Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The Martin Family Christmas 2022


As Christmas approaches this year, the Martins have much to be grateful for and much to celebrate.  Jerry and Gemie still live in our home in Plano, Texas which we moved to in 1986.  Half our children live within two hours of us.  That includes 11 of our 24 grandchildren.  We get to visit the other children and grandchildren on a regular basis thanks to modern modes of travel and communications. We count our children’s spouses as extra special children of ours which we have been blessed with. We love each wonderful member of our family!

One of our most favorite traditions is decorating for the Christmas holiday.  We attempt to make things look festive, while at the same time being sure to center our décor around our Savior and the miracle of His birth over two millennia ago.  Much of what we set out in our living areas is our collection of crèches depicting the Nativity.  Large or small, each Nativity scene has a special meaning to us.  The one pictured here is especially meaningful.  This paper mache crèche was made by an orphanage in India.  We recently saw one just like it in the gift shop at the Dallas Arboretum.  The proceeds from the sale of these special crèches go to the orphanage where they are made.  Ours had been delivered to us as a gift for our patronage.  The children in this orphanage have been rescued from a life that had little hope.  Many have remarkable stories of rehabilitation and success.

The Nativity picture reflected in the mirror above the crèche, was given to us by generous friends.  It was a happy accident (not intentional) that it ended up in this picture.  When we look at our crèches, they cause us to marvel at the wonder of our Savior’s birth, our ultimate Christmas gift from a loving Heavenly Father.  This particular crèche, from India, also reminds us of the charge we have been given to look out for our “neighbors,” those who have need of our help.  

There are so many opportunities for us to help others.  Some are obvious and end up presenting themselves to us as happened in the parable Jesus told of the Good Samaritan (see Luke: 10).  In this parable, “a certain man fell among thieves,” and was beaten and left to die. While others of his faith and community passed by the injured man giving no assistance, the man who came to his aid was a man from Samaria, considered an enemy by the Jewish people.  It was this Samaritan man who felt compassion for his Jewish neighbor and went out of his way to give the needed help. 

We became the recipients of much needed help this summer while traveling in a remote area in Montana.  We found ourselves with a flat tire and no services nearby.  We will forever be grateful to a man named Remington who came to our rescue.  He removed our flat tire, then took it and patched it before returning it to us and putting it back on our car.  He refused any type of payment for his good deed.  He even supplied us with a can of “Fix-a-Flat,” to keep with us for the remainder of our trip.

At one time, we owned the best collection of Lincoln Wheat-back pennies ever amassed. Jerry had begun collecting coins as a Boy Scout when he earned the Coin Collecting merit badge.  And although he doesn't think any of those coins ended up in this final collection, he had been slowly adding to this collection for several decades.  It was a hobby, and also an investment.  A few years ago, Jerry felt prompted to sell the collection and give the entire proceeds of this sale to charity.  A large portion of the sale of this penny collection went to the orphanage mentioned above.  Our joy in knowing that we have been able to help others in need is much greater than the joy of owning the best set of Lincoln Wheat-back pennies ever collected.

We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy (and prosperous) New Year!

Friday, December 10, 2021

The Year of the Christmas Tree Woes


As parents of a growing brood of Children, Jerry and I did what we could to prevent most Christmas tree woes.  We waited until one or two weeks before Christmas to even set up our tree, and we took it down shortly after Christmas.  Still, during that week or two prior to Christmas, ornaments the toddlers were interested in, would need to be moved and placed on a higher branch out of the reach of curious little hands.  I made the claim that ornaments would start, “marching up the tree.”

One of the ornaments on our tree, was our son Christopher’s favorite.  It was a sleeping Santa in an overstuffed upholstered blue chair.  Even though it was resin, not ceramic, I put it up near the top of the tree out of Christopher’s reach lest it walk off and get lost. 

In 1993, my husband Jerry was called to serve as Bishop of the Plano 4th Ward in Plano, Texas.  That year we decided to have a Christmas Party for the Ward leadership in our home so that those leaders could become better acquainted with their new Bishop and his wife.  Little did we know the problems we would encounter that would make this such a difficult endeavor.

