Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cancer...It's What We Do Here, Day 1

After Mom's appointment at Dr. Bott's it became apparent that we were no longer in charge. Although they told us Mom could go wherever she wanted to they started calling Mom telling her where and when she should be somewhere for a scan, procedure, etc.

After an assigned trip to the radiology department at the Central Utah Clinic in Provo it was decided that Mom needed a Biliary Drainage procedure (see the explanation below). They could do the procedure at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, but her insurance would not cover the procedure if it was done there. The insurance would cover Timpanogos Regional Hospital, but they didn't do the procedure often enough to do it well. It was then decided that Mom would be sent to the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

On March 9th we loaded Mom (wearing her "happy hat" and Superman t-shirt) up and headed for Salt Lake City. When we stepped into the lobby at Huntsman (which is what we call it in our family) and were simply awed. It is truly a beautiful building where amazing things happen. We got on the elevator and went to the third floor. On our way to Interventional Radiology we stopped to admire the view of the entire Salt Lake Valley through the large glass windows of the entrance.

We got Mom checked in and sat down in the waiting area. At some point during our wait they sent us back downstairs to get blood drawn. At this time Mom was still on her feet walking around. The ride to Salt Lake and the walking around Huntsman had completely worn her out. She curled up on a double seat in the waiting area while Grandma Black moved another chair over for her to put her feet on. We sat anxiously waiting for them to call her back. Mom was anxious and just didn't have a good feeling about it. We reassured her that the doctors would be amazing and that she was in a place where they do amazing things.

After what felt like forever they finally called her back to prep her for the procedure. When the blood work came back the nurse noticed that Mom's INR level (an INR level measures the body's blood clotting capabilities) was too high to do the procedure. What exactly did this mean...that Mom's blood wasn't clotting properly and the risk that she would bleed out was too great. So after spending the morning filled with hope that they could do something to help Mom we got knocked back down again. Then the doctors said three magical words...


They would infuse Mom with the FFP to bring her INR level back to normal and then they would be able to insert the bile drain. At this point it was too late in the day to start so we would be coming back on Monday morning. After a back and forth conversation about whether to admit Mom for the night or not they finally told us  that she could go home for the weekend and to be back at 7:00am on Monday morning.

So we loaded back up, drove home, and prepared ourselves for Monday morning.

to be continued...

A Biliary Drainage procedure is when a catheter is placed through your skin and into your liver to drain your bile. This procedure is performed in the Interventional Radiology Department by an Interventional Radiologist.  X-ray imaging helps the Interventional Radiologist guide the catheter into exactly the right place (information on Biliary Drainage procedure from http://www.altru.org/pdf/biliary.pdf) .

Fresh Frozen Plasma in the United States can refer to the fluid portion of one unit of human blood that has been centrifuged, separated, and frozen solid at −18 °C (−0 °F) or colder within eight hours of collection.[2] The phrase "FFP" is often used to mean any transfused plasma product.
(information on FFP from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fresh_frozen_plasma)

To learn more about the Huntsman Cancer Institute click here:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Taking Time To Smell The Roses

 I love finding joy and excitement in the little things. Right now little things mean a lot. It doesn't take much to brighten my day and right now...I am loving flowers!!!

Last Thursday I was at my parents' house and I could not help but notice that everything from the roses to the pansies looked AMAZING!!!

There was one rose in particular that stood out. It looked like everything that I have ever imagined the enchanted rose in Disney's Beauty and the Beast to be. The biggest, most beautiful rose I have ever seen in real life...


It was as big as my hand and it's reddish pink petals glistened in the afternoon sunlight. As I moved closer to take this picture with my phone the sweet smell was intoxicating. Simply put, it was MAGICAL!!! I had to have it. I picked it and shared it with my mom. I knew she would love it too. 


Today I took my camera with me to decorate graves at the Lehi City Cemetery and decided after that I would go back to Mom and Dad's to take some more pictures. Here are a couple of the shots that I ended up with. The two on the top are from the yard and the two on the bottom from the cemetery.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Making of a Woman

I have been working on a post about our time at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. It is not quite ready. So while I finish that post I thought I would share this with everyone...

