Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Old Friends are Family Too - Memories with the Gattens

On Thursday our dear friends lost their son Danny. The Gattens have been some of our oldest and dearest friends for many, many years. We had only been married about a year and a half when we moved to Corpus Christi in 1969. Jay was Sieg's new boss and he and Tora took us under their wing right from the start.  Soon we were more friends than co-employees. Sunday evenings were spent at one another's homes enjoying each other's company. After Tora had put her two little ones down for the night we would play games (usually Scrabble) and talk and talk.

Our Beckie was just a baby so we would lay a blanket on the floor and she would drift right off to sleep. What fun we had together with our little families. Picnics, holidays, movies, play dates, sight-seeing, and sundry other fun activities drew us together. When our Dan was born Tora was there to watch Beckie for me, bringing meals and helping just like if my mom had been able to come.

The Gattens introduced us to the the gospel and we began to go to Church with them, and in time Jay baptized us. How can you ever thank someone for having such a profound effect on your lives? That was a gift that we can never repay. It has made such a difference in our lives and brought us so much joy.

In time we all moved to Missouri with our company. After a while there Jay took a job with another company and they moved away. We too left and moved back to South Dakota to work for my father-in-law. That was not a good fit and in a couple of years we were again looking for work when Jay called and asked if we would consider moving to Tennessee to consult for the company he worked for there, so we were off on another adventure.

When we got there they opened their home to us  and we stayed with them several weeks while we looked for a place to live. Sieg was working in the field and I was due to have another baby within a few weeks. Tora was also expecting so poor Jay had two pregnant ladies and four preschoolers underfoot. I am sure it was a trial but there was never any discord and I still have wonderful memories of staying there. (Even if Jay was worried that I would go into labor and Sieg would not get there in time.  lol )

We stayed in Tennessee three years and our last two children were born there. During this time the Gattens left and went to another job. ( Don't all geologist seem to move frequently?  We certainly did! ) Then the day came when we were again looking for work and Sieg applied for a job in Kaysville, Utah. Guess who else was applying for the same job? Our friend Jay. Jay got the job, and within a few weeks we were hired also. So off to Utah we went. Our new house was just a block from theirs and our friendship continued like we had never been parted. Our kids played together just as before, except now there were four children in each family.

In time we left Utah and went to Denver for nine years then to Reno for two years, before moving here to Wyoming. Gattens had finally put down deep roots and stayed in Utah. Over the years we have shared letters and cards, phone calls and visits. We have laughed together, cried together, shared joys and sorrows, and our love has just grown stronger. To us they ARE family.

And as in all families, when one hurts we all do. Right now our hearts are sore with the loss of their oldest son. We have so many happy memories of Danny. What a handsome young man he was. He was such a friendly kid who seemed to always be laughing and full of fun. Full of spunk and enthusiasm, I never saw him ever do unkind or hurtful things to any of the other kids.

Like all children he was curious about the world around him. I remember when he was just a little boy how many questions he would ask...always seeming to start with "Why"  When he was about two and a half Tora and I were visiting together and I was nursing our new baby when Danny looked at me and said, "Why that baby biting your belly?"  We all had such a laugh over that. When he was a little older he decided he did not like buttons on his shirts. What a trial it was for him when they wanted him to wear a button-up cub scout shirt. I think Tora finally got him a scout Tshirt.

I remember how kind he was to the little children. Our kids were all younger than him but he played with them and let them tag along. Beckie worshipped him, following him everywhere she could. I often wondered if we had not moved away if they two of them might not have ended up together. He was definitely her first love.

After over forty years of being friends, and many years living away from one another I still feel that they are our oldest, dearest friends. Yesterday as I was talking to Tora on the phone I expressed this to her, and she said they feel the same way. Sometimes I think there are friendships that were forged in Heaven before we ever came here. I am grateful to have friends like the Gattens in my life. I am grateful for the times we have spent together. I am grateful for my knowledge of the gospel that bring comfort and peace at times like this when our hearts are broken.

In a general conference talk President Thomas S. Monson said:
Because our Savior died at Calvary, death has no hold upon any one of us. 
Life moves on. Youth follows childhood, and maturity comes ever so imperceptibly. As we search and ponder the purpose and the problems of life, all of us sooner or later face the question of the length of life and of a personal, everlasting life. These questions most insistently assert themselves when loved ones leave us or when we face leaving those we love.
At such times, we ponder the universal question, best phrased by Job of old, who centuries ago asked, “If a man die, shall he live again?” The empty tomb that first Easter morning brought comforting assurance, an affirmative answer to Job’s question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” 
To all who have lost loved ones, we would turn Job’s question to an answer: If a man die, he shall live again. We know, for we have the light of revealed truth. “I am the resurrection, and the life,” spoke the Master. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
Through tears and trials, through fears and sorrows, through the heartache and loneliness of losing loved ones, there is assurance that life is everlasting. Our Lord and Savior is the living witness that such is so. ... He became the firstfruits of the Resurrection. Because He died, all shall live again.  
“Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives!’ ”


  1. This is very beautifully written. I really love your text and blog layout as well!

  2. Sooo sorry for your terrible loss. Danny's family would be proud of your tribute...so would HE. Thank God you have so many great memories to help you smile through the pain. I pray the Lord lightens the load of your family as well as his Mom's and Dad's. I'll look for the newest, brightest shining star the next clear night...