Since the day I was able to comprehend "the future," I've had a plan: Go to kindergarten. Go to first grade. Play softball. Enjoy the summer. Go to fifth grade. Try homeschooling. Go back to public school. Play more sports. Take driver's ed. Get my license. Go to high school and play lacrosse. Move with my family 2,000 miles south. Move back north. Apply to college. Go to college. Work. Date. Graduate from college ---
I'm out of ideas. I have no plans. And what might seem like freedom, a opportunity for liberation and exploration, has turned out to be suffocation. I don't know what I'm doing. I say I'm working toward grad school, and that brings temporary solace. But then I realize that is only a plan to fill in the empty space. Because I have no plans. If I sit too long by myself, I have anxiety attacks. I used to enjoy solitude, allowing my thoughts to play themselves out and blossom into ideas for art and writing. Now I fear my thoughts. They mimic my life: unstructured, unfocused, unbridled.
What's worse is that I don't feel like I belong anywhere. I left Utah because I was tired of the culture. I came to Texas, but there is something nagging at me, telling me this isn't quite right either.
With no sense of the future and no place to be in the present, I wonder where I can go. I have no refuge, no home, no place to belong. My mind wanders into the abyss and I let it. Maybe that is where I will find my future, my home, myself.
Thomas drove down to Texas with me. It was a good trip, full of Diet Coke, C.S. Lewis, bad truck drivers and even worse gas stations.
Life, despite all i wrote at the beginning, is still good.
Yesterday I went to Brigham City for the temple groundbreaking. Elder Russell M. Nelson and President Boyd K. Packer were there. See?
Yeah, I got that close to Elder Nelson.
Then on the way home, I passed by Bountiful. I've never been on the Bountiful temple grounds, so I decided to stop by. It was closed, so technically I've only been on the temple's sidewalk, but it was still cool.
The real reason I stopped in Bountiful was because I remembered that it was where some of my ancestors were buried. I called my mom and got the address for the cemetery that seemed most likely to have my ancestors buried there (there are a lot of cemeteries in Bountiful) and she was right. It took me about 15 minutes to find my great-great-grandparents. They have a sweet set-up under the trees there.
I went looking for my great-great-great grandmother who, according to the map, was very close by. It took me 30 minutes and three trips to the map to finally find her. And, of course, I'd actually passed the grave and even read the graves next to it several times. That old saying is true: the harder you look for something the easier it is to look right past it.
(A metaphor for my life? Perhaps.)
These are two of Elizabeth Mathews Roberts' daughters, who'd be my great-great-great aunts, I suppose. Josephine died when she was exactly one year old. Elvira, who's headstone mistakenly sites Byron as her father, was born 15 days after her real father, my great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Roberts, died. She didn't stay long on earth; just three months. Kinda makes my chest hurt.
The stone below is in memory of Elizabeth's husband, Thomas. He died at age 37, leaving behind a wife and seven kids, having already buried two of his kids before dying himself. The back of the stone is Welsh, and even the finest Internet Welsh-to-English translators just spit out gibberish when I type the eulogy in. The pieces that did make sense, though, were "amiable spouse, feeling father, warm friend ... His wife and children who grieve are not without hope."
And here's Elizabeth "Eliza" Mathews Roberts' grave. My parents say they named me Elizabeth because they "just liked the name," but I like to pretend I was named after this woman. She had a hard life, from what I've learned about her. She buried babies and her young husband in a land unfamiliar to her after moving to Utah from Wales shortly after her marriage. She left behind her parents and all sense of familiarity. But she did it. She conquered. And she's at peace now. Husband, children, parents and all.
As I was looking at this stone, this lasting reminder of a woman who lived 150 years ago, I was struck by the prominence of the word "mother." Above all else, that's what she was. Mother. For others buried in that graveyard, the last word left to describe them is, "sister," "husband," "daughter," or "father."
The world, me included, commends the executives and CEOs, the editors-in-chief, the world-class chefs and movie stars. Yet, on their gravestones, will it say that? If I held one of those "awe-inspiring" titles, I wouldn't choose to be remembered for that. How silly. "Here's lies Elizabeth Gosney. Daughter, sister, aunt, friend, news editor."
"Ah, yes," my decedents would say, "She was a great woman. She could write."
No, the real awe-inspiring title is that simple, yet so profound, one of "mother." I see the gravestones of people she loved gathered around her own and in my mind I see them gathered around her in heaven. She was, and still is, their mother. That is what she was remembered most for when she was alive, when she died, and now by her great-great-great granddaughter. And I think that's exactly what she'd want.
As much as success is important in the professional field, it is nothing without family--both the family we came from and the one we'll create. In 150 years, I hope my great-great-great granddaughter finds my grave, looks at it and says, "Ah, yes, Grandma Elizabeth. She was a great woman. She was a mother. The best dang mother this side of the Mississippi."
And then, when she finds out I was a writer, she'll think I'm even cooler. But only because I was a mother first.
This is her. Elizabeth Mathews Roberts.
Was it a coincidence that I went to two temple sites and then visited the graves of my ancestors all in one day? Well, no, because I chose to do all three. But nonetheless, they all go together. The temple is what binds me to my ancestors. We are an eternal family because of the covenants made in the temple and righteously keeping those covenants throughout life. What an amazing blessing. Eliza Roberts and her children were "not without hope" when their husband and father died because they were sealed as a family. Mortality was not the end. We have eternity together.