The previous year, a little black and white kitten adopted us.  She was cute and adorable.  I walked by the Christmas tree one day to discover her beady little eyes peering out at me from between two branches about halfway up the tree.  She looked so cute, that I just left her there.  I reasoned that she had gotten in without upsetting any lights or ornaments, so she could probably get out.  She did that, several more times that Christmas season.

Fast forward one year, when I was busy getting ready to welcome the Ward leadership into our home.  As the day approached, I cleaned and decorated furiously to prepare for the event.  A few days before the party was to occur, as I stood working at the kitchen sink, I heard a crash from the direction of the living room.  I rushed toward the sound of the crash to see our cat jumping from the center of the Christmas tree, which was prone on the carpeted floor.  It was obvious that the cat was the cause of the tree having fallen.  No longer a tiny kitten, she had grown enough to topple the tree.  As I went to pick it up, I discovered that the stand was broken.  This put me in full panic.  I called the manufacturer of the tree.  They overnighted me a new stand.  By the next evening the tree was standing again, no worse for the wear.

The morning after our tree had been restored to its upright position, I was again working in the kitchen, when I heard a too familiar sounding crash.  I rushed in to find an upset Christopher.  He had decided to climb up and get his favorite ornament and in doing so, had toppled the tree, breaking the stand.  He proceeded to blame me for placing it out of his easy reach.  Rather than argue with a four-year-old, I went straight to the phone and called the tree manufacturer’s customer service again.  This time, I had them overnight two stands. 

The Ward leadership Christmas party was a success.  No one even knew the problems we had encountered.  We used that tree for many more years, finally replacing it in 2017.  Last year in cleaning through Christmas things in the attic, we found the extra stand, which had never been used, and threw it away.

One of our Christmas customs was to get a new ornament each year for each member of the family.  When the children left home for good (generally signaled by their getting married), I packed up their box of ornaments to give to them. Several years ago, I gave Christopher our one and only copy of the sleeping Santa ornament.  It is now proudly displayed on his tree every year.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Funeral of My Great Grandmother (Which I Did Not Get to Attend)

 “If you don’t touch her,” admonished Aunt Berdene as I stood with her in front of an open casket, “you won’t really believe she is dead.”  I allowed her to take my small hand and gently stroke the cheek of my recently deceased great grandmother.  It was not particularly traumatic to me, but I do remember feeling hesitant.  It was the first time I had seen a dead human body, let alone touched one. I do remember thinking she looked lovely.  All the lines of pain and worry had been erased from that face I knew and loved.  I left her viewing that evening, knowing that the part of her that made her, her, was not still inside the body she left behind for us to view (and touch).  I knew she was dead.  Her skin no longer felt like real skin. I believed that what the adults were saying was true.  I believed (and still do), that Grandmother Martha Anna Wilcox Westwood Foy had gone on to a better place.

The next day was to be her funeral.  It was to be held at the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (of which we are members) on Locust Lane in Moab, Utah.  There was only one hitch.  With the Uranium boom and the subsequent population explosion, the local schools did not have enough room for the increased enrollment.  The entire third grade of the Southeast Elementary I attended, had been moved across the street to the Church while the school was being enlarged.  I happened to be in that third grade.

That lovely September morning, I went to school just as normal.  My parents had said nothing to me about the funeral. I may not have known that it was to be that day.  I just presumed I would be going to her funeral whenever it was to be held. Shortly after the start of the school day, the principal, Mr. Wimmer, came into the Junior Sunday School room where the entire third grade was assembled. 

“We all need to be especially quiet this morning,” he announced, “because the funeral of a very elderly and well-respected lady, is being held here today.”

I raised my hand. “That’s my Grandma,” I said as it dawned on me who the funeral was for. “I’m supposed to go to her funeral.”

“If you are,” replied the principal, “someone will come and get you.”  With that, he left the room, and we went on with our lessons.

A short time later that morning, I started hearing organ music playing.  The prelude music for Grandma’s funeral was starting.  Still, no sign of my parents whom I assumed would appear any minute to escort me down the hall and into the chapel.   I approached my teacher, “That’s my grandma,” I said almost tearfully. “I’m supposed to go to her funeral.”

