Monday, December 13, 2010

The Decision

Everybody feels pain.  Even the happiest of people cry behind closed doors.  I’ve come to find that the difference between a happy person and otherwise, is simply this: a choice. 
            It is difficult to find the joy in life sometimes.  It’s difficult to know how to make that choice between and crying and smiling when the tears come so easily, but hope, smiles, strength and inspiration can come from the simplest of things, you just have to be looking for it.
            One day while I was visiting my amazing Grandmother Norma in Arizona she gave me an old folder of poems that she had written through the years.  To me it was like a poetic journal giving deep insights into her inspiring life.  It was like receiving a pot of gold.  I’ve always longed to know more about the details of her life.  She is the strongest of all the women I know.  I'm sure I'll write more of her later.
            Tucked in the back of the folder I found an old autobiography of a Florence Pearl Cross Gibson.  I’d never heard of her.  As I read the autobiography I was amazed.  She was my Great-great-Great Grandmother, and her story inspires me.
            Here is the first part of her Autobiography, which I think was written by my Great-Grandma Savage.
The Autobiography of Florence Pearl Cross Gibson

To begin the story of the life of Florence Pearl Cross, I would like first to tell you a little about her ancestor and of how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints first came into their lives.  This is the story that my tiny little Grandmother told to me when I was very young.

Many years ago in a small town in Norway, two weary Mormon Missionaries trudged along a well worn dirt road.  They had been walking all day, stopping now and then at a poor peasants home to leave with them the message of the Gospel, which they believed with all their hearts to be true, for it filled their hearts with love and a determination that they must give their message to anyone who would but give them the time and would listen to their words.

Just as the sun was beginning to set, they stopped at a little home which sat back from the road and was surrounded with trees on either side.  The yards were well kept and flowers grew in well dept little beds.  The little brown thatched roofed house was plain, but made a beautiful picture, and this will be the setting for the first of our story.

The Elders walked up the path to the door and knocked softly.  The door was immediately flung wide, and there standing before them was a typical Norwegian fisherman.  His eyes were blue and friendly, his shoulders were broad and his hands were the kind that showed signs of hard work.  Yes, they were the kind of hands that could throw nets far out into the sea from his small fishing boat, or could make and mend his own nets with much skill.

The Missionaries were not use to being treated very friendly by many of the Norwegian people and they were surprised to find this man so cordial.  He greeted them warmly and smiling, motioned them to sit down on a long bench that stood in front of the house.  “I have heard of you and of your church,” he said, “Sit down, let us talk, for I am anxious to hear more.”

Hans Gouldbransen had heard many strange stories from his own people about the Mormon Missionaries, but being a man who took people at their own word, he was willing to hear the Missionaries story and then he would judge for himself whether they spoke the truth or were the bearers of false tales.  How could a man leave his own home and come so far to give false doctrine?  Surely these men had something good to say and he would listen to them with an open mind.

Ellen Poulsen, Han’s wife bustled about inside the house fixing the evening meal.  Two little girls, Louise and Pauline, played contently with their rag dolls.  Ellen peeked out occasionally at her husband and the two strange men from far off America.  With a worried look she wondered how much her good husband was believing of the things he was hearing.  One thing was sure, he was certainly interested, and listening, well, she would not, hadn’t many of their own people told them of the false doctrine these young men preached.  What was the matter with Hans, surely he would not listen to such foolishness.

Hans Gouldbransen was never the same man again after his long visit with the Elders.  He invited them often to his home, he was always anxious and ready to hear more of their church and of the saints who were gathering in America to make their homes together in Zion.  One thing saddened Hans, that was the fact that his little wife would not accept the gospel, and would never be willing to leave their beloved Norway and journey to a far off country, to embrace a still stranger gospel.

The Ocean to America.

Several years passed after the missionary’s first visit to Hans and his family.  Then when Louise was just eight years old, her Mother passed away, leaving behind four small children.  For Louise it was hardest of all, for she was the oldest and she soon found that she must be a mother to the other three small children, though she herself was only a child.  So it was that Louise learned of grief, of how to school ones feelings though your own heart ached, she learned to make others happy and see the brighter side of things, and most of all she learned to work and always said to the end of her days that work never killed anyone.

After the death of the little mother, Hans who was beside himself with grief began to listen more and more to the Mormon Elders.  He loved to hear the words they spoke to him of a hear-after where friends and loved ones would meet again. Where there would be a further reunion for he and Ellen as man and wife, where life would go on from where it had left off here and they would all be together again as a family.  So it was that Hans became a member of the Church and he began to work harder than ever, saving what ever he could and planning for the day that he could take his little family and sail for America, there to join with the main body of the church.

