All posts by Shelah

About Shelah

(Managing Editor) doesn't know how to say "no." That's why she's training for another marathon, throwing together a Sharing Time, writing a blog post, and trying to get a batch of cookies in the oven before the kids get home from school. If you ask her to write an article or bring dinner to someone, she'll be sure to say "yes" to that too. She lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and six kids.

Finding room for your burdens on my back

About a dozen years ago, my best friend went through a difficult time. It was actually more than just difficult; as the miscarriages added up, they seemed to obscure everything else and take over her life. We had lived together for several years in college, but we had graduated, gotten married, started our families, and now lived more than a thousand miles apart. We’d talk on the phone a couple of times a month, but I never knew what to say. I called because I loved her and I knew I needed to, but it always took a certain amount of pysching myself up to pick up the phone. She felt powerless. I felt helpless. I didn’t know whether to listen or to offer advice, and I was always sure I was going to stick my foot in my mouth. And then there was the fact that while we both had toddler sons, I had gone on to have a daughter as well. I think it was hard for both of us not to retreat from the friendship. When I got pregnant with my third child, telling her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

In the years since that time, I’ve talked with friends about their unhappy marriages, and given (probably bad) advice from the point of view of my own solid union. I’ve chatted online with a friend whose son was dying while my own houseful of sons created chaos at my feet. I’ve tried to listen sympathetically to unmarried friends, while staring at the diamond on my own ring finger. In each case, there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix the situation, and listening didn’t feel like enough.

Right now, someone I’m close to is going through a hard time financially. My own family enjoys enough affluence to be comfortable, but not enough to make their problems go away. And even the daily, easy interactions we used to have (“What did you do this weekend?”) feel charged (“Dinner and the Ira Glass concert, how about you?”). I think we’ve both retreated from our relationship, and I know that it’s hard for me because I just feel so darn guilty. In Mosiah 4 we learn that we’re supposed to impart our substance with those that need it, without judgment, and that makes me worry that we’re prioritizing piano lessons and date nights above the more serious needs of our friends.

How have you helped friends through difficult situations, especially when your own life seems relatively easy by comparison? How do you resist the urge to retreat and manage not to stick your foot in your mouth? How do you know how much to help? How do you know when you’re “mourning with those that mourn” and not just making things harder for them?

Whitney Finalists: Middle Grade Round Up

For the first few years of the Whitney Awards, all of the books written for young people were lumped into the same category. In 2010, the category was split into Young Adult General, and Young Adult Speculative, and last year, further split into the Middle Grade category, which generally targets readers from about 9-12 years of age. This year’s five finalists are all enjoyable, quick reads, and I had to defend several of them from my nine-year-old son.

1) The Inventor’s Secret by Chad Morris

The year is 2074 and it’s time for Abby and Derick Cragbridge to start their time at Cragbridge Hall, the boarding school that only takes the best, brightest and most distinguished middle schoolers on the planet. The problem is that Abby, at least, hasn’t done much to distinguish herself. She happens to be the granddaughter of the school’s founder, a world-famous inventor, and therefore feels a great impulse to prove herself worthy of being at the school. She’s able to do this when her parents and grandfather turn up missing. Her parents are being held aboard the Titanic, and unless Abby and Derick can figure out how to go back in time and reach them, their whole world might come crashing down on them. Continue reading

Prickly love

I just finished listening to Ann Patchett’s memoir Truth and Beauty. The story focuses on Patchett’s relationship with her best friend, the poet Lucy Grealy, who lost part of her jaw from a Ewing’s sarcoma as a child, and who ultimately died at the age of 39 in 2002. Grealy endured about 40 surgeries over the course of her lifetime, and when she wasn’t in the hospital, she was ambitious and hardworking, garnering many prizes and fellowships and publishing Autobiography of a Face. Truth and Beauty shows Patchett and Grealy to have one of those great best friend kinds of relationships that people are lucky to come by once in a lifetime. However, the book also shows Grealy to have moments where she’s difficult and capricious. She constantly seeks validation, demanding Ann to tell her that she’s her very best friend. Jealous of Ann’s other friendships, she climbs into her lap at dinner and prevents Ann from having conversations with others at the table. She does things that would bug the heck out of me.

I’m sure that Ann would be the first person to admit that she was not a saint, but over the course of the story she continues to show love to Lucy– she nurses her after her surgeries and plays gatekeeper at the hospital. And as Lucy became more and more difficult and self-destructive in the final months of her life, Ann did her best to support Lucy even as she was pushed away.

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Whitney Finalists: General Fiction Round-up

The General fiction category for the Whitney Awards has always been one that seems to spark a lot of controversy. Sometimes, the category seems dominated by inspirational, feel-good stories that might sell a lot of copies but night not be well-respected by fans of literary fiction. Some years, audiences and publishers raise the outcry– “But how could <<Insert book name here>> not be a finalist? It was far and away the best book of the year!” This year, the pendulum seems to have swung away from the inspirational novels, and toward, well, death. Protagonists in four of the five novels have recently been uncoupled, and in the fifth, an aunt’s death starts the action of the story in motion. And with that common thread running through the stories, I know you’re just dying to dive in, right? Continue reading

Ethan’s Eulogy

Ethan 2014Last week we told you that Ethan Rediske, the eleven-year-old son of Segullah staffer Andrea Rediske, was in his final days. On Friday morning, he passed from this life to the next. His funeral was this afternoon. Andrea and her family have been touched by all of the love and prayers that they have received from people around the world who read Ethan’s story, and as a gift to us, she has allowed us to publish her words from Ethan’s funeral here:

Thank you all for being here today – it is so good to see your beautiful faces. I’m utterly overwhelmed with love from the people who have come from far and near – family and Ethan with parentsfriends who are here with us today, many from other states, some from other countries. I am humbled to my knees for all of the acts of kindness, service, messages, meals, prayer, and fasting by so many. We have been prayed over by members of our LDS community, friends and family of other faiths, nuns in a convent in northern California, and many friends who have no religious affiliation or belief have sent words of peace and blessing on our behalf. People we don’t even know have been praying and fasting for us. My heart is overflowing with gratitude for each of you. Thank you for being there during our grief and for coming to share this time with us.