“If you are,” assured my teacher, “your parents will come and get you.”

I continued to wait, as the prelude music turned into talking.  I could make out none of the muffled words of the prayers and talks although the voices sounded familiar.  Special musical numbers separated the talking. Slowly, it began to dawn on me that I would not be attending my great grandmother’s funeral.  I felt defeated.  Eventually, I was aware that all the talking and the music had stopped. My parents and the many relatives undoubtedly had exited the building to go to the cemetery just a few blocks away from the church.  That afternoon after school, I did not confront my parents.  I don’t think they ever knew of my disappointment and hurt at being left out of attending Grandma Foy’s funeral.

Even today, as I recount this story of the funeral I didn’t get to attend (although I was in the building while it was going on), the tears are close to the surface.  I find myself wishing that I had simply slipped out of the classroom and booked it down the hall to the chapel.  I could have found my parents and squeezed in beside them.  I doubt anyone would have disrupted the funeral to retrieve me or send me back.  It is certainly not my biggest regret in life, but it is probably the only time I regret being too obedient.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Of Missing and Broken Shepherds

By Gemie Johnson Martin

As I was putting away our Christmas decorations in late December 2019, I was reflecting on how rough it was for shepherds at our house that year. It started during the summer, when a package arrived from Jericho, Israel. One of the olivewood figures to the Nativity I purchased while there, a kneeling shepherd, had broken in transit. I placed a quick call to Jimmy’s Bazaar and soon another arrived to replace it.

For years we have had a hand painted ceramic Nativity set. This year I placed it to be displayed on a shelf of the hutch at my husband Jerry’s computer desk to keep it out of easy reach of the smaller visitors we were expecting. You guessed it. Jerry presented the shepherd to me in two pieces. I super glued his head back on and returned him to his sheep on the shelf placing him back a little further from the edge.

Years ago, my sister Marlene did tole painting. Pictured is a Nativity puzzle she made. I intentionally put this Nativity down where the children can play with it. When I went to play with it myself a few days after Christmas, I realized one figure was missing. It was the shepherd. We looked high and low for him. I worried that perhaps he had been inadvertently thrown out with the Christmas wrapping paper and boxes. Photos taken Christmas morning confirmed that he was with the set on the large table that sits in the center of our living room as we were opening gifts.  After several days, our missing shepherd finally turned up 20 miles away in Coppell, Texas in my three-year-old grandson’s new fire truck which had been opened at our house Christmas morning. Seems this shepherd had taken on a new profession. The stow-a-way shepherd piece is now safely put away with the rest of the puzzle.


The shepherd piece is missing from the puzzle in the picture above. 

 The shepherd that was missing is the figure in a brown robe on the right in the picture above.

I posted the above story and pictures on Facebook.  The comments of two of my friends caused me further reflection.  Carma wrote, “The story of the lost shepherd, not sheep.  Nice take.” Reflecting on her comment, I started sensing a deeper meaning in my experience and the place of shepherds in the Nativity, especially that living Nativity on that first Christmas night.  That small babe in the manger, was in fact, the Son of God, the most important human being ever to be born into mortality.  And he would grow up to liken Himself to a shepherd and us to his flock.  Just as a shepherd watches over his flock of sheep, so we are watched over by our Savior, the Good Shepherd.

It was to shepherds that this most important of births was first announced by angels on that glorious night so many centuries ago.  Shepherds who were at their post, “keeping watch over their flock. . .” (Luke 2:8). My husband Jerry and I were privileged to visit what is presumed to be the field where these shepherds experienced this miraculous event.  Those humble shepherds believed the angel who appeared to them.  They went to worship the newborn babe who was to become the Savior of the world.  Yes, shepherds were very important in the events that transpired at our Savior’s birth. Their significance should not be lost to us.

