Talk by Denise Haslam at Lin Walker funeral services, May 14, 2011

This thought keeps bugging me: that I need to post the talk that was given at Lin’s funeral. Given at Lin’s request by her friend Denise Haslam. Given a few guidelines by Lin, Denise proceeded. I am posting it so the bugging will stop. Almost certainly the last post on this Blog, “one of the best funeral talks I’ve ever heard”, as another friend said. You will find it immensely inspiring.

Talk by Denise Haslam at Lin Walker funeral services, May 14, 2011

On behalf of the Walker family I extend my heartfelt thanks for everyone who is in attendance today. I know that so very many have done so very much since Lin became ill. A multitude of friends and family too numerous to mention have given countless hours of Christ like service. I feel it appropriate to express gratitude yet again for literally thousands of kind deeds which were given in abundance. Lin and her family are so grateful for all the caring support which strengthened each of them profoundly.  While it may be that you do not receive a written thank you note, please know that your acts of service are recorded in heaven and forever written in their hearts.  Thank you for all that you have done.

I realize that many of you don’t know me so I’d like to take just a moment to acquaint you with how I came to know Lin, Lorin and their family.

In January 1996 Lorin, Lin and their last 5 boys moved to Sioux City, Iowa.  Our family would move there just six months later with our 6, nearly seven children. Lin and I shared many commonalities and we became fast friends.  She had seven children as did I, we both were converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as young adults, and our husband’s employment had taken us here, there and nearly everywhere.  We each had lived in, admired and deeply missed that amazing place called Texas.   We both loved good books, writing, sewing, creating, and art; however she was much better at creating than I.  Sioux City was not one of the favorite places we’d lived and we commiserated about the beastly cold, the limitations of a small town, and the lack of good fabric stores, or any kind of store for that matter.  We would share an Iowa zip code for nearly 10 years.

Our friendship deepened thorough the trials and tribulations of that decade and the succeeding years. We helped each other through job crisis’s, totally wild and crazy teenage boys, our tears and fears for then unmarried daughters, loneliness, losing our moms, fire, flood, pestilence and no decent barbecue to be had.  Her job was to listen to me whine and vent which she was very good at. My job was to make her laugh which I managed to do most of the time.  The only thing we did not share was her particular love of animals.  I considered it a singular honor when she once told me, “Denise, I must really like you; you’re the only friend I’ve ever had who doesn’t like animals as much as me”.  In true Lin style she considered my weakness, which was significant in her eyes, and loved me just the same.  Her capacity to love is unparalleled in my experience.  My parenting style was tough love, with an emphasis on the tough; her emphasis was always on the love part.  Lin gave me little advice concerning this talk; but she wanted most of all for her children to know how much she loved them. So to you; Austin, Kadra, Micah, Nathan, Spencer, Luke and Seth I tell you what I’m sure you already know that she loved you deeply, profoundly, completely. She expressed often her joy for the wonderful people you are.  She told me often how lucky she was to have the son and daughter in laws that she had and how much she loved each one of you. She felt especially blessed to have you in her circle of family.  While she was never a giddy grandma, she adored having grandchildren and spoke often of how delightful they were.   And last but not least, her love for Lorin, her husband, was expressed in a thousand concerns and worries, for his physical well being and emotional comfort.  She was a caregiver and nurturer through and through and she cherished her family.  Her nurturing spirit came back to her tenfold through her family and friends all during her illness.  She felt deeply blessed with a loving and attentive family.  Lin’s gratitude for you, her family, is matched by our collective admiration. I know I am not alone in expressing heartfelt praise for the part you have played. We pay tribute to Lorin, who was her constant guardian, involved nurse, and deepest confidant; to Austin head resident nurse, fierce protector, and tender oldest son, to Kadra, loving daughter, and female lifeline in a sea of males, to Micah, Nathan, Spencer, Luke and Seth for your  tenderness, late night watches, and gentle hugs. To March and Betty her two sisters, who visited whenever time and  circumstances allowed as well as increasing Panera bread stock with all the goodies they brought.  To Charlotte, devoted caregiver, loving sister in law, as well as chief cook and bottle washer lo these many weeks. I’m sure you know how much it meant to her to have each of you close by, deeply involved, and here for “the duration.”  We thank you for your example.