We found this in Mom's Sterling Scholar portfolio. While she originally wrote it as "The Making of a Businesswoman,"  I think that it applies to all women.

The Making of a Woman

A woman must know of the magic that is carried in a smile. 

She must be able to stay cool and calm in all situations and not let her emotions overpower her mind.
(I admit I really need to work on this one.)

She must be able to concentrate. Concentration eliminates mistakes.

She must take pride in the position that she holds and in her appearance so that she will conscientiously try to look sharp and work to full capacity.

She must radiate a glowing personality and be able to get along with many different types of people.

She must be skilled and knowledgeable. She must be aware of world and community events. She must have special interests; needlepoint or perhaps French cookery, She needs to possess such skills and knowledge so that there will be more of herself to offer.

She must have confidence in her personal strengths and in her skills.

She must be able to recognize her weaknesses and be able to learn from mistakes.

Finally, a woman must realize that there is always room for improvement, even in the best of people. She must realize that there will always be room to learn, experience new things, and room to make herself a better person to offer her family, friends, community, and the world at large. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cholangiocarcinoma...Can You Say That Again?

After giving my mom a few weeks to recover from surgery we had our first appointment with the oncologist, Dr. Bott.

We (by we I mean myself, Dayna, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, and of course Mom) all crammed into an exam room in the cancer center at American Fork Hospital. Dr. Bott came in and had us introduce ourselves to him asking who we were and what our relation to the patient was. Then he got right down to business. As he started to talk Dayna pulled out a little notebook and started taking notes.

He had the results from the state-of-the-art lab...
Mom had a rare form of cancer known as Cholangiocarcinoma or biliary cancer. Essentially it is a cancer that starts in the bile duct system of the liver. There was no way to tell how long it had been there, but Dr. Bott said it was possible it had been there for a few years. He had only seen one case that he could compare this too. It was a woman around the same age as Mom. With chemotherapy she lived for about 24 months and was only seriously ill for two of those months. He did say however that in this woman's case they caught it a little earlier. His main concern was that my mom was already turning yellow which meant that her bile duct was possibly blocked and that her liver was not functioning properly.

Dr. Bott said that while the cancer could not be cured, he thought that chemotherapy could slow it down. He was concerned that her liver was not functioning well enough to metabolize the chemo drugs. While most chemo drugs are processed in your liver their are a few that the body processes through the kidneys that could be an option, but some of those were not available due to the chemotherapy drug shortage (I don't know much about this because at the time I was afraid I would get upset with what I learned).

The other option was to do everything that was medically possible to keep her comfortable if she chose not to do treatment. I think that we all had our own little moment with Mom before we went to this appointment. We all told her the same thing. That we understood if she didn't want to do treatment. We wanted her to make the most of the time she had left and were afraid treatment would make her sick. You see we had big plans; we were going to go places and do things with whatever time Mom had left.

When Mom was diagnosed she said that she just wanted to make it to our graduations. She decided that if treatment would help her make it to graduation and maybe give her some time go some places and do a few things she would do it.

 Mom's best case scenario for treatment would be to have her liver functioning well enough that the drugs could be metabolized through it. Efforts to make that possible led us to the Huntsman Cancer Institute...

You can learn more about Cholangiocarcinoma here: http://www.cholangiocarcinoma.org/definition.htm

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Week That Changed My LIfe

A little over thirteen weeks ago, I found my life forever changed....

      I was going about my business on a Friday morning at work. At 10:00am I decided that it was time for a Diet Coke break. While on break I checked my phone, I had a message from my mom saying that doctors thought that she had a diseased gallbladder and she was going in for an ultrasound. She said, "I have been thinking of you all morning and how sick you must have been when your gallbladder was bad and we had no idea."

 I had another message from my mom, "It turns out I do have a bad gallbladder and they are going to take it out tonight or tomorrow morning.  An hour later I called my parents. They were heading to the hospital, if an operating room opened up the doctors wanted to get the gallbladder out that night.  I didn't think much of it, it all seemed pretty standard and normal since myself and other family members had been through gall bladder surgery ourselves. I decided to head home to spend the evening with my husband.