Our Savior has given us the charge to become shepherds like Him. “Feed my sheep,” (John 21:17) he directed his early disciples.  Modern prophets have instructed us that this directive applies to us as well.   As ministers, we are to stand in place of our Savior, the Good Shepherd.  We are to care for and watch over His sheep, our fellow human beings.  We are to share the good news of the gospel with them. We are to love them and care for those of them who need our care.  Sister Bonnie H. Cordon in her conference address entitled “Becoming a Shepherd,” posed the question, “So, how do we become the shepherds the Lord needs us to become?” Her answer, “. . . we can look to our Savior Jesus Christ—the Good Shepherd. The Savior’s sheep were known and numbered, they were watched over, and they were gathered into the fold of God.” (October 2018)

But we are not perfect like our Savior.  Unlike Him, we sometimes make mistakes in our lives.  At times, we find ourselves off course.  As imperfect beings, subject to temptations and sin, we may find ourselves in places we are not supposed to go, doing things we are not supposed to be doing (as was the case of my puzzle piece shepherd).  We may also neglect to do the things we should be doing, like ministering to others. In short, we may wander from or leave our post.

When I discovered the broken olivewood shepherd and contacted the shop owner in Jericho, he not only promised to send me a shepherd to replace the broken one, he also suggested I glue that broken shepherd back together and keep him.  I took his advice and now have two almost identical kneeling shepherds.  I must look hard to determine which is the one that was broken and where the break occurred.

The Atonement works like this in our lives.  Our Savior, the Good Shepherd, has made it possible through His Atonement for us to become like new again.  The only blameless person to ever live, He needs no repairs in the form of repentance. In accomplishing the Atonement, He “. . .descended below [us] all.” (D&C 122:8) In some miraculous way, He suffered for all our sins and infirmities so that we do not have to suffer if we but choose to embrace the Gospel, repent of our wrongs and follow in His footsteps. As my friend Judy commented, “. . . the Master Shepherd wants all of His shepherds with him!  He will seek for them, repair their broken parts, and accepts them no matter how far they have gone astray.  He prepares a way for their return.” Just as I was glad to have my shepherd Nativity puzzle piece back, so will our Savior rejoice when His lost sheep (including lost shepherds) return to the fold.

You see a faint white line around the neck of this shepherd where his head was glued back on and a white chip at the base of his neck.

A tiny chip marks the spot where my ceramic shepherd was broken.  I may or may not purchase some flesh-colored paint to cover this chip (which shows up as a small white spot at the base of the shepherd’s neck).  He was broken, through no fault of his own, when someone carelessly knocked him from his place in the display. Often, like the ceramic and olivewood shepherds, our brokenness is not due to sin on our part.  Sometimes we are damaged through the wrongful choices of others. We can also suffer heavy burdens and trials as we go through this imperfect mortal existence. Again, our Savior stands ready, through His Atonement to comfort and heal us of our hurts and imperfections.  He not only suffered for our sins, but for our hurts and infirmities “. . . that his bowels may be filled with mercy . . . that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people. . .” (see Alma 7: 11, 12). In other words, because of his suffering, he knows how to care for us and what we need to heal from our sufferings.  In time, healing will take place.

There is security in knowing that The Good Shepherd, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, will never get lost, or leave his post.  He stands as a constant beacon, showing us the way to happiness and Eternal life.  That is His purpose (see Moses 1:39). 

I’m going forward in this new year and new decade with a renewed effort to follow Him who showed us the way to be good shepherds.  I have committed to memory the thoughts and feelings I had as I so recently stood in the field where the glorious announcement was made to those shepherds over two millennia ago.  I will pray more earnestly to know what the Good Shepherd would have me do in His place with those “sheep” who come within my sphere of influence and care.  I will try harder to be like Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Evidences of the Power of Fasting and Prayer in My Life

