Marilyn Campbell Chambers was born on February 17, 1925, a couple of weeks after the ground hog had already made his coming-of-spring pronouncement and just a month before the actual commencement of the spring season, and passed away on November 20, 2020 just a week before one of her favorite holidays was to be held. It was fitting that Mom was born when she was. A natural optimist, she could turn a wintery moment into a promise of a better day of spring yet to come.
Mom was the wife of William J. Chambers; the daughter of Harold and Beatrice Campbell; the sister of Fawn, Russell, Arthur, Hugh, Joan, Ruth, and Gaylen; the mother of Pat, Ann, Paul, Kathy, and Neil; the grandmother of 26; and the great grandmother of 57.
As a child, Mom was a tomboy, out running, out climbing, and out doing any of the boys her age. Her childhood competition with boys, however, soon turned into teenage crushes on boys in her adolescence. She liked boys, especially male Hollywood idols, cutting up her mother’s glossy movie magazines of the big-screen stars and pasting their pictures on the walls of the bedroom she shared with her sisters. Years later while visiting the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, we discovered that Anne, like Mom who was just a few years older than Anne, had also pasted pictures of Hollywood royalty on her bedroom walls, reminding all who saw the pasted yellowed-by-age pictures on the walls just how precious life was for all teenagers caught up with World War II, especially those like Anne, who dreamed of romance but who lost their lives just as those dreams seemed so close.
Mom and her two younger sisters took turns sleeping by twos in the big double bed, leaving the odd person out to sleep alone in a single bed in another smaller room. When younger sister Ruth complained she was afraid, Mom just told her to stop being a baby and go back to bed. When it was Mom’s turn to sleep solo, she would go to the room where her sisters were trying to sleep in the double bed and above their protests tell them to stop complaining and move over to make room for her.
While going through Mom’s memoir, we came across a picture of a young girl and asked her who it was. She replied that it was her best friend Eleanore Berrett. During the summer, Mom as a young girl would cut through the field by her house and go visit Eleanore. In most cases, Eleanore was busy doing household chores, but the parents gave her a reprieve from doing chores when Mom came calling, realizing Mom was the bishop’s daughter. What better influence could their daughter have? After all, they admired Mom’s confidence and wished their daughter would be more like her. So for the next little while, her best friend Eleanore sat at the piano and accompanied Mom who was singing. An unconditional friend, Eleanore helped make and tailor Mom’s dress for a dance, even though the boy who asked Mom was the same boy Eleanore had a big crush on.
After the war, Mom became smitten with Dad who had just moved from Eden to North Ogden to live near his married sister Elna Deamer. Upon his arrival, Dad caught the attention of many matchmakers, all of whom conspired to pair up Mom and Dad. As a result, Mom and Dad started dating, and after just a week of courtship, Mom and Dad were engaged. He was 29 and she was 23, and at that time, they were both considered almost middle aged, so carpe diem (seize the day): why wait any longer?
Dad had seriously dated other girls before Mom but had never romantically kissed anyone. Dad said he wanted to kiss Mom but was really nervous and wasn’t confident in doing so. He embarrassedly admitted on one occasion that the night before he was to propose to Mom, Dad practiced kissing his pillow. It was the first time she’d been told that story, and laughed to tears upon hearing it.
When he did propose, Mom and Dad sat in his car off the side of the road. Just then some young girls walking home from Young Women’s saw them and one started singing, “I wonder who’s kissing her now.”
Excited to be engaged, Mom immediately had Dad drive her home, so she could break the news to her parents. Mom had Dad stay on the porch because it was late and her parents would be in bed and needed to get dressed. Grandpa Campbell came downstairs and waited for Grandma Campbell to follow. Suddenly, they heard a crash and a thud. Grandma had tripped and fallen at the bottom of the stairs and was laughing so hard she couldn’t get up. Instead, she crawled to the door in order to congratulate the happy couple. Upon seeing his future mother-in-law crawling on all fours, Dad in an aside to Mom asked, “Does she also bark at the moon?”