      They were finally taking her in to surgery at 9:00pm. I felt uneasy, but still didn't think that I needed to be at the hospital for what is normally a same-day procedure. I stayed at home.

A phone call from Dad, they couldn't do the surgery as planned and had to open her up in order to remove her diseased gall bladder. At this moment I knew something was wrong. As soon as I got off the phone with Dad I headed for the hospital.

 The doctors come out of surgery. "We don't know for sure at this point, we have to run the biopsies, but you should prepare yourselves, we think it might be cancer." Oh no not the "C" word. We hate the "C" word. After losing our two cousins and an uncle to cancer I felt like our family had seen enough of the "C" word to last quite awhile.

     Fast forward to Tuesday, February 14 (that's right Valentine's Day)
 Mom was officially diagnosed with cancer.My sister called me at work to tell me, I broke down at my desk and then headed for the hospital. The rest of that day is a blur. My sister curled up in the big chair in the corner of the hospital room, my grandma leaving the room to cry, and we ate the "good chocolates" while waiting for Dad to get to the hospital after his day at work. 

 The doctors came in and said that the tumor was aggressive. 

 The doctors came in again to say that the tumor was inoperable. The oncologist came to see my mom (and come to find out oncologists don't come to hospitals to see new patients). While he talked to us you could have heard a pin drop, that is how quiet we all were. They didn't know where the cancer originated, the biopsies had to be sent to a state-of-the-art lab for them to find out more. He told us that while the cancer would eventually take over my mom's body he thought that chemo could give her some time. The only other thing I remember from this day is sitting in a waiting area crying with my Grandma. Neither one of us knew what we were going to do without my mom.

One week after surgery we were finally able to take her home. I was so happy for her to be able to come home, but I was so scared; anticipating what was ahead for all of us...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lessons My Mother Taught Me: Through Small And Simple Things...

Lesson #3: Through Small And Simple Things Great Things Are Accomplished

When you look at my mom's life from a worldly perspective it could seem small. She wasn't rich, didn't have her own reality TV show, never traveled to Europe, and never opened her own school for orphans in a third world country.

 That is one way to look at it, but I look at Mom's life as a tremendous success story...

In a world where divorce is rampant and the family unit is crumbling my mom was a devoted wife and mother  for almost 38 years (maybe I should say for 38 years in her mortal life).

For years she didn't wear her wedding ring. I don't think it fit. One night while we were attending the Utah Symphony at Sundance this man in the audience fell madly in love with her and came over to hit on her after the performance was over. We told him that she was married; he was heart broken, and by the end of the next week Mom had her ring fixed. There would never again be a question on whether she was married or not. It may have been just a small thing but wearing that ring everyday was something that she could do to exhibit her loyalty to the one she loved.

As our mother she was (and I am sure she continues to be) completely devoted to us. Mom was our biggest fan. She never missed a football game, choir performance, or a clogging recital. She took us everywhere with her and she took us on all kinds of little adventures. She never asked for a day off or a ladies' night. She dedicated all of her time and attention to us and we had so much fun with her. It may seem like a little thing, but the fact that she never went out with friends or said that she needed a break means so much to me. She loved us so much, we were her world and as she told us recently she loved every minute of raising us. I am truly grateful for all of the time that my mom spent with us.

My mom had a great love for the gospel. She didn't need to stand and bare her testimony every month for anyone to know it. It was obvious by the way she lived her life. She went to church nearly every Sunday, serving in some capacity.

When we were young somehow she got all of us to church all by herself. To this day I don't know how she did it. Mom wrote in her journal about missing two weeks of church in a row. She felt bad about it and said something to Dad. She reports that Dad told her not to be such a goodie-goodie and she resolved to go back the next week. She exhibited her faith in God and her testimony of the gospel simply by ensuring that she was at church every Sunday.