My mother had had rheumatic fever as a child and it had damaged her heart. During my Freshman year, she became very ill with what the doctors presumed to be trouble with her heart valves. At a Stake conference, the Stake President called for a special fast for two members of the Stake. One of those was my mother. The Stake fasted for the two individuals. My mother was scheduled a short time later for open heart surgery. In the pre-op visit, it occurred to the doctor to see if her thyroid function had been checked. It had not; so he called for further testing to rule out a thyroid disorder. The diagnosis came back that she had Graves Disease. Instead of the surgery, she began treatment to suppress the over-activity of her thyroid gland. She responded well to the medications and her heart symptoms disappeared. The surgery that was scheduled was never needed. Coincidence? I think not. I firmly believe that doctor was inspired by a higher power to check out one more thing before stopping my mothers heart. She lived to be 86 despite many other autoimmune disorders and difficult medical conditions.
While we were serving a mission for our Church in Southern California, we learned we were expecting another grandchild. Of course we were overjoyed! Then we received news from our daughter that according to the sonogram, our new grandchild may be born with congenital birth defects. They ruled out Downs Syndrome, but told our daughter and her husband that the placental abnormalities meant that more testing would need to be done to see if there were birth defects. On the day of the testing, Jerry and I fasted and prayed. It was during a week of Zone Conferences. Jerry must have said many silent prayers that day, but as the Mission President, he was not able to leave the Zone Conference. At the time the test was to be done, I remember slipping out of the conference, finding a quiet room in the Church building we were at, kneeling down and pouring my heart out to my Heavenly Father. I remember assuring him that I would be prepared to love and accept any child we would be sent but asked that if it were possible, our grandchild would be born without birth defects. Before I went back into the conference, I heard from my daughter. They could find nothing wrong with her baby. There is something extra special about that creative, energetic, and very normal child.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Warned by The Holy Spirit

I represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Collin County on the Collin County VOAD Council (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters).  It is a council where many different organizations get together to pool resources and make plans on how we can work together to cope in the event a disaster were one to happen in our area.  I fall into the group of those representing a Faith Based Organization, namely the Church.  The Collin County VOAD generally meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 9:00 a.m. in different locations many of them City and County government offices.

About a year ago our VOAD meeting was to be held in McKinney, Texas about 30 miles away from where I live.  It was to be a breakfast meeting.  I got ready to leave for the meeting and realized I had a few minutes to do a task before I left.  I thought of something I could do, but realized there was not time to do it before time for me to leave.  The words went through my mind, "You don't have time to do that, but you do have time to check your blood sugar."

I have Type II Diabetes.  I should confess that I was not as good to take my blood sugar readings as often as I should have.  Back then especially, I would eat when I was hungry, take my Metformin (a medication to lower blood sugar) and just rely on symptoms such as shakiness, brain fog, and hunger to suspect my blood sugar was too low.  I should also say, it rarely happened that I would have low blood sugar. On this particular morning, the only symptom I had that my blood sugar may be low was hunger, but like Scarlett O'Hara, I would ". . . do my eat'n at the Barbecue," (or in this case the VOAD meeting).

"Yes," I remember saying to myself, "I do have time to take my blood sugar."  I got out my blood sugar monitor and proceeded to test myself.  I had to blink at the results that popped up on the monitor.  I had never seen a reading as low as 44. I pressed the submit button on the monitor, sending the information to the system I was connected to (Livongo at that time).  "That can't be right," I remember thinking.  I tested again with the same result.  Just in case it was correct, I went to the pantry and retrieved some peanut butter crackers and hastily downed those.

After eating the crackers, I went about trying to find another blood glucose meter. I had some other meters that I used before my insurance company sent the Livongo brand meter out to me.  Failing to find a satisfactory meter, I checked my phone which had beeped.  It had a message from Livongo.  "We must hear from you immediately," the words read and there was a phone number to call.  I called the phone number and began explaining what was going on to the customer service representative on the other end. After I assured the representative that I had eaten, he proceeded to talk me through testing my meter.  It tested out as accurate.

After thanking my helper, drinking some orange juice, and checking my blood sugar again, I determined it was safe for me to drive to McKinney.  On the way to my destination, I began pondering this experience.  I realized that if I had not tested my blood sugar, I could have been in serious trouble as I drove the 45 minutes it would take me to get to my destination.  I realized that it was the Holy Ghost who had prompted me to check my blood sugar.  And even though I did not recognize it at the time, the prompting came in much the same way as other promptings have.  Instead of thinking, "I have time to check MY blood sugar," the words in my mind were, "YOU have time to check YOUR blood sugar."  This should have been a clue to me. The Holy Spirit had once again spoken to me in the second person as He so often does.  I said a quick and silent prayer to my Heavenly Father thanking Him for sending two angels to watch over me that morning.  I arrived at the meeting about 20 minutes late.

