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The problem with writing a personal history is that once started, it’s easy to keep thinking of more things that need to be included. Having just mentally added a new category that I will title “Friends,” I am becoming convinced that my history may be the longest in the history of histories.

Over a lifetime, I have been blessed with the best friends possible. In some instances, the impact has been enormous. In every instance, my life has been enriched in some way from the relationships.

What started me down this path was the death, too sudden and too soon, of my good friend Diane Yeates last week. Had I known, I would have made the hug I gave her last week when we met during the weekly Humanitarian Center activity in the Centerville South Stake building much longer and much closer. I’d have told her right out loud how much her friendship has meant to me.

When I first became a member of the Centerville 7th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Diane was one of the first to make me welcome. Making people welcome was her forte. During her 76 years, she nurtured a lot of people who weren’t her responsibility except that she made it so. She accepted everyone without judgment and just put another plate on the table as needed.

She and I built a wonderful friendship on shared interests and interests we mutually admired but never shared. For instance, I tend to be pretty prosaic in my choice of activities, not generally operating outside the usual bounds. She lived her life with zest and verve. She was always pushing the envelope and making life interesting through such activities as TP-ing the neighbors’ yards and taking her children/grandchildren on tours of buildings still under construction. She sang beautifully. I do the caterwauling thing. She dived headfirst into life. I tend to be more of an observer.

Among the points of commonality that cemented the friendship were curiosity about a lot of things, love for the outdoors and shared faith in things that vitally mattered: family and faith, mostly. Her last service to me was to “borrow” a tattered scrapbook my mother had made me, which was disorganized and falling apart. It came back with articles, mostly columns I wrote years ago that my mom had saved, all neatly tucked in protective sleeves. Only the cover was still coming apart, but I couldn’t part with that because it had Mom’s handwriting on it. Diane just did that sort of thing.

One time when a group of four of us drove up Parley’s Canyon one late autumn evening and took a sharp right into Lamb’s Canyon, I took a picture of Diane. She was facing away from the camera with her hands linked behind her back. You couldn’t see her face, but there was no doubt what she was doing: storing up images of gold, orange, yellow and brown to get her through until spring.

Diane did all of these things while living with intractable pain. She suffered from back and neck problems that didn’t improve despite many surgeries. She carried a little stool with her and found a spot at church or in the homes of friends where we met for family home evenings where she could stretch her legs in front of her to ease the pain.

Only recently, she had bowed to the necessity of a cane and accepted help at home from a daughter. I can’t think of a single time in our acquaintance, not one, when she whined or complained.

Now, could I write an honest history of my life and not include Diane?

And then there was Lasca Gustafson Schofield. She and I were friends from the fifth grade through high school and decades beyond. We played basketball and softball together. She was our junior prom queen and I was editor of the Lincoln Laconic, a pretty pathetic mimeographed high school newspaper. Together we climbed hills around our little town and solved the world’s problems. (If only they’d listened to us!) We considered ourselves sophisticated and very wise, never knowing we were just a couple of hicks from the sticks.

After graduation, she married and went to Las Vegas. I headed up the other way and became a journalist, wife, mother, etc. We seldom saw each other, but when we did it was as if time and distance did not exist. It was always the same warm companionship.

Lasca’s life was hard. She had a difficult marriage with a husband who was ill. After he died, over a period of years, three of her six children committed suicide. The last time I saw her she had sunk into a pervasive sadness that broke my heart. We just sat and cried together. When she died shortly after that visit, I was glad that her years-long suffering was over.

I could, and will, name several dozen more, each of whom contributed something to the me that evolved. If my history is too long, no one is obligated to read it, but it will include as many of my friends as I see fit.

Twila Van Leer is a former Deseret News editor and staff writer who serves as a family history missionary.



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