Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Heritage Halls, 1977.  We gathered in a large circle in the lobby of our dorm, some of us sitting on the hearth near the big old tube TV, some smashed hip to hip on the sunken couches beneath the large plate-glass windows , some of us sitting cross legged, our knees jittery with anticipation.  We had been called to a Candle Passing Ceremony, a few dozen girls, with a few scattered boy-friends and friend-boys in tow. The lights were dimmed and we sat in darkness as our dorm leader lit a candle which we passed around the circle. Some girls teased, pretending to fill their cheeks and prepare to blow out the flame, but generally the candle was passed from hand to hand, still ablaze…until it came to the mystery girl…the woman of the hour… the one who had just become engaged.  This was the late 1970’s BYU method of announcing a marriage engagement.

I sat across from her and smiled as I watched her take the candle, turn to pass it on, then bring it back, purse her lips, and blow it out! Her name was Cyndy Hooley, and the fella sitting next to her was my brother, George.  We cheered, and embraced, and congratulated, a circle of friends and roommates. I did not know that this was the first of many circles I would share with Cyndy, my friend who would become my sister.

My brother George, who happened to be roommates with my fiancé’ Dave, had a habit of visiting my dorm, first because there was likely to be a pot of hot soup on the stove.  But it didn’t take long for the soup to move to the back burner because his hunger was for that cute girl with the curly hair and the irresistible smile. The girl who had just the right amount of sass to peak his interest, and the unmatched strength that would eventually put reigns on the wild horse that is my brother.

Dave and I have joined George and Cyndy in many circles.  Some where a crackling fire kept us warm and fed, our bellies full of trout, our hands filled with guitars and flutes and such.  We have stood in sacred circles, dressed in white, raising our hands before each other.  Other circles, where our babies were central. First wrapped in white blankets, then roughly eight years hence, those children were again in white, their hair wet and clean, their hearts ready and willing and trusting, and the worthy hands of their father and uncle were once again placed on their heads. We have encircled many a dinner table, have hammered pots and pans on New Years Eve, have celebrated high school honors and college degrees.  And we have huddled in grief, our shoulders slumped together, our hearts heavy, in ICU waiting rooms, in family prayer, and around caskets where the scent of pine still wafts in our memory. So many circles, with ripples still rolling out to eternity.

Today, the kind of day we fear as children and never outgrow with age, we formed our circles again.  Layer on layer.  And central to all of it was that beautiful friend who became my sister more than three dozen years ago.  Her body was spent, worn out by good works and, almost inconceivably, whipped to submissiveness by cancer.  I have never known a stronger woman.  And so I have never seen a more unyielding disease. Demon cancer!  Lauren, Bryan, Nate and George, directed by what some people call fate and I call the Holy Ghost, had made the decision to come together with impeccable timing. 

They surrounded her, their hands touching her as if they were charging their spirits with her good energy. 

And we who loved her too, encircled them.  Out into the halls of the Heber City hospital, and beyond. Out to distant places where prayers were all that could be sent, their paths interweaving like a web of faith, encircling all of us.  We sang her to the gate, our hands and voices trying to fill her with sweet memory to take with her.   
I sat behind Nate and Bryan, their arms holding each other up, their father and sister across the bridge of their mother. I imagined their brother, Clayton, whose body we had encircled on that mournful day 18 years ago…I imagined a tug of war between those crazy brothers; two of them pulling from this side to keep her here, and Clayton engaging the aid of his grandmothers, tugging from Heaven.

Cyndy walked into her Gethsemane with grace and dignity and complete trust; ever aware of the lessons she was teaching in her journey, and completely submissive to her God.
Today, in the waning hours of daylight, Heaven won.
We promise, Cyndy, to lock our arms, to lift our sorrowful eyes heavenward, and support each other in love. One tight, little circle of those who shared your body and your name, and layers of circles beyond that.  Rippling out to places our eyes cannot see, carrying your influence out across the waters of time and space and into the realm where you embrace your son and so many others who have loved you long before we did.


  1. That is the most beautiful tribute to a loving sister... from a loving sister that I have ever read. As soon as I can see through my tears, I am going to write to my "sisters" to tell them how much they mean to me and how much I love them. Thank you for sharing your heart even in your grief. Prayers and much love. ❤️❤️❤️

  2. My heart with all of yours. 💙

  3. This will resonate with me forever. Thank you Cori.

  4. Thank you once again, Cori, for putting into such eloquent words the feelings so many of us share. Sometimes your words are matched with music to end up as a song, sometimes just words alone to express tender, heart-felt emotions and ponderings. We will truly miss another wonderful Cyndy from our lives.