I have since gone off that insurance plan and onto Medicare which does not pay for a monitoring service.  It would cost me $50.00 to have Livongo continue to do that.  I decided I could take on the responsibility of monitoring my blood sugar myself.  I am also happy to report that I have also gone on a very low carbohydrate diet and am now controlling my blood sugar without medication, but that's another story for another time.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Hanging Out on the Moab Rim

I remember being afraid of heights as early as kindergarten.  At the top of the playground slide, I chickened out.  No amount of coaxing or encouraging from my teacher or classmates could persuade me to slide down what was really a very high slide (especially to a five-year old).  Eventually, every child awaiting their turn to slide on the rungs below me had to back down so I could climb down the way I had climbed up.  That is why the predicament I found myself in as a teen-aged girl one hot summer day was so unlikely. 

Let me explain that I was a very foolish teen.  I was also a very prideful teen and that plays into what happened on this particular day on the Moab Rim high above my hometown, Moab, Utah when a small group of friends and I decided to hike up to the ruins of an old Indian fort that sits back in behind the rim. The Moab Rim is a tall Navajo Sandstone formation that runs along the South and West side of the Moab valley.

I had first visited what we referred to as the “Indian Fort” when my mother hiked a group of us (my siblings, cousins, and me) up there several years earlier.  Mama had fond memories of hiking to it as a young girl and wanted to share those memories with us.  Once we had visited the old Indian Fort, it became a favorite destination for us.   It is not an easy hike.  The ascent to the top of the Moab Rim is basically straight up though you can get there on a trail without ropes or other equipment.  The trail starts near what was my grandmother, Etholen Holyoak’s home which was nestled up against the foothills just below the Moab Rim South of Moab along what is now Highway 191.  

There were four of us making the trek that day.  Our group was a small one comprised of myself, my cousin Holly, and our friends Jeanine and Theresa.  In order to get an early start, we had slept over the night before at grandma’s house.  We had spent a fun night listening to 50’s and 60’s music, talking about boy’s, eating our favorite snacks, including some of our favorite goodies baked by Gram (as we lovingly referred to her).  We did have another friend Dixie, who also attended the slumber party, but whose mother declined to allow her make the hike with us.   She would later say she felt her mother was inspired not to allow her to go with us.  It may have changed the outcome of what was to happen that day.

We arose early the next morning.  Gram had made us wonderful, fluffy pancakes that we quickly wolfed down.  After breakfast we were ready to make our trek up the Moab Rim and back into the Indian Fort.  Our provisions were our canteens filled with cold water and two additional partially-filled gallon bottles of water which we had frozen.  I think we each packed a peanut butter sandwich to eat for lunch. 

If my memory serves me right, we were taking turns carrying the gallon jugs of water as we made our way up the mountainside.  On the way up those bottles of water became heavy and we eventually cashed (found a place to stash) them.  That meant the only water we would have would be in our individual canteens.  Each time we cashed our water supply, we refilled our canteens as best we could and hid the gallon jugs in shaded areas behind red rocks which are so abundant along the trail.  We rationalized that the cashed water would come in handy during the late afternoon when we would be making our descent.

The hike to the top, though difficult was uneventful.   Once at the top, we made our way back to the fort on flat ground.  By the time we got to it we were somewhat rested from our grueling ascent.  It was a hot day.  We began to regret that we had left our extra water.  But we climbed up through a slit to the flat top of the red rock formation where parts of the ancient fort remained.  I remember thinking those ancient Native Americans were smart to build the fort where they did.  By the time the enemy had stormed the rim, they would be too exhausted to fight.

We were joined by another friend, Jeff, who came up a different way.  We had invited him to come join us, along with another guy friend who did not come.  It was fun to have Jeff visit, but feeling quite outnumbered as the lone guy, he soon left us and was off.  I can’t remember when we decided it was time to make our way back.  We knew we needed to get home before sundown.  Because we had exhausted our water supply and it was a hot summer day, we eventually decided to find our way back to the place where we would make our descent into the Moab Valley and Gram’s home where ice cold water and possibly a treat would be waiting for us.

