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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Oh, my little Lani, what an inspiration you are...

My recipiant is our sweet Lani... At first I thought that I would try to do something for the Young Women in our ward... or tend for a young family... or work in the laundry at the temple. But then I realized these were things that I already am doing. I decided that I wanted to do something out of my regular comfort zone, and make a special effort to do something that I wouldn't normally do. So I started "searching" and found something special. Lani taught Dad and I to love Africa. When Grandma and Grandpa went to Liberia, they returned with tons of souvenirs and lots of stories, but I was too immature to appreciate what they had experienced. When Lani went to Africa, we were able to really experience the emotions behind Africa. As we all know, one of the biggest problems in Africa is AIDS.

        When I first learned about AIDS, and what it was and how it was usually spread, I was naive and absolutely disgusted. I remember thinking something like "Well, I guess they get what they deserve, if that's the way they choose to live." What a fool I was. I have grown immensely in the last 3 years. I am disgusted with myself, for being so judgemental. I have learned to love the people of Africa and have discovered that many innocent people are affected, and infected, with this terrible disease. I have also discovered that there are many wonderful gay men and women, who are God's children. I could write forever on what I have discovered.

I found a special service project to honor Lani. When I worked, I dedicated my service to Lani and to "Ren". Ren was my special little African Angel that was stricken with Malaria, from the bad water in Pointe Noire. When they took her to the hospital for malaria she was given either a dirty needle or infected blood, because my little sweetheart contracted AIDS. Her family adored her. She had 4 big brothers, and a great Mom and Dad (who Dad actually baptized.) Because she was behind in school, she missed learning how to read and do basic math facts. For a year, I worked with her and taught her to read and to do her math.
She was thrilled with little things that I gave her. Little books... and little head bands and bows from Mitzi and some of the rest of you.
I became way too attached to her, and when I held her last December and told her good-bye, she cried and cried. 2 months ago I received word that Ren had passed away from AIDS. It broke my heart, because she was so very young and innocent.
It seemed so preventable, yet in Africa, it happens all the time.

  3 years ago I wouldn't have touched anyone or anything that was connected in any way to AIDS. Last week I had the honor of working with the "AIDS
Services Foundation Orange County." I served in the food pantry with some wonderful women who volunteer once a week. There were also several men working there. The food pantry is for people who are too sick with AIDS to lead normal lives, and the orders are prepared... similiar to our church's bishops' storehouses. I met many of the "patients" and visited and laughed with them about the holiday season, as I stocked shelved and refrigerators with the incoming food orders. It was a very special day.
Lani, my love... thanks for introducing us to Africa and understanding a little bit about the world outside the bubbles of Salt Lake City and Irvine. Words cannot express what you have done for us in understanding how much our Father in Heaven loves us all. Merry Christmas to all of you! We love you so much. Mom


  1. Oh mom, I am so sorry that your sweetheart Ren had to go through so much sorrow and pain. I can't imagine how hard it was for you to love her so much and see her suffering, and now to find out she has gone. I know she is happy and beautiful and perfect now, but our hearts still ache for the struggles she had to go through in this Earth Life. I don't know if I am making sense. Thank you for truly going out of your way, out of your comfort zone, and sharing your willingness to serve. We are so proud of the woman you are!

  2. What a great service to Lani and Ren. I love that Ren is wearing one of the skirts my girls and I made.

  3. I am so touched by this post, Mom. Your desire to step outside the Mormon-bubble led you to the mission fields of Hawaii and California. Your desire to step outside the affluence-bubble of Irvine led you to the Congo. Then, you came back and saw that people live outside the bubble even though they are physically in the bubble.

    I will always remember that moment you heard that Ren died. I got to hold you and rock you like you have rocked me for years. I only wish I had our rocking chair there on the side of the road in Virginia. For me, that is when I truly saw how much your mission caused you to grow far beyond your comfort zone. I love you so much!

  4. Mom, this was so perfect and absolutely breath taking at how our lives have evolved with our love of the African people and their examples of love. I will say that back then, even when you seemed like you didn't totally get it... You were always supportive of me and that, like this service, meant e world to me! I love you mom! Thank you!