These two weeks must have been the only two weeks that she didn't have a calling because I never remember Mom not having a calling. Usually she had more than one. Mom always put everything she had into a calling no matter what it was. She always wanted to serve to the best of her capacity. If she were playing the organ on Sunday she would practice the hymns planned throughout the week sometimes spending hours at the piano until she got it right. As a teacher she would sit at our kitchen table and meticulously plan her lessons out. In the role of Relief Society president she would say a prayer and then go through the visiting teaching assignments, making sure that every sister in the ward was getting what they needed. She was never the one who planned the great ward parties, or the Christmas program that moved everyone to tears, but she served to the best of her abilities doing all that she could with the talents that she had and often asking for a little help from above.

Mom may have never done huge humanitarian aid projects or donated large sums of money to a great institution, but she made an impact in many lives with the small acts of service that she performed for them. I went visiting teaching with her many times throughout my life. As a small child I went with her to see Ruth Wilcox, a widow who lived down the street from us. She was always so happy to see us. I realize now that she must have been lonely and a visit from us brightened her day. There were other times when my mom would see someone that she knew at the store. While we always thought that she talked way too long to these people that she knew I now realize how much it meant to them that she would take the time to find out how they were doing and ask about their families. Really all Mom did was gave people her time and attention and I don't think any of us truly realized what an impact those simple things had on others until we received the many people who came to pay tribute to her. She made a difference in the world using only her magical smile, her listening ear, and her gentle kindness.

 Her example has taught me that through small and simple things great things are accomplished.

. This is one of the greatest lessons that Mom taught me.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lessons My Mother Taught Me: "She Put The Music In Me"

Lesson #2: "She Put The Music In Me"

When Dad was on the road we used to have nightly concerts/dance parties in our living room. Mom would usually sit at the piano and take our requests while we danced around the room,singing at the top of our lungs. Other nights we would make up dances to "Footloose" and Mom would be our audience. She was always willing to sit and watch whatever we came up with. Looking back I feel like I can say that I went through childhood singing and dancing.

Mom considered music to be her first love. She loved being able to share her gift of music with others. Whether she was leading the music in primary, teaching piano lessons, or singing a solo in church she loved to touch other lives through music. Maybe that is why I am having a hard time with this post. In my mind Mom and music are one and the same. Music was a part of everything that we did.

In my baby book Mom wrote down the story of taking me to Primary before I was old enough to go to the nursery. She would sit me on a blanket on the side of the room while she led singing time. Not long after she started taking me to primary Mom and Dad noticed that when music was playing I would imitate Mom leading the music. And so began my musical education with Mom serving as my musical teacher and mentor.

One of my earliest memories of music is of Mom playing the white piano at Grandma's house teaching me the Halloween song, "There's No Such Thing As A Witch." She continued to teach us Christmas songs, primary songs, popular songs, and songs from Disney movies. My favorites were, "Candle On The Water," "Lavender Blue," and "Country Roads." We were in a kids choir that Mom and her friend put together. We performed all over Lehi. We sang at ladies clubs, at the fair during Round-Up Days, and I even remember singing at the Christmas Raffle. Mom was always sharing her talent for music with others whether it was just teaching her kids a song or performing in the community.

Eventually I came into my own as a singer. Always my accompanist, Mom was always willing to help me learn a song whether it was a solo piece or a part for a choir number. We spent hours singing at the piano. A lot of the time I learned by listening to her sing. I loved singing with Mom. I am so thankful for the times that we were able to perform with each other. Together we were able to use our gifts of music to touch the lives of others. We were able to sing in church often, receiving praise from many in attendance. I don't know that we were ever truly amazing performers but when we sang something special happened, the spirit would always touch the hearts of our audience. Mom taught me that you can touch people through music and that when you combine your talents with your testimony you can teach the gospel through song.

"Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die."  
~Paul Simon

Friday, May 11, 2012

Lessons My Mother Taught Me

Around 1980

I remember walking out of the hospital on Valentine's Day (the day my mom was officially diagnosed) not knowing how I was going to make it through this with her. On my walk to my car I asked, "Heavenly Father, how are we going to get through this?" My answer came quickly, "She taught you everything that you need to know to get through this." The "she" the spirit was referring to was my mom.

Mom taught me many things during our time together. Some of it was structured learning, like family home evening, piano lessons, or helping me ride my bike. But many of the great life lessons she taught me came simply from being by her side and watching the way that she carried herself everyday, in times of joy and in times of trial.