The cashed water was really calling to me as I made it down the hill, with my three companions.  When we were about a third of the way down, I decided there was likely a shorter more direct way down, and I determined to find it. The others were leery of this, and smartly stayed with the known path.  Their attempts to convince me of my folly were to no avail.  I separated from them and went on what I thought would be a straighter more direct path down the mountainside.

The rest of the group kept calling out to me to make sure I was still all right.  I resented their lack of trust of my climbing abilities, but begrudgingly kept replying.  At one point, I got down on the seat of my jeans to lower myself over what was a small rounded ledge.  A small rock was wedged between two pieces of slick rock.  As I put my foot onto the rock, it moved slightly as it lodged itself even more deeply into the crevice between the two large rocks.  I attempted to remove it thinking it might be dangerous to anyone else traversing the same terrain.  In attempting to dislodge the rock, my empty canteen became detached and fell down the mountainside.  I was shocked at how long it took for my canteen to hit the edge of a ledge below, (which ledge I was attempting to get down to).  It was a lot further down to that ledge than I realized.  The canteen barely hit the edge of the ledge before it fell further down the hillside never to be seen by me again.  The closer ledge, which I did climb down onto, was much more narrow than I had perceived it to be.  As soon as I made it down to that ledge, I quickly determined I was in trouble.   I could not go up or down safely.  I swallowed my pride and called out to my friends.

It was my cousin Holly who came creeping cautiously along the ledge below me.  When she saw me perched precariously on the ledge above her, she turned white.  “Gem,” she commanded very sternly, “don’t move.  We will come up to get you.” 

I pondered my situation.  As I mentioned, I was a very prideful youth.  I was also worried that in trying to rescue me, one or more of them would fall to their death or serious injury.  That fear, coupled with my pride, were the reasons I determined that I must get back up over the top of the rounded ledge.  I turned around on the tiny ledge I was on and searched for foot and hand holds. 
Not sticking to the trail had been a big mistake for me to make.  Deciding to disobey my cousin’s commands to stay put, turned out to be another serious mistake.  In attempting to get back up, I lost my footing.  I am not sure exactly how it happened, but instead of falling, I found myself clinging to the little wedged rock that I had previously tried to get rid of.  It was all that was keeping me from a fall to almost certain death!  My heart was beating wildly in my ears.  I must have had to jump some to reach the rock I was clinging to, because the ledge I had been standing on was now within only tip-toe range of my feet.  That was my situation when the group reached me.

When they arrived to find me in my predicament, the girls above me began talking among themselves about what they should do.  I shared with them my fear that I would dislodge the rock I was clinging to.  Eventually, they decided they would form a human chain, anchored by a large red-rock sandstone boulder perched near the edge of the rounded ledge.  It was so large they reasoned, that it was not going anywhere even if all our weight was on it.  One of the girls, Theresa, got behind the boulder, straddling it.  She extended her right arm to Holly.  Holly reached toward her with her left arm and hand.  Teresa and Holly interlocked wrists.  Holly and Jeanine likewise interlocked wrists.  Jeannine, then extended her leg down over the edge for me to grasp.  It took some maneuvering, and some coaxing (remember that I was worried I would pull the girls off the cliff with me), but I eventually did reach my right arm up, and grasp Jeanine’s ankle with my right hand.  I kept my left hand holding tightly on the wedged rock which had thus far saved me.  I braced my feet against the face of a slick-rock formation which I found myself up against.  The tip of the toes of one foot were barely touching the narrow shelf I had been standing on.

It was very uncomfortable being in the position I was in.  My back especially was in a considerable amount of pain.  I would attempt to put more weight on my feet to ease the spasms in my back.  Though I was in excruciating back pain, my arms and hands were numb.  I could not feel my arms and hands well enough to determine how firm my grip was.  I feared that I would relax my hold on Jeannine’s leg and the rock.  I kept asking Jeanine if I was holding tight enough.  My friend kept assuring me that I was.  I’m betting she had quite a bruise on that leg when our ordeal was over. 