In May, in the year 1863, Hans took his family and said goodbye to his friends and to his beloved Norway.  He boarded the ship “The Excellent” Number 12, and they arrived in America the latter part of June.  I have heard my Great-Grandmother Cross tell of their voyage across the great water.  She said that there was a great storm at sea and for days they did not know if they would all drown or if they would die from sea sickness.  After several weeks at sea the tiny little son died and was one of several others on the voyage to be buried at sea.  Again Louise knew grief and again this little soul held her head high and was a blessing to her one sister and little brother.

So it was with a heavy heart that the now even smaller family viewed America for the first time.  “Louise stood on the deck beside her father, her long skirt blowing in the wind, and she said, “Tis the land of the free and the home of the brave.”  I know that I shall love it always and I will try all my life to be very brave”.

Louise found in the days ahead that her faith in God would be tried many times, and she must prove again and again how brave she really could be.  In America they boarded a train and went as far as they could west, but the train trip was all too soon over and they joined with Captain Nebeker’s company.  Most of the people who joined this company had only a small handcart with all their earthly possessions piled upon it.  It was their hope that they could cross the plains and the Rocky Mountains and join the church members in Salt Lake City before winter and freezing weather set in.  You have all read in history of the hardships that these poor pioneers suffered, of the lack of food and of the sever winter that came so early that year, bring with it driving snow and freezing winds.  Hans gave back to the Lord that winter his only living son and he buried him in a lonely little shallow grave somewhere along that never to be forgotten hand-cart trail.

Once again Louise and her sister Pauline were grieved and had to show their poor father how very brave they could be.  Everyone who met Han Gouldbransen’s girls loved them, especially the pretty and very interesting little Louise.  She could charm even the meanest wild Indian, this was a common remark heard among the foot weary saints.  Louise seamed to never be too tired to sing or stop and give a word of cheer, or offer a helping hand to others.  She loved to entertain especially small children and they all loved her.  She would dance for them and sing such funny little songs of Norway, or of the old Chinaman with a piggy-tail, she sang, “What’s more fun than a picnic Party”, and many others that I am sure her Grandchildren remember yet today.  Yes, our Grandmother was quite a lady, she had no enemies and no one was a stranger.  When her own heart was breaking she was always sure someone else was worse off than she.

The poor ragged half starved company arrived in American Fork Utah in the winter of 1863 and Louise was baptized into the church there that same year.  Here they lived with their father until the two girls were both young women.

I’ll stop there for now.  Here is what touched me the most.

Here is a girl only 11 years old at the time, who losses her mother, leaves her native land and becomes essentially homeless, taking with her very few personal belongings.  Along the way she buried her baby brother at sea, and then her only other brother in a shallow grave somewhere in the plains.  If there was ever a girl in the world who had reason to despair, it was her.  Yet, instead she played with the children, she sang songs as she walked the thousands of miles to Utah and at the end of the day, she danced. 
In the past few years sense I’ve first read this account I’ve often thought, how could she find it within herself to dance after sustaining so many blows…. And I’ve realized.  It was a choice.  She chose to find the good in life, and lift others burdens rather than wallow in her own.
With this in mind I decided to start this blog.  I’ve decided that if at the end of the day Florence could find it within herself to dance, then so can I.  I’m setting a goal to look past whatever hardships or trials, or just plain bad days I may have, and look for reasons to dance. 
I’m going to write in this blog everyday for the next 365 days and find the joy in life.  I hope that by the end of a year I will have found 365 different reasons to dance, and maybe you can also find a few reasons yourself. 
With Love,


  1. This story is amazing. I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to watch a young, loved one suffer and die due to a decision to follow your heart...let alone two siblings.

    I am deeply touched. The faith and decision to keep strong and cheerful is something I now know that I need to do. How amazing it is to be taught so much by a young girl!

    Let us all make the decision to dance!

    I've been loving your posts. And I love the idea to write everyday for a year. What a good, positive blog...and one I'll be happy to know is updated daily!!

  2. This story is nothing short of amazing! Inspirational??? Off the charts!! I will have to share this with my readers too and a link back. Your ancestors left you so much to draw from. I so look forward to reading more of your posts!

  3. I'm wasting no time sharing this...Thanks so much for emailing me the correct version of your Great Grandmother's poem. It will be posted with links back to your great blog tomorrow, 2-18-2011. Thanks so much!