 I would like to share some of those lessons with you this Mother's Day weekend...

Lesson #1: Pray Always

Of course Mom taught us how to pray. Kneeling next to our beds at night helping us with words and sentences that would be our prayers. Then later kneeling next to our beds and listening to our nightly prayers. What I remember most though is not something that she taught me, but something that I observed, Mom's belief in the power of prayer.

When we were small, Dad was a long distance truck driver. There were times when his truck would be broken down, he would be traveling through winter storms that created dangerous road conditions, or he would be stuck in the snow somewhere. During these times Mom would gather us together in a little circle in the front room of our house and we would pray that Dad would make it home safely.  At those times Mom knew a prayer would help Dad. To this day he has always made it home safely.

Just as Mom knew that a prayer would help Dad make it home safely, she knew when a prayer would help one of her children. I had my gall bladder removed during an emergency surgery when I was 20 years old. Even though I had a hard time coming out of the anesthetic and I was running a fever the doctors sent me home later that day. I was too sick to argue with them and I absolutely hate hospitals anyway so I let my mom take me home. I was so sick and laid on our couch and slept for hours. I awoke to Mom praying for me. We never talked about it, she never knew that I was awake, but I will never forget the spirit that I felt as Mom prayed for me.

Mom believed that faith and the power of prayer could bring about miracles. I never saw my mom pray harder for miracles than when my cousins were sick. Even when it seemed as if my cousins weren't going to get big miracles she prayed for the big miracles anyway. Once again she would gather together her children, usually my brother and myself, into a small circle on the front room floor and we would pray for our cousins. We watched and we waited, our big miracle never came. Even in the tragic loss of both of my cousins, her testimony of the power of prayer never wavered.

I realized that this lesson had come full circle in April as I knelt next to her bed and prayed for her.

 Christmas 2003 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

She Put The Music In Me

I just found this video posted by Deseret Book on Facebook. When I watched it I felt like I was watching my own life and that this song was mine. Finding this was truly a tender mercy this morning. 

Calee Reed, the artist, lost her mother to cancer and wrote this song as a tribute to her. She is donating !00% of the proceeds from the downloads in May to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

I just downloaded my copy and I hope that you will too.

Let's support Calee and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation!!!!

You can download the song here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-waiting-place/id524108715

Letters of Love Part 2

A few days ago I posted excerpts of things written to my mother during her illness. Today I would like to share comments that were posted on the guest books at www.legacy.com, the Wing Mortuary website, and in cards sent to our family. The legacy of goodness and kindness that my mother has left continues to astound me. I don't think any of us, including my mom realized the impact that she had in the community. My family was humbled by the outpouring of love and support that was received by the many people who came to the viewing and funeral services for my mother. Thanks again for everything.

I will miss you Madge! God bless you on your new journey, God be with your family. Just remembering all the fun things we did as kids. You were our tour guide of Lehi (well at least one block of it) I remember you telling tales of the haunted house across the road. Going to story time at the Lehi Library, going to the store by your house and you telling us the old woman working there was a witch. Going to Fariyland in AF, Saratoga, Tomasina, Pollyanna, the boat races (sticks) down Grandpa Jensen's ditch. So many other things. Most of the things I remember from my childhood involve you. OMGosh how did I almost forget our Ketchup Sandwich Supper? Such a vivid imagination, such a storyteller, such a gentle heart, such a good friend. I truly will miss you! Until we meet again, Love you Cousin Madge!
- Tom Myrup -

Madge was a very kind and sweet person. She was always willing to help out when I needed anything, even if it was someone else's job. What a beautiful woman!
- Donna Fox -

I always loved Madge's smile! She could brighten the room when she walked in. Wish we could be there at this time. We will miss her greatly!
- Mich Shiverdecker -

I know so few people who radiated kindness as much as this wonderful woman did. She will always live on as someone who was very kind, caring, and intelligent. We are all lucky that the same kindness and intellect she carried so well will live on through her family. God be with you til' we meet again.
- Eric Hutchison -