We were all extremely thirsty.  My mouth felt like it was filled with hot, dry cotton balls. I am sure the other girls felt the same.  We regretted cashing our water, which was now below us on the trail.  We should be enjoying that warm, wet liquid which would hardly have been refreshing but at least would have helped re-hydrate us.  The decision to leave most of it, had been our first mistake, and for the other three girls, their only mistake.

My companions kept calling out for help, in the hopes that their voices would carry down the mountain and get the attention of someone.  “One, two, three,” one of them would count, and then she would be joined by the others with, “HELP.” 

Eventually, we did get the attention of a young man riding his horse on a trail below us.  “No thanks,” he called up to the pleas of my companions.  He and his horse had a few years earlier come to the rescue of my brother who was having a difficult time getting down off of the mountain, due to a medical condition.  Even though that young man refused to come to our aid, I believe he may have helped us by alerting someone (perhaps my grandmother) to our strange predicament. 

As the sun sank lower in the sky, my friends noticed my father’s car pulling up into the driveway of my Uncle Dan whose property adjoined my grandmother’s.  According to my companions, two figures emerged from the car and began making their way swiftly up the trail.  Being so far away, they were unrecognizable.  One of them stopped and remained stationary, in a little sagebrush clearing.  That person, according to my companions was wearing a white shirt.  I determined that person to be my mother Genevieve Johnson. “She’s praying,” I stated, emotion welling up inside me.  If I could have produced tears, I would have begun to cry.

It soon became apparent that the other figure was my father, Loren Johnson.  Dad wasted no time climbing up to us.  His long legs and the adrenaline that must have been rushing through his veins, had likely given him the strength to practically run up the hill.  I was fearful that he would die of a heart attack trying to reach and rescue me.  As he approached us, he removed his belt and hooked it back together again so it formed a circle.  He crouched down low at the rounded edge of the cliff and extended the unhooked part of the loop down to me, holding tightly with each of his hands to the belt on either side of the buckle.  He instructed  me to grab it one hand at a time.  At first, I was fearful of letting go of each of my strong holds, but I knew I had no choice.  As soon as I let go of Jeanine’s leg, and grabbed onto the belt, the girls quickly backed away from the edge. I was relieved that at least they would be safe.  When I had one arm through the belt, and both hands locked around the opposite wrist, Dad pulled me to safety. 

Violent sobs racked both of our bodies as we hugged each other.  “You’re okay now,” comforted my father between sobs. I think I can count the times I saw my father cry on one hand.  Then he called out to my mother, “She’s safe now Genevieve.”  We all waved down to the white-shirted figure who arose and began to make her way back to her childhood home to inform anxious family members that the danger was over.  My mother’s prayers always seemed to be answered, and this time was thankfully no exception. 

The sun was swiftly dipping behind the Moab rim and we had no time to waste in making our descent the rest of the way down to my grandmother’s home and the nice cool water and treats she had made for us.  I don’t think we even took time to search for our cashed water.  I remember being very shaky and needing Dad’s strong arms to steady me.  I kept whimpering, and the others kept comforting me.  Over and over, I apologized to them for what I had put them through.  They each assured me that they were just glad it had ended well for all of us. The four of them (my father, my cousin Holly, and my friends Jeannine and Theresa) will always be my heroes.  They saved my life and I will be forever grateful to each one of them.

As I descended, I kept looking back to the site where I had been, suspended on the Moab Rim on a slick rock formation.  Daddy kept urging me on because we had no time to stop and look back.  Many years later, I can still identify the spot where I was.

My father never talked of the incident to me again. 

Years later as my aunt Berdene Gramlich, my grandmother Ruth Johnson and I we were driving North out of the Moab valley, to attend a relative’s funeral in Provo, Utah, I remember my paternal grandmother professing her love for Moab.  “I love every red rock in this valley,” she ardently proclaimed.  I think I can echo my grandmother’s sentiment.  But there is one rock I have a special fondness for.  For all I know, it may still be wedged in the crevice of a slick rock formation on the face of the Moab Rim.