To know Lin was to know one of God’s gentlest daughters. Her compassion, good humor and unconditional love were her hallmark qualities. She was and forever will be a true southern lady in the very best sense of the word.  I rarely heard her speak ill of anyone, which put me to shame for my own judgmental comments.  I learned much from her and count her one of my dearest friends.  She will be sorely missed.

One can’t help but wonder why she had to get sick, why she had to leave her husband, her children, and her very little grandchildren.  In our finite minds, it may seem unwarranted, unfair even unkind. We could easily get depressed, unhappy, confused or bitter at the incongruence of this life.  Wicked people live, even prosper while good people suffer, even die.

We make a grave mistake however, if we judge this life by what we see. It would be like picking up a book with only the middle chapters left in the binding. We can read the middle part of the story but we don’t know how it began and we can only imagine how it might end.  Our lives are like that book, with no memory of our first chapter and no clear view of the ending. When we understand all that happened in the beginning we can better understand what comes next.

First Chapters

Lin’s beginning chapter began as ours did. We lived before this earth life with a Heavenly Father and Mother.  We were nurtured, taught and cherished by them. They would prepare her as well as all of us for the day when we would leave that Heavenly Home.  As loving parents they knew we needed to test our abilities, to learn to make right choices. We knew we needed the chance to prove ourselves without their constant and watchful care.  We loved our Heavenly Father and Mother but we wanted to grow and develop, which meant leaving home.  We could only progress if we were to try our wings; our test would be finding our way back to their presence. We would come to this earth with little remembrance of our pre mortal existence.  “That loss of memory gives us a clean start. It is ideal for the test; it secures our individual agency, and leaves us free to make choices. Many of them must be made on faith alone. Even so, we carry with us some whispered knowledge of our pre-mortal life and our status as offspring of immortal parents.”  Boyd K Packer

Middle Chapters

Lin’s middle chapter begins with entry to this world. She came here wanting to prove herself. We all came here desiring the chance to gain in wisdom and knowledge then return home again.  We all would gain a physical body from our earthly parents.  Our physical body is like a book jacket which surrounds a book. Our body protects and houses our spirit like a book jacket protects a book.   One of the challenges of this middle chapter is to master our mind and body.   As babies we master the art of walking and talking. As adults we can continue to use our minds and bodies to serve and help others. Our middle chapters can take many paths as we endeavor to navigate a story line which is often unscripted.  “If you expect to find only ease and peace and bliss during these middle chapters, you surely will be frustrated, you will understand little of what is going on and why things are permitted to be as they are. “Remember this! The phrase ‘And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the ‘middle part of a book’. That line belongs at the end (of the story), when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right.” Boyd K Packer.

The lives we live in our middle chapter determine how our ending chapter will be. Our purpose here is to find our way back to Heavenly Father’s home, and to help others find their way as well. We are accountable for what we do with our story; accountable for the knowledge that we have been taught.  If we choose to forget, or ignore that knowledge we may find ourselves lost and unhappy.   Just like the characters in a book each decision made will determine the final outcome, how the story will end.  We are like those characters, each choice plots our course, and each act navigates us to our final conclusion.  Whether that conclusion is delightful, warm and satisfying or fraught with regrets and misery depends almost entirely on how we choose to live in this our middle chapters.  Lin lived her life walking according to the light and knowledge that she had gained.  She made promises, covenants with her Father in Heaven, through baptism and the ordinances of the temple. She chose to live according to those covenants. When those days came that she had regrets, which we all do, she sought her Elder Brother Jesus Christ. He is the proviso to remedy our mistakes. Jesus Christ gives us the ability to edit our chapters, to re write our poor choices.  We can rectify our mistakes; we can erase our thoughtless words and deeds. His redeeming love coupled with our willingness to change will guide us through the middle chapters of our life’s book. Through Him we will find the means to finish our story with our heads held high and return home to our Heavenly Parents with honor.  Lin’s life was a repetitive litany of well written pages; her story line always brought her closer and closer to her Heavenly Home.  She gave so freely of her time and talents to all who knew her that I feel certain her conclusion will be delightful, warm and satisfying.