 Madge was one of the greatest ladies I have ever met. She was my strength alot of times over the past few years. My heart is broken. I love you Madgers
-  Joy Hunsaker -

I want you to know how much I have always thought of Madge. She has always been a great example to me and has such a sweet spirit about her. She always had a smile on her face and would always make a point to stop & speak to me usually at Harts or Kohlers.
- Jane Pugh -

Madge was a dear friend in high school and made a big difference to the person I have become. I have fond memories of pep club bus rides and long talks. I remember her infectious smile and happy laugh. It was always fun to run into her around town.
- Claudia Rose -

Madge always had a bright smile and never seemed to let the issues of the moment keep her from being a true daughter of God. I don't ever remember her saying anything disparaging of another person.
= Nathan Baker -

 I remember the great conversations we had in high school. Madge helped make my senior year bearable. She was my best friend. We had such great times! My heart goes out to you. She is a wonderful person and I am a better person for having known her.
- Rebecca Beck -

Madge was one elite lady. Fun, happy, sweet, with a contagious smile, and a winning personality. She was one wonderful wife, mother, daughter, sister, neighbor, and friend. She was one who loved the gospel and lived it.
Madge was as unique as a $2 bill: Rare, one-of-a-kind, !st edition, classic, original, traditional, genuine, authentic, individual, collectible, treasure, a real keeper.
She would always take a minute to care, share, and help others. Madge was a great example. An inspiration to all. She was a very positive influence in all our lives. We are all so very blessed for having known her. She is too good to ever be forgotten.
- Terry, Claudia Ewell, and family - 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Letters of Love

My family has been very humbled by the outpouring of love members of the church and community have shown for my mother over the past twelve weeks. I wanted to share some of the wonderful things that people wrote in cards they sent to her during her illness.

Thanks so much for just being you.
 - The Bullocks

You are the best. 
- primary child

Dear Sister Neel,
 Thank you for being our church teacher. I love you. I hope you get well! I love the lessons you teach us, they are really fun. You are a great church teacher and I hope you get well for the second time. Love you! 

Sister Neel,
 you are a great teacher. I hope you get well soon! I love the way you always make the lessons fun!
 - Hannah Orgill

I wanted you to know how much I have appreciated and treasured your friendship. I can honestly say you are the one person I have felt closest too in this area. I have enjoyed all our talks on a variety of subjects not just spiritual, but music, life, and joy. I have loved serving with you and beside you in our various callings. You have taught me much and I hope I never forget those lessons.
     I am so glad you were my visiting teacher for a time. I always looked forward to your visits. I can't always say that but with you I can...
     I love you dearest Madge. I'm not sure how well I could express it in person but you needed to know and I need to tell you to that you have made a difference in my life. Sometimes we wonder and I don't want you to question the influence you had on me. Your devotion to church, family, and life did not go by me. I noticed and I learned. 
- Tanya Robinson

I love you my dear friend. You bless my life, you are so special to me...My family loves your family and you are loved by so many whose prayers are with you and your family.
 - Patti Peterson

Sister Neel,
Thank you for all the beautiful music you played during the sacrament hymns.
the Gneitings

Dear 007,
You are the best agent and friend I could ask for!
Love ya,
Chief Todd

I just want to say thank you for being a good friend to me, and for all your friendship you have shown to Justin, Haley, and Lily. They think the world of you and Danny.
 - Brent and Annette Sanderson

I love you and am thinking about you every day! Thank you for always being the perfect example to me.
      - Love, Ali

We love you. 
- a family you've served

You are everything to me and I love you.
- Dan (from Valentine's Day card 2012)

I hope you know we love you.
         - Marshall, Nolan, and Eli Morris

We are all so grateful for the time we were able to work with you. You are such an amazing person and we love you.
 - Kirsten Draper, Cami Stephenson, and Colleen Riemchishll