Children soon came and just as soon grew up, but not very tall. A coming-of-age ritual as we went through adolescence would be to come home at night and check in with Mom, relaying to her the highlights of our evening’s activities. Although Mom was in bed, she was never really asleep until all her kids were home safely. Laughter emanated from our parent’s bedroom as each person who had just arrived, recited her adventures. The noisy merriment woke up those of us who were light sleepers, who would then scramble out of bed and dash downstairs to share in the fun, made even more entertaining seeing Mom who was sitting upright in bed, hugging her knees, roll back with her head against the headboard and laugh at what was being related. However, heaven help anyone who came home after curfew. That person would be met by Mom, who would be sitting in the living room by herself, serving as a sentinel, waiting for the prodigal to return, asking for an explanation before waving the guilty-as-charged offender off to bed.
Mom found it hard to let go of Neil on his first day of school. She stood at the door and waved goodbye at him as he waved back. He would walk a little ways down the road, stop and turn around and wave at her again. Mom would return his wave and he’d turn around to walk farther down the road. He would then stop, turn around and wave at Mom again. She dutifully waved back. This routine continued until Neil turned the corner and was out of sight. When Mom came inside, those of us who witnessed the incident warned Mom that he was going to be late for school, not just today but every day if she were to keep up the same bon voyage routine each morning.
One day, Mom and Dad were called into the high school vice principal’s office to meet with him regarding one of their children’s truancies. The errant child arrived later, startled to see Mom and Dad there, too. Being pointed out her child’s errant ways, Mom showed her compassion and started crying. It affected her wayward child who never played hooky again.
A faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mom had many callings, but the culmination of all of them came when she and Dad served as a missionary couple in the Philippines. On one occasion, Mom and Dad were out with a pair of sister missionaries in an area of flooded rice paddies which contained a dirt path for them to use to cross through. Somehow, Mom got separated from the rest of the group and found herself face to face with something like a water buffalo, who snorted and clawed at the ground, looking right down the line at Mom. Stand her ground and get gored or jump in the nearest rice paddy? Bull or wet hair? Bull or ruined hairdo? What a dilemma. She immediately tried running from the bull, but as the bull gained on her, Mom could hear the answer to her predicament being screamed by one of the frantic sister missionaries: “Jump sister, jump!” Mom immediately jumped. She was safe, but her hair was wet and her hairdo ruined. All she could do now is hold on to the hope that her sacrifice had been recorded in heaven.
While Mom was still physically able to get around, we would take turns giving her rides to get her hair done and out to get something to eat. As time went on, the conversations with her became more limited and circular in nature, but she still often declared, “Oh, do you know how much I love you?” Eventually, she grew too delicate to go outside the long-term care center where she was staying, but she still continued telling each of us who were visiting her how much she loved us. Towards the end, when her speech became quite limited, we’d ask her if she wanted to say anything to those of us who were watching via the Marco Polo video app on our phones. She would look at the person posing the question and with some effort quietly reply “yes, tell them how much I love them.” Close to the end, we would let her know we were getting ready to leave, take her hand, wait for her to meet our gaze and tell her “Oh, do you know how much we love you?” She would weakly answer ‘yes.’ Then when we would get up and tell her goodbye, she would turn her head towards us and softly say ‘bye.’
When it came to preparing for holidays, family gatherings and important events, Mom was always the last one to go to sleep, staying up late at night to make sure all the finishing touches were completed before going to bed. On her last day, after all of us who had been with her had left, it is as though she stayed up late one more time to make sure the finishing touches to her life were completed. Then in the early morning hours, she left this world behind and came to the veil, taking the hand of the one who was waiting there to take her through.
Mom was gracious to others but so were other people gracious to her, particularly relatives, neighbors and friends who checked on Mom regularly after Dad had passed away. To those who took care of her during her last days, such as Dena her hairdresser who did her hair for the funeral, the attendants Stacie and Allie from Independence Home Health and Hospice, and staff members and residents at Whisper Cove Assisted Living and Memory Care, we extend our heartfelt thanks for their selfless service, helping make Mom’s remaining year or so as comfortable, pleasant, and painless as possible.
Now, unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, people outside of immediate family will not be able to extend personally to us their condolences, but we would still love to hear from you. So if you would, please follow the online links to myers-mortuary.com and share your feelings with us there.
To send flowers to Marilyn's family, please visit our floral store.