Before I talk about our life with Ethan, I want to tell you the story of my great-grandmother, Rebecca Randle Ellis. I know that I met her when I was a little girl, but I don’t remember Rebecca Randall 2her – she died when I was very young. I am grateful to know her life’s story and her legacy. She was born in Bracon Ash, Norfolk, England in 1882. When she finished as much schooling as she could at the age of 15, she began to help supplementing her family’s income working as a maid and a nanny. In this capacity, she took her first trip to Canada, but returned back to England because she was so homesick. In 1916, she moved back to Alberta, Canada, this time for a boy. My grandfather recounts that her future husband, John Ellis, and the minister met her at the train station when she arrived in Alberta, and they were married on the spot. They built a homestead in Manola, Alberta, where she worked with her husband on his mail route, and also milked cows, cleared trees, forked hay, washed clothes by hand, and fed pigs and chickens. She was only 98 pounds, and I imagine that she was fierce, braving the cold Canadian winters and working as hard as she did. She was also a wonderful cook, making bread, cakes, cookies, pies, and trifles. She loved children and loved to play games with them and tell them stories. When my grandfather, Louis Ellis, was eight years old, he contracted polio. After sitting with him through the fever, they took him to the hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, where the doctors told Rebecca and John that he would never walk again. I imagine that she said to herself, “Well, I’ll show you!” And she did. She took her little boy home and put him on her kitchen table in her 16’ x 24’ homestead in Manola and massaged his back and legs three times a day for a year. Because of her efforts, he was able to walk and have a normal life. When I knew my grandfather, he used a built-up shoe, had a limp, and used a cane, but he lived a beautiful life. He went to school, married, had children, worked hard all his life, served a mission, and then traveled the world with my grandmother when they retired. When I was a little girl, I remember getting souvenirs from Spain, Ireland, Hawaii, Australia, and other countries from around the world. His mother gave that beautiful life to him.

After Ethan was born, and we began to understand the extent of his disabilities, I thought often of my great-grandmother. I thought about her fierceness and strength, and the Ethan Rediskeefforts she went through to give my grandfather a beautiful life. I thought to myself that I came from that stock and hoped that I had inherited some of her grit. But, unlike Rebecca Randle Ellis, I didn’t have to do it alone in a little homestead in Canada – I had an army of medical professionals to help me to give Ethan a beautiful life. Doctors, nurses, therapists, and teachers all helped me to make Ethan’s life the best that it could be. Ethan had home health nurses for the last 6 years of his life, and each day, these angels came into our home and cared for his medical needs. Each day, I heard them singing to him, telling him stories, and playing games with him. Nearly every day, they took him for walks, and he developed these gorgeous tan lines on his legs that showed where his knees were exposed to the sun. Each day was a beautiful day as he received loving care at their hands. Therapists came weekly, massaging his muscles and helping to prevent painful contractures. I also heard them talking and laughing with him as they worked with him. Ethan was a huge flirt, and loved the women that worked with him, batting his long eyelashes, smiling, and laughing when they came. Special education teachers also came weekly, stimulating his mind, helping him make choices, making art projects that adorned his walls, and knowing intuitively what educational methods would work best for him. His special education teacher Jennifer Rose came to visit him every day before he died, and again I was struck by her love and dedication as a teacher. When it was time for hospice care, his hospice nurse brought us peace, comfort, and the knowledge we needed to help him transition into the next life. We are eternally grateful to each of you for your love and care of our sweet boy. By making his life better, you have made our lives better, because we have always known that he was in good hands and that he knew love every day of his life. This army of loving medical professionals helped me to give Ethan a beautiful life.

I want you all to know that I have a testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ. One of the most beautiful and profound verses in all of scripture is also the shortest: John 11:35 that states Family 2014simply: “Jesus wept.” In this moment, Christ had been summoned to Mary and Martha because their brother Lazarus had died. The Savior didn’t rush in, saying, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this! I’m going to raise him from the dead! It’s all under control! Everything is going to be ok!” No. He saw their grief at their brother’s death, and He sat down and wept with them. I know He weeps with us today. Each of you is showing me His love by weeping with us today. Isaiah 53:3 describes the Savior as, “…a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” By suffering not only for our sins, but also for our pain, sorrow, disappointment, loneliness, and grief, He understands us intimately and perfectly and can heal us individually and personally. I have felt His healing power in my life many times, but most especially during Ethan’s last moments.

I know that it is through Christ’s atonement and resurrection that one day we will be reunited with Ethan, that we will know him and embrace him, and that our family will be together forever. I know that right now, he is safe and at peace, that he’s free from the body that imprisoned him in this life, and that he is running and playing. I know that my Grandpa Louis Ellis has been his guardian angel his whole life, and that he was the one to take him home. I long for the day when I will see them both again and to be able to thank my great-grandmother for sharing her legacy with me.

Thank you all for sharing this day with us.