Letter from Mary

I can still hear the loud staccato of fireworks as I tap keys. It is late and my family has enjoyed Utah’s Pioneer Day in full. We’ve cheered marathon runners down the original pioneer trail, we’ve barbecued with family, we’ve oohed and aahed over the glittered floats from the Days of ’47 parade, and at the end of the night my five tired children cradled balloon animals home in the car.

I love this commemoration of our Mormon pioneers coming into the Salt Lake valley. I love the pioneers of old, as well as the pioneers of today. Like sweet Noémi from Hungary – the first of her family to join the LDS church. She was introduced to the gospel through our very own Michelle. To see Noémi’s face is to know modern pioneers are just as devoted, just as full of light. (Michelle’s video is a must-watch.)

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In 1947 my Grandma and Grandpa were asked to participate in the church’s centennial reenactment of the great trek from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah. Both were talented singers, they sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and Grandma was one of two women asked to come along. Together, she and my grandfather sang the 1947 company across the plains.

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After she passed away, I inherited a gold locket on a thick mesh chain. My grandmother wore it during the reenactment trek. Inside were pictures of her two sons. My Dad (age 2) is on the right. The locket was given to her by her grandmother, Mary Wagstaff Clark. This treasure of a locket journeyed by wagon with Mary to Utah.

My uncle recently found a letter written by Mary to her husband who was serving a mission in Alabama. She was living in Sugar House at the time and her letter is dated March 19th, 1889. Their youngest son, Cyrus, had died in June 1888, at the age of one and a half, just a few months after Lorenzo left on his mission.

I wanted to share with you a few stanzas of the poem she wrote for Lorenzo. It was a long awaited “answer” to a poem he wrote her, which he titled, My Mary. Too weak from sickness to pen a letter, she could do nothing but endure a disappointing silence between them for weeks. Finally, her words arrived in an envelope on the 28th of March in Helena, Alabama.

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I share it in hopes that your poetic heart will connect with hers, that you will sense the romantic way she and Lorenzo cared for each other, and that gratitude will stir inside you, as it has in me, for those who went before and nobly prepared the way.

Often I’ve tried

to write you good letters

Though trouble and sickness

have been at the door

For I knew dearest husband

that you have had trials

to burden you down, yes

down to the floor.

 

And often at night

when it’s dark and so lonely

I think of you darling

Though far, far apart

and the dear little farm

that is cold and so silent

‘til it seems as though

grieving is breaking my heart.

 

But darling it will not.

I must live to see you

and be your good angel

to guard you at night

and help to take care

of the six little children

that God in his mercy

has spared to our sight.

 

In the poetry, call[ed] my Mary,

You asked me to tell you

That I loved you as dear

as the day we were wed

I’m sure I can say

It has never diminished

but my darling it has

been growing instead.

 

Then I’ll write you this letter

to cheer your sad hours

In answer to verses you wrote

about me called My Mary

and then I will ask

God to bless you

And bring you safe home

For we’re waiting for thee.

 

To my Beloved Husband

From your own Mary

 

The life my little family enjoys is a happy one. Largely because of the example and sacrifices of women like Mary, her daughter Annie, and my Grandma Dorothy. Bonnie D. Parkin said, “Years from now your grandchildren will tell with amazement stories of your choices which changed their lives. You will be called their pioneers.”

Share a name with us. Who are you grateful for this Pioneer Day? And if you are the gospel pioneer for your family, what do you hope to build or leave behind?

About Catherine A.

(Blog Team) is a mother of five small children including two sets of twins. She and her husband spent nearly eight years in Northern Virginia, but now call Utah home. She reviews books for Meridian Magazine, writes for Power of Moms, dabbles in poetry and works on the prose editorial staff for Segullah. She blogs about her wild and precious life @ www.wildnprecious.com.

7 thoughts on “Letter from Mary

  1. I have pioneer ancestors who crossed the plains and I’m so grateful for them. My paternal grandparents came from England and joined the church. My grandfather died at age 38 leaving 4 young children for my Grandma to raise. Het family in England wrote to her and offered to have her come home to England to have help with the children and financial help as well. However they insisted she give up the “Mormon nonsense” in order to come home. She chose to stay in America and raise her family on her own. I’m so grateful for her sacrifices! My daughter is named after her.

  2. I have many pioneer ancestors on my father’s side of the family, going back five and six generations or so. I don’t know all of their stories but I know they made sacrifices and were stalwart in their faith. I am so grateful for them and love that I descend from people who trekked across the United States to get to Zion.

    The pioneer I know and love best though is my mother. She joined the church in her early 20’s, the first (and only) member of her family to do so. She served a mission (in Brazil), married my father in the temple and raised six children, setting a wonderful example for all of us. It wasn’t easy for her, pioneering never is but she did it and I am so grateful to her for it!

  3. I loved the poem that you shared of your grandmother’s grandmother. You could feel the love she had for her husband right through the words she wrote. Those pioneers gave up so much to share the gospel.

    I am grateful for their missionary efforts. I’m a convert to the church and I love the hope, peace, and the love the gospel brings to my life.

  4. Cheryl – your grandmother was an amazing lady. What faith and devotion! A wonderful namesake for your daughter. Thanks for sharing her story with us.

    Ana of the 9 – Thank you for telling us about your mother. Still the only member in her family! But look at her posterity (through you alone!) What a blessing she has been in your life.

    Jean R – converts are the life of the church. They are what make it vibrant and beautiful. They expand the mind and presence of the church. I’m so grateful you are one of them. Blessings to you! And thank you for reading.

    Chocolate… – What a lady, your Yaya! (I have one other friend who adored her grandmother and called her Yaya.) I read your tribute on your blog. It was amazing to me how the Lord used her talents and gifts. And because she was willing to go where he called, she became his instrument. Thank you so much for sharing here!

    Kellie – pioneer woman extraordinaire. That’s you! And I love your faith-based stubborn-ness. Your boys will call you blessed for decades to come. xoxo

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