Valerie Holladay's Journal
Teary day today
Written Jul 17, 2011 10:21pmMy beautiful sister passed away two weeks ago today. I was kind of in a "numb" place, coming back to Denver and telling the whole story to different friends every day. I watched her memorial videos over and over again and didn't feel a thing, didn't cry. I definitely felt mopey but just couldn't cry any more.
I knew that was grief and wondered what would happen next. What happened next was church today.
There must have been 100 people come up to hug me and tell me they were sorry. Before church, one dear, dear English sister who had lost her own daughter months ago asked me, "How is your sister?" So I told her, very gently, and she burst into tears, so of course, I burst into tears.
Another sister, I met early so we could rehearse -- I was her accompanist. She'd been out of the ward for years and had just been released, with her husband, from callings in another ward. She didn't know what had been going on with me and I didn't tell her. She sang beautifully and, as usual, I was completely transported just listening to her, it was so full of testimony. Later, after Sunday School, where I had mentioned Valerie's passing, she came up to me so tenderly and said, "I'm sorry, I didn't know." She hugged me and whispered some lovely things to me that I know are true.
I don't know what happened to me but I started tearing up during the opening hymn and couldn't sing the sacrament hymn, either. Tears just rolled down my cheeks and I know the bishopric and our chorister, Sister Crowell, noticed. It seemed like their hearts were breaking for me.
I taught Sunday School Gospel Doctrine today after being out for several weeks. That's the class for the adults. Of all things, today was standing room only... didn't have to do with me but I had to send a couple of brothers out to get extra chairs.
The lesson was on the Resurrection. All I can say is, it was so personal for me, having just lost my sister. A 2006 poll said that only 65% of Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected and that only 36% of Christians believe that THEY will be resurrected. The conclusion of religious scholars was that churches do not teach this important doctrine and so people just don't know. So my goal, and I told the class this, was to make sure that everyone left the class knowing about Jesus' resurrection and what will happen to us.
It was a very special lesson, especially given my recent experience sitting with Valerie in the hospital. I told the class I felt not only forever changed but actually "transfigured". It was a hugely spiritual experience, to take that long walk with Valerie. I felt the Comforter, I felt that peace and that joy. So the whole lesson was a tender testimony, very powerful feeling of the Spirit. I liked it, I wish I could linger in that feeling forever.
One sister came up to me after church was over. She is from Venezuela, I think. In her lovely accent, she hugged me and declared, "Congratulations!" I asked, "Congratulations?" She told me, "Your sister ees so HAPPY! She ees in pain no more. She ees FREE. She ees watching over choo now. Choo can be happy, too, okay?" Oh, that was so lovely. I hadn't thought of it like that.
I have been thinking about continuing my fight against cancer by rejoining my marathon team, even though the season is halfway over. It's a walk team and we're only doing a half marathon so I think I can do it. My team fights blood cancers but the advances made in blood cancers often pave the way to treatments against other cancers. And I like my team, they have totally been there for me through this. So I think I will call up Team in Training this week and ask if I can rejoin the team this late in the season. I have to fight cancer the whole rest of my life. It's a fearful, fearful disease that we just never could get ahead of, for Valerie. I'm not some big benefactor for something like Susan G. Komen or any of the other big cancer fighters. So I'll just go back and do my own little thing with Team in Training.
One of my Team in Training friends sent this card to me, and this is how I'll close this post:
May Jesus take you by the hand
And help you find relief
Throughout this time of sadness as
You journey through your grief.
And may you feel the healing touch
Of every thought and prayer
That's sent with love and sympathy
From friends who truly care.
In this difficult time, may you find...
the kindness of friends to comfort you,
compassion to warm you and sustain you,
and the unfailing love of Jesus
to bring peace to your heart.
Please know what a blessing you were and are for Val. I am sorry for your pain. I know you will miss her. Hugs from ... Joan and Lou
Our sweet angel has gone on ahead
Written Jul 5, 2011 8:34pmI am sorry to tell you that our sweet angel has gone on ahead of us.