My heart is full of so much admirations for who you are and the kind of influence you've had in my life. I thank my Heavenly Father very often for you and for the blessing of knowing you. You are my hero. One of the kindest, most humble, and gracious women I have ever known. How lucky am I that are paths have crossed.  Your optimism forever shines in my heart and mind...You were and are an angel in every sense of the word.
 Oh, how I cherish our visiting teaching days! Those were my favorite days of the whole month! The laughs we shared with the Harris' are a memory I will cherish forever.
Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a daughter of god and how a daughter of God should carry herself. You've been a perfect example to me of charity, kindness, selfless service, forgiveness, optimism, undconditional love, squeezing the most out of life, keeping a smile on your face even when life is hard, not sweating the small things, laughing instead of crying, but most importantly, loving the Savior with all of your heart and letting his goodness and light shine through you. I always, always felt his spirit and warmth when I was around you. You are one Madge who has his image in your countenance. His light in your eyes and in your heart. You truly have been an earthly angel to so many that our Heavenly Father loves so dearly.
 - Kim Hendricks

I love how you and your husband would sit up front on the stand and sit next to each other. It's sweet. You're a wonderful person and we love you very much.
 - Alexa Todd

Your George W. stories were my favorite! Me and Tyson still laugh about him. Your the best music teacher. You made primary so fun. I love you.
 - Hailee Rupp

Sister Neel,
 I for real think you are super duper fantastic. You are one of those people that leave a lasting impression on people. I loved you in singing time, you always made me feel so good about myself...thanks for everything! I love you lots!!!
 - Anna Nott

Sister Neel,
 I just want you to know what a beautiful lady I think you are. Beautiful inside and out. Your faith and prayers during my illness meant so much to me. Because of you I experienced a miracle!! Thank you for your strong testimony and example of the Savior. I love having you in my home and hearing your sweet laugh and seeing your wonderful smile. L love you Madge and I am so blessed that you are my friend and you mean so much to my family and girls...Love you.
- Renae Bliss

Thank you for your happy smile! Seeing you happy always made me happy! Thanks for being such a great example to me. I love you.
 - Hailee Hendricks

Sister Neel,
 I love you so much! When you taught me in primary I always looked forward to Sunday! I always enjoyed your lessons when you taught music in primary! You were always so fun...you are so kind to everyone around you. I loved when you would smile at me! It always made my day...Thanks for being such a great example to me! 
- McKenzie Hendricks

Dear Madge,
 we love you dearly! You truly are simply amazing. Thank you for all you do!
          The Rupps

I think you're a great teacher. I love learning about Nephi, and I know all the rest of the classmates do too. I love you.
 - Katelyn

You are a most blessed daughter of God. Thank you for your wonderful example and service...I love you and hope someday I can follow in your footsteps.
 - Sister Erin Kolowich

I also want to thank you for the kindness and love you have shown me and my girls over the years. I remember how Jenni expressed her love for you many times when you were the primary chorister. She adored you!
- Debbie Maughan

We've been so blessed for the Lord to send us one of his most valiant souls. What a joy you have been in our lives. We love you. 
- Mom & Dad

You are an elect lady with the most diligent and faithful heart of any woman that I have ever met...I remember a time coming over to issue you a call, I believe that it was as a Relief Society teacher. I know how consuming this calling is and the amount of effort that you would put into it. At the time, a calling like this could put some pressure on your family. I vividly remember the look of willingness on your face and could feel your desire to serve. Your acceptance of this calling when there were so many reasons to say no and turn it down, showed how true and faithful your testimony is. This experience has stayed with me and has helped me to commit to accept what the Lord has called us to do. I have tried to use this as my model and serve with the same faithfulness that you do.
     You have set a great example for our family. I don't think I ever have seen you without a smile, without a willingness to help. Thank you for sharing your talents. You may not consider it a big thing, but playing the organ with ward choristers that had no skill or talent at it was an act of charity. Our kids think of you as the best primary teacher ever. I do not know anyone that can love more than you.
     I hope you know how much we love you and how much better our lives are because we know you. I see you in my mind leading the primary children and think of all of the notes and doctrine that you taught them and rejoice in that. My favorite primary song is My Heavenly Father Loves Me. I know you can sing it by heart too. It talks of roses, and violets and wind, but just like the song of a bird, you are a gift to the world..Just by knowing you, I know Heavenly Father loves me. We love you.
 - Brian Hendricks

