I really don't know if I can do this event enough justice. I take comfort in knowing that I hold much more than I could write in my heart. I hope that whatever I can express here will serve to remind me of an experience that has changed me.
This special event was created with the grim fact in mind that many of the Pioneer men died trying to help their families across the plains. They often gave their meager rations to their wives and children, therefore depriving themselves of much needed nutrition. They often exhausted themselves pulling the handcarts without asking for help. Sadly, this meant that so many of them left this life and their families behind. As the missionaries called our Priesthood men away from us, we stood with our hands over our hearts and watched them trudge away in two lines along the sides of the trail. You will have to read Geoff's account to know what happened to them.
My very good friend Kelli talked to the women as we stood at the bottom of the hill. She had her own trial as she felt the adversary working against her being able to give the talk. She spoke with the Spirit of the Lord and the unquenchable fire of testimony. She told us that we can do hard things. She talked of our worth as Women. She lit the fire in all of us.
As we turned back to our carts, our family turned out to be one of the smallest. We had 2 grown women and 2 growing women. We started out with Ma Brittany and I pulling and Kyra and Julisa pushing. Up to this point, I had been spending a fair amount of time placing a wet bandana over different parts of my face and neck to keep from overheating. My face doesn't sweat. I knew with no one to spell me off that I must pull without letting go until we reached the top or I would let my family down. As we started to walk, I started to pray. "Please let me do this. Please don't let me overheat. Please don't let me faint and make people worry about me. I know I can do this with Thy help." As I closed my prayer, the faintest puff of cool air caressed my face and I smiled, knowing the Lord was behind me. I kept waiting to feel the familiar heat in my cheeks and it never came.
It was not easy. It was hard. We were going uphill in the sand. Even though I am pretty tough being Becca's Mom and all, I know I did not walk completely on my own strength. As we neared the top, the families with more girls turned and came back to help those of us still coming. All was done in silence and Geoff told me how hard it was for him to watch without being able to help.
We did it!
As we were milling about at the top, everyone was looking at something and I turned to see what. As Suzy began telling a story into the microphone and I recognized the names, the tears began to leak out again. Geoff said to me, "It's Michelle. And she's pulling Brian!" They were reenacting the story of Jens and Elsie Nelson. Jens' feet became so frozen that he could not walk on them. At the bottom of Rocky Ridge, a high stony peak, on a stormy, snowy near-zero day and night, he could go no further. He begged his wife to leave him there and go on without him. She refused and loaded her much, much bigger husband into the cart and threw her tiny frame against the braces of the handcart and towed him up and over Rocky Ridge.
To watch Michelle and Brian was heart wrenching. He was trying to turn the wheels from inside the cart as she struggled. Their trek family was standing and waiting to help, but they wouldn't let them go. When she was still struggling, but not coming any closer, they let them go, one by one, to help. They were her angels. When they made it to the top, the missionaries turned the microphone over to them and let each of them speak. Brian talked about how HARD it was to watch her and not be able to help. The "Aunt" of their family talked about how she was ANGRY at first that she couldn't help her. One daughter mentioned that we would have been ANGELS then and perhaps we were some of the ones that came to her rescue. Our petite Tracy took the microphone and simply stated, "She was 4 feet 11, that's how tall I am." Michelle said afterwards that her chest was burning. She is a very, very fit person. She runs, pushing her girls in a jogging stroller often. She said after trying to train for this that she realized that there was no way to train for it. Elsie didn't either. She just knew she had to get her husband over Rocky Ridge so they could get to the Valley and be Sealed for time and eternity. They ended up losing their only child, Jens, and the foster daughter they were helping across the plains to meet her sister in the Valley.