Valerie passed away on Sunday, July 3, 2011 after a short but valiant and cheerful battle with cervical cancer. We can hardly bear the loss.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah to Robert Babcock and Arleen Burnham Holladay, she was the third of five children. She served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Toulouse, France. She graduated from Brigham Young University with Bachelors and Masters Degrees in English and studied at the prestigious Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Well known in Utah writing and editing circles, Valerie served on the boards of several journals for Latter-day Saints, such as Wasatch Review and Dialogue, and was in demand for her workshops on personal history. She published articles in the Ensign, Ancestry Magazine, and Woman's World. Valerie was a winner of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors award.
Valerie taught English, fiction, and editing at Brigham Young University. She also taught Life Skills courses at Utah Valley University. She loved teaching but most of all, she loved her students, every one of them.
Valerie always went out of her way to give to others. She rescued injured animals from the side of the road and lifted anyone who had lost their way. Her final act of service was to provide sight through the gift of donating her eyes. She was very glad to know that donation of her body would advance medical research.
She was preceded in death by her mother, to whom she gave loving care for seven years.
She is survived by brothers Stuart (Rueleen), David, and Clark (Kristina), all of Nephi, and by sister Teresa of Aurora, Colorado. She is also survived by her adoring nieces and nephews: Jennifer, Jamie, Brittany, Caitlin, Shalain, Alex, Aaron, Brigham, Dallin, Sam, and Brandon.
A memorial service will be held on Monday, July 11, 2011, at 11:30 a.m. at the 8th Ward meetinghouse: 222 South 100 East in Nephi, Utah. The family will be receiving visitors in the Relief Society room from 10-11 where we will have a display of her achievements and a music video honoring her life. Friends, family, and out-of-town guests, please join us for a luncheon immediately following the service.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the American Cancer Society or the Humane Society of Utah.
The family is most grateful for the exceptional care provided by the Huntsman Cancer Institute in both Provo and Salt Lake City; Central Valley Hospital in Nephi; Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo; and University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City.
We would especially like to thank Drs. Jones, Hatton, Clark, and Werner for their amazing graciousness and kindness to Valerie. You were many times answers to our prayers for her.
Valerie's works on the Internet
Here is a collection of articles by and about Valerie:
A Walk in the Wilderness, Ensign, July 1998
Secrets to a Successful Interview, Ancestry Magazine, Jan-Feb 2005
Finding Family, Ancestry Magazine (cover story), Jul - Aug 2005
10 Easy Steps to Writing Your Family History, Ancestry Magazine, Jul - Aug 2003
The Story of My Life, Ancestry Magazine, May - Jun 2003
Wouldn't want to be anyplace else
Written Jul 1, 2011 3:02pmA lot has happened since the last post. Val developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and we transferred her from the Nephi hospital up to the University of Utah hospital Wednesday morning. This isn't something she "caught" -- it's just something that happens ... she has cancer in her lungs and had that darn pneumonia, and then picked up a urinary tract infection. It was just too much for her body, which, after 10 weeks of radiation, has almost no ability to fight infection. It sent her into this state where her body was working as hard as if she were running a marathon and she was having trouble breathing. Once it started, it moved super fast.
She has been in an ICU unit at the University of Utah -- this is now the third day. This is the #1 ICU in the nation and man, it shows. They have been phenomenal.
Val is sedated and on a respirator. They are keeping her very comfortable. Even so, her situation is not good. There are little moments where we can be upbeat but overall, to be honest, since she is not getting chemo or radiation, there is nothing to hold that cancer back and it's having a field day in her lungs.
She likes Josh Groban so I made a playlist for her of songs I found on YouTube. They're very cool because I don't think you can find these particular versions anywhere. One is with Celine Dion singing "The Prayer" and the other is a long mix with Sara McLaughlan singing "In the Arms of an Angel". Val might be a little agitated but if she hears this music, she calms right down. Me too!
I just want to say, it's a privilege to sit at the bedside of someone who is so ill. I feel that she really is "in the arms of the angels"... if you allow yourself, you can feel their sacred presence.
I don't think I'll ever be able to hear any Josh Groban music again without thinking of this special time in Val's life and mine when I got to sit with her in the hospital and play these sets for her.
You can just click on this link and play one or play them all: