Admission...Pioneer Trek holds absolutely no appeal for me. I never had the opportunity to experience it as a youth (though my parents did when my dad was in the stake presidency) and haven't really ever felt bad about that. Heat, snakes, lack of bathrooms....you know, my normal concerns about camping in general. And to do it all in layers of skirts, bloomers and bonnets? All the same, I was excited for the girls to do this, and happy that they were excited as well. Because though it's hard and dirty and hot, I also know that the spiritual growth and experiences are tremendous on Trek. And that's the part that I found myself a little envious of....
We sent the girls off Wednesday morning. And then I started praying hard for my pioneer girlies. Even 6-year old Lilian got into the spirit, praying each evening to "bless the girls that they don't get dehydrated."
Wednesday night we got the news that Bryan's Grandma Berneda had died. I was somewhat surprised, and yet I shouldn't have been. She'd been diagnosed with stage 4 kidney failure two years ago. But in true Grandma Berneda grit, strength and determination, she continued to hang on giving us all the opportunity to benefit from her company, wisdom and humor for awhile longer, for which we are all very thankful.
The funeral was set for Saturday morning. Bryan was asked to give one of the prayers. I was asked to put together a musical number with Bryan's sister Carolyn. Aunts, uncles and cousins came into town from all over the country. Every single one of Grandma Berneda's 21 grandchildren were there, including most of the spouses and countless great grandchildren. She presides over a large posterity, Grandma Berneda does. The service was absolutely beautiful and we all enjoyed not only reminiscing about Grandma, but also catching up with cousins we haven't seen in awhile.
At the family luncheon after the funeral, Kimberly, the wife of Bryan's cousin Brandon, came over to talk to me. She had heard the situation with my girls...that they were at Trek and hadn't heard about Grandma yet. She said she had just finished a Trek in her own ward just recently and had had an incredible experience. She was anxious to hear what my girls thought of their own pioneer stint. But she also said something along the lines of, "I think Grandma Berneda is with your girls on Trek." I have to say, I got a little bit teary at the thought. It was comforting, even if I had no idea if Kimberly was correct or not.
Rebekah and Julianne arrived home from Trek just 30 minutes after we pulled in from Provo. We decided not to tell them immediately. We wanted to hear their experiences while the glow from Trek (if there was a glow) was still strong. And boy, did they have stories to share! I thought they'd want to take a shower first thing. But they took us out to the back deck and while they brushed off the dust and peeled off dirty shoes and layers of socks, inspecting blisters...they told us of their Trek families. The women's pull. The songs they sang, and the games they played. Friends they'd made, food they'd eaten. The things they learned and the feelings they felt. Detail after detail. The experience, just as I had hoped...had been nothing but tremendous. I found myself wishing I had been there with them....dirt, heat and lack of bathrooms nonetheless.
Finally, as they exhausted their words and started giving into their actual physical exhaustion, without a word I handed them the camera and let them scroll through the pictures. Julianne was confused at first. But Rebekah, with equal parts sadness and awe, immediately said, "Oh my goodness. It's Grandma Berneda isn't it? I knew it." She seemed so incredibly certain about that pronouncement that I questioned her further.
I was rather stunned as I thought of Kimberly's words at the funeral just a few hours earlier....that Grandma was likely watching over Rebekah and Julianne at Trek. And I couldn't help the words from the final verse of "Come Come Ye Saints" from going through my head....
And should we die before our journey's through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again
To see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we'll make this chorus swell--
All is well! All is well!