dead Sea. The only way to see the fortress was to climb a steep trail that ascended steeply for a distance of at least a mile. The bus driver cautioned that it was a very hot day, and that some may not want to take the trip. I think he had in mind a couple of women in their 70's sitting just in front of Carol and me. He warned that we needed to drink lots of liquid before we started
As we got out of the bus, Carol and I took the driver's advice and made sure we had plenty to drink. Elva took nothing. When Carol inquired why, she said, it's fast Sunday, and I don't want to break my fast. It hadn't even occurred to us. We were in a land where Sunday was just another day, and we hadn't remembered. Elva didn't make any fuss. She simply said, "Oh, I'll be just fine, don't worry about me." She trekked up that trail, enjoying every minute of the adventure, without a single moment of distress.
I learned an important lesson about commitment that day. This women had made a commitment to observe the fast. It was as simple as that. If she had made a commitment, she would keep it. It didn't mean that she couldn't do other things. She could still enjoy the adventure she hungered for, and delighted in so much. She would simply do it without eating and drinking that day.
Commitment and adventure are attributes that stand out in my mind when I think of Elva
Bigelow Carter. They were part of the defining principles by which she lived her life. And
I learned that they are not incompatible. That one can be committed to gospel principles,
and still live a life filled with joy and adventure. She loved the gospel, and she loved life.
They were one in the same to her.
She faced other challenges with equal courage. 'While staying with us one time, she contracted meningitis. She was suddenly very ill. Soon after taking her to the hospital she lapsed into a coma, and everyone was feeling that she would not recover. As many as her children as could came to be with her. Soon after her daughter, Velma, arrived, she began to gain a bit of strength, but she still could barely move her limbs. One morning the doctor checked in on her and found her doing leg lifts. He asked her what she was doing, and she responded that if she was going to get better, she had to get her body back in shape. Once we knew she had set her mind on recovery we knew she would, and, of course, she did.
In her recent years we've all heard her say, "It doesn't help to complain about life. We just live until we die." I didn't think too much about this comment when I first heard it, but recently I've gained a new perspective about what she was saying. All of us survive until we die. But not all us live until we die. Elva taught us what it means to truly live, to the fullest extent of our capability, even though our body gets old and can no longer do all of the things we might want it to do.
I thought about Elva when I heard a talk by Elder F. Burton Howard during the Saturday afternoon session of conference last month. He said'
"I once attended a funeral service with Elder M. Russell Ballard who stated, 'Life isn't over for a Latter-day Saint until he or she is safely dead, with their testimony still burning brightly'".
"Safely dead with your testimony burning brightly." What a challenging concept. What an example of this concept we have seen demonstrated by this wonderful, strong-willed, fun-loving woman we have all learned to love so much.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.