Tribute to mother: Lillian Haws Scott (1918-2008)

Eulogy given Friday, August 29, 2008
Garden Heights Wards Meetinghouse
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
2260 East Fisher Lane
Salt Lake City, Utah

By Ronald B. Scott  

As the firstborn of Lillian Haws Scott’s eight children, her passing is a reminder of my own mortality; a veritable dope slap upside my head that I too am aging, all of which explains why I brought along my own personal teleprompter (wave notebook for all too see)

Portrait of a young Lillian Haws Scott.

As many of you know, mother’s wish was that she would be allowed to die at home, with dignity, surrounded by family.  This was no easy wish to grant as her health deteriorated slowly for more than two years.

As the only member of the family who could not participate much in this process because I live far from the Salt Lake City, I think I am in a good position to observe objectively that this last wish of hers would not have come true had not dad been absolutely determined to personally attend to his eternal partner’s needs, no matter the cost to him personally. 

Frankly, he would not have succeeded had it not been for some major assists from my brothers and sisters and their remarkable spouses, who proved themselves flesh-and-blood brothers and sisters.

And, of course, there were the ever-reliable members of the ward who were there whenever the going got tough.  Together they did what Christ would have had them do. Together they stand as witnesses to the enduring practical and caring purposes of the gospel proclaimed by Jesus Christ.

So we gather here today to celebrate the life of Lillian Haws Scott that began on earth 90 years ago this week.

As I mentioned, for the past couple of years, the challenge to all of us – especially her eight children and their spouses, and her 39 grandchildren and 43 great grandchildren – was divining exactly when to say “goodbye” finally.

Each time we thought the end was near, she would rally; doggedly unwilling to let go.  It was if she were insisting that she had one more lesson to teach us all.

From her stubbornness we learned to be a little more patient. And, kind. More caring. And, cooperative. Her example counseled us to take nothing for granted, to expect surprises.

Mother was always full of surprises.

So, it seemed fitting that no sooner had my little family arrived in Paris for a long overdue vacation 10 days ago that word came that, once again, mom’s end seemed very near.

Apparently hearing the soothing voices of some beloved grandchildren, she rallied once again, if only briefly.  And, then late last Saturday –around midnight in Paris—she left us.

On the metro to church a few hours later, two street musicians were playing the haunting “Blue Moon,” one of mother’s favorites, a song I as a young boy remember her singing while shadow-dancing around the kitchen. It was nine in the morning and her lover man was at work, but she was dancing with him in her mind if not in his arms.

Blue moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
Blue moon
You just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for
And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will hold
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked to the moon it turned to gold
Blue moon
Now I’m no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

As we neared the end of our ride, the subway band broke into a rousing and totally appropriate and well-timed chorus of “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

Mother was not perfect, but she was indeed a saint!

The public record summarizes her nine decades on earth as follows:

“Lillian Haws Scott, passed away of causes incident to age on August 23, 2008, just a few days shy of her 90th birthday.  Born on September 3, 1918 in Cedar City, Utah, she was the fifth of nine children (all since deceased) to the humble farming family of Joseph Forrest and Mary Ruth Bowler Haws. She grew up in Provo, Utah where she was a member of Provo High School’s class of 1936. She attended LDS Business College in Salt Lake City. 

 “She married Robert (Bob) Ronald Scott on July 8, 1944 in Gulfport, Mississippi, where he was stationed with the U.S. Navy. Their marriage was later solemnized in the Salt Lake City Temple. They are the parents of eight children all of whom survive her.  They are: Ronald Bruce (Diana) of Boston, Massachusetts; James Brent (Wendy), Roberta – Bobbi--Jelovchan (Keith), Joe (Patti), Mary Englund (Ryan), Lillian –Lin--Howell (Leonard), Catherine Bullock (Matthew), and David (Joleen), all of metropolitan Salt Lake City. She has 39 grandchildren (two grandsons -- Dylan Mackay Scott, Keith Jelovchan, Jr. -- preceded her in death) and 43 great-grandchildren so far.

“Lillian –‘Lil’, as she was known to those closest to her, was a fourth-generation member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The faith she embraced defined her: love, compassion and service were the hallmarks of her long life. She served tirelessly—sometimes at great personal sacrifice. In her home, there was always room for one more.  

“In addition to her diligence as leader and teacher in every church auxiliary, she worked in the Salt Lake Temple.  With her husband, she served two missions: one in South Salt Lake, the other in Lisbon, Portugal. She was an active member of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and loved being a docent at its museum. She found great enjoyment in baking bread, playing games with family and friends, and ice cream. Most importantly, she cherished moments with her family singing around the piano, playing croquet in the back yard or pitching horseshoes at the family's cabin near Brighton. She loved us and we will miss her.”

Of course, there was much more to Lillian Scott Haws.  There is not enough time in the day to tell the half of it.

Throughout her life, she was the peacemaker, the one who always found something good to love in practically everyone, however reprehensible.

Her door was always open.  When eight of us were crowbarred into a tiny two bedroom plus a sleeping porch and one-bath cottage on East Ninth South, she made space for four Oregon kids in town for the annual church dance festival at the University of Utah. One was not a member of the church and loved his cup of tea each day.  So mother stocked-up on tea bags.  A few years later, she and dad were witnesses to the tea drinker’s marriage in the Logan Temple.

Although she was not a trained musician herself, she made sure that each of her children had that opportunity, often taking in laundry and ironing to earn extra money for music lessons.

She was a good athlete. She taught us baseball and basketball. She was absolutely ruthless at croquet; killer croquet we called it when mother was playing. And, I could go on and on…but I will leave it to the others.

It is to life, not death, she would have us speak.  It would be just like her to remind us, to scold her children at this trying time: “Squander not your loving words on the dead. Save your finest deeds and elegant thoughts for the living, for each other.”

She would prod us to treasure our fleeting moments together; nag us be more Christ-like in everything we to do; counsel us to be as tender to each other as He is to us.  Like mother would advise, we should try harder each day to do as Christ would do; to honor Him – and mother too -- by showing more love for one another.

That is what mother would have us do. And, so we should do it! Now!