Final Chapters

Lin’s ending chapter, the final act of her book begins with her death.  Death is part of her story; it is a pivotal chapter in her book. It is as necessary and needed as her birth. She could not; we could not continue to write our books without it. Recently Lin and the Walker’s anticipated the arrival of a new granddaughter Sarah Lin.  She was planned for, welcomed and cherished.  Similarly, Lin’s loved ones beyond this life have also anticipated her arrival.  She will be welcomed and cherished.

When we leave this life we lay down our body and our spirit returns home. We take off our book jacket and leave it here for now, but the day will come through the power of our Savior Jesus Christ when He will join our body and our spirit together forever.  Our bodies become worn and tattered in this life, much like a book cover on a book. The priceless gift of resurrection brings our book and its cover back together.  When that day comes there will be no illness, no pain, no grey hair or wrinkles but a perfect, glorious and eternal body.

Once we have left this earth life we return to our Heavenly Father. We will give him an accounting of our lives and choices.  Lin endeavored to keep her promises and by so doing Heavenly Father will keep His promises to her. Lin’s place and standing in her final chapter is mandated by the choices she made. She paid the price, walked the road, and never lost sight of the home she wished to return to. Our final destination is also mandated by spiritual laws which govern the entire universe.  We, who are still in our middle chapters, writing our story day by day, can we likewise live according to the light and knowledge we have, faithfully keep the promises we have made, and retain the vision of our final destination firmly in our minds and hearts.

’’Never forget that you came to earth as a child of the divine Father, with something of divinity in your very makeup. The Lord did not send you here to fail. He did not give you life to waste it. He bestowed upon you the gift of mortality that you might gain experience positive, wonderful, purposeful experience that will lead to life, eternal life.”  Gordon B Hinckley- April 2001


I have spent some time today speaking metaphorically about our Father in Heaven’s plan of Happiness.  May I summarize simply that plan? We all lived with our Father in Heaven before we came to this earth. We accepted the challenge to come to this earth, to gain a mortal body, traverse the difficulties of this life and endeavor to return home. This plan was presented before this earth life and all of us accepted it with great joy.  Jesus Christ was appointed to be our Savior and Redeemer. Mortal death would be overcome by him; mistakes could be erased by him. We have the means through our Heavenly Father’s plan to never lose those we love. Our families can be eternal. Death will have no victory and the grave will have no sting because we can continue to hug, laugh and love beyond this grave.  The reality is that there is no end to our book. There are countless stories to write with those we love for all eternity. The gospel of Jesus Christ makes it possible, our choices make it happen.

There is comfort today in knowing where we came from, why we are here and where we are going. There is comfort in knowing that the Savior has indeed burst the prison of death and opens the door for Lin and for each of us. There is comfort in knowing where Lin is, that she will be treasured and cherished. Death is indeed conquered and we are free because Christ has won that victory.  Hymns #199

When we consider these things we can face our losses with a measure of peace in our hearts. On a personal level my heart will long for the day when I will see her again and laugh and chat as we always have; but until that day my heart will rest in the knowledge of a Savior who cares for her and for me and for each one of you.  I will trust as I know Lin does in His plan that allows us to be together forever.

I bear solemn testimony of that plan and the reality of Jesus Christ who broke the bands of death and sin. I know that He stands ever ready to listen, to love and to sustain us.  I know that he can heal our aching hearts, calm our fears, and strengthen us through this day and every one that follows. I know He yearns for each of us and longs to welcome us back home.  However far we wander He seeks us still. He is our shepherd and our friend. He wants nothing more than to join us together in eternal families to live forever with him…. I know that an eternal family is promised and available to Lin and her family and for every family on earth.  Lin was so grateful for that truth.  I am deeply grateful as well for a Savior whose truths can make life sweet for each and every one of us.  I so testify of Him, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

Copyright Denise Haslam 2011

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