You have touched my life so many ways. I have loved working with you in music in the 15th Ward, they are great memories. I loved working with your girls in YW. They always made me smile. You are a beautiful lady and loved by many.
- Debbie Harris

I want you to know that I have treasured our friendship through the years. I loved it when you were the Primary Chorister and I was the pianist, whispering back and forth during sharing time. I loved how wonderful you were with the children, how they begged you to tell stories from your life, and you kept them spellbound with stories about your family or the goat!
I especially loved all the musical numbers we did together. You are one of the finest musicians I know. I treasure the memory of the last musical number we did - only a few months ago! You have a beautiful voice. I know you'll have a lost of musicians to choose from on the other side, but I pray that we can perform together again someday.
- Brenda Holgreen

We have all of these cards in a basket. As you can see it is overflowing!

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Yesterday was graduation day! A month ago I wasn't even sure that I wanted to walk with everything that 
was going on. After my mom's funeral on Thursday it was nice to have something to look forward to on Friday. After the convocation ceremony we went to eat at Tucano's to celebrate the three graduations in my family and my aunt's birthday. We decided that we needed to have the waiters come and sing to my aunt. They made her stand up and shake a tambourine. My grandma said that the tambourine wasn't the only thing she was shaking. Hilarious. 

My view during the ceremony.

College of Humanities convocation ceremony May 4, 2012

Standing in line waiting for my name to be announced.

From left to right: Grandpa Black, Grandma Black, Jimmy, Me, and Dad

From left: Jimmy, Dad, Me, and James

                                                                The Three Graduates!!!!
Jimmy, Me, and Kait

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Letter of Gratitude

     On behalf of the family of Madge Black Neel, I would like to thank everyone who has kept our family in your thoughts and prayers over the past twelve weeks. Thank you, to anyone who brought a plate of cookies, a loaf of bread, or a meal. Thank you to the children who colored pictures with the words "I love you Sister Neel" written on them. Also to anyone who sent flowers, brought a card, or called with well wishes. Thank you to all of those who ensured that my mother's name was on the prayer role at the temple. This was her first request from her hospital bed when she received her diagnosis.
      We would like to thank the members of the Sunset 2nd Ward for the countless acts of service performed on behalf of our family. To Bishop Rupp for only being a phone call away when we needed him. He also arranged for the use of the Lehi West Stake Center for our funeral services. We grew up going to that building and much appreciated being able to celebrate our mother's life in a place with so many good memories. Thank you for conducting the beautiful funeral service. To the sisters who performed "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." it was amazing.
     Thank you to the Sunset 2nd Ward Relief Society for arranging meals, helping us set up pictures before the viewing, and for the lovely luncheon after the service. To the visiting and home teachers for continual concern for our well-being. Thank you, to the Priests Quorum of the Sunset 2nd Ward for administering the sacrament to our family and inviting the spirit into our home on quiet Sunday afternoons and to the Young Women of the Sunset 2nd Ward for planting flowers in the boxes on the front porch. Bishop Rupp, I knew the young women of your ward are amazing, over the past weeks I have been equally impressed by the young men in your ward. "We love you Sister Neel," they would say. Or "tell Sister Neel that we love her."
Thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate our mom's birthday. We didn't know if anyone would show up. I will never forget the moment we saw the sea of red shirts walking down our street.
     To the compassionate professionals at Certified Nursing Services, thank you for helping us take care of our mother. We appreciate every single thing that you all did to keep my mom comfortable during the last weeks of her life. I will always remember what chaplain Matt taught us about "transitioning through the veil" and about President Kimball's final days of life.
     During General conference a few weeks ago Henry B. Eyring stated, "We never need to feel that we are alone or unloved in the Lord’s service because we never are. We can feel the love of God. The Savior has promised angels on our left and our right to bear us up.10 And He always keeps His word. I testify to you that the lord does keep his word. We have witnessed many small miracles over the past months brought about by the many angels surrounding us; from the highly skilled doctors at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, to the primary children who came to sing happy birthday to my mother. To all of you angels seen and  unseen we are truly grateful for all of these blessings and thank you again for the many acts of service that you have performed on behalf of our family.