Tuesday, January 7, 2014

An Earthly Life is Over

Mary Genevieve Powers Pineda
January 12, 1963 - December 15, 2013
The last time I saw Mary she was wearing a beautiful silk scarf on her head to cover her baldness from the chemotherapy.  Actually, she'd shaved off the hair before the chemo could get her, in a ceremony documented with laughter and pictures posted on Facebook for all to see.

I told her then that I loved her; that she was such a good person and that I was so sorry she was going through "all this".

She smiled sweetly and told me there was no need to feel that way, because "a lot of good has come from all this".  I was moved by her quiet response, born of her faith and trust in God.

I first got to know Mary Pineda as she served as the Whittier LDS Stake Relief Society president.  A wife and a mother, she was a beautiful woman.  She also possessed a dignity and gentleness about her that drew people to her.  It was just hard not to love her.

Back in February of this year, Sister Pineda came to our Ward Conference and spoke in Relief Society. At that time, she told the story of her conversion to Mormonism, a story I had never heard before.  I feel like I need to share it here.  (I apologize if I have some of the details wrong.  I wrote down what I remembered the following day, so I think I at least got the gist of the story right.  Please feel free to email me with any corrections.)

Mary told us how she had grown up in a large Catholic family.  She was one of 12 children, and her parents were very devout.  When Mary was around 16 years old, her oldest sister went away to another town to work, and one day called their mom and dad asking for their permission to be baptized a Latter-day Saint.

Mom and dad were very surprised and concerned, but told her that at 24 years-old she was an adult and it was her decision.  So, her sister was baptized a Mormon, much to their parents' sorrow.

About the same time, Mary's second oldest sister felt the call to become a nun.

This sister went on a trip to visit a convent in Kansas she was looking to join, with that in mind.  However, while she was there, the Mother Superior took her aside and said, "I probably shouldn't be saying this, but I feel impressed to tell you that this is not the place for you.  Perhaps you should look into another convent, but I think you have a different path" (or words to that effect).

This sister was distraught as she went to visit her LDS sister for a few days on her way home from the Kansas convent. She had been so sure of her path!

The Christus Statue, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah
The LDS sister consoled her by telling her the story of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  She bore her testimony of the divinity of the work she was involved in, and told her the story of her own conversion to the Mormon faith.

The second sister was touched by the spirit of her sister's words.  When she came home again, she announced that the whole family needed to take the Mormon missionary lessons!

Mom and Dad agreed, as they were now quite curious about this thing that their oldest daughter had done. They made an appointment for the Mormon missionaries to just 'come over and have dinner'. Sister Pineda said it was a Friday night, but all of the 11 kids still at home were told they needed to cancel everything and be there.

After dinner, the missionaries brought out a guitar and sang, "I am a Child of God".  That song touched the hearts of the entire family.  Next the Elders sang, "Joseph Smith's First Vision", another Mormon hymn that tells the story of the Restoration of the Gospel.  Then, the young men explained what the song was about.

Six weeks later, over the course of several Saturdays, the whole family, parents and children, were baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Mary was 16 at the time.  When she told this story to us in February, she added that her conversion wasn't a radical change in her life - she felt her whole family had they kept all the good things they already knew, they were just given more.

I was so very touched by her story.

I knew Mary had suffered through a bout of cancer some years ago and had been in remission for some time when the cancer struck again in 2011.  Although she fought long and hard to overcome it, the cancer finally won.  Mary passed on Sunday, December 15th, surrounding by her loved ones.

Her funeral service program bears the following scripture:
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
- Proverbs 3:5-6
Mary leaves a legacy of faith and service in her hometown of Whittier, California.  She will be sorely missed!

1 comment:

Ellen B said...

Beautifully state, Marianne. Everyone loved Mary.