During a 10-year period, Ileen Loosle Barlow went through many devastating experiences. She lost her 17-year-old daughter to meningitis and her husband, Elwood Barlow, to lymphoma. She endured cancer twice, went back to work after 25 years at home to support her family, and dealt with the devastating impact of a fire that destroyed her home.
Through it all she tried to remain strong, to be a mother to her 10 children. "We were strong and able to endure because she was strong first," one of her sons wrote about his mother on a nominating form to American Mothers Inc.
On April 28 just weeks before people in the United States celebrate Mother's Day, the second Sunday in May Sister Barlow of the Corvallis 4th Ward, Corvallis Oregon Stake, was named National Mother of Year by the organization at its national convention in Las Vegas, Nev.
Today she is thankful for the opportunity to share her experiences to help other mothers endure their hard times. The example of a parent is priceless to help a child get through any difficult situation, she said.
And the thing that helped her most: "I learned very young how to recognize the voice of the Lord. That has helped me though many experiences as a teenager, young mother and through all my life."
Her years as a single mom and a mother working outside the home also have given her great appreciation for her years as a stay-at-home mom. "I can see I should have appreciated being home a lot more," she said. "There were lots of frustrations, but I loved being with my kids."
But after her husband was diagnosed with lymphoma, Sister Barlow knew she had to return to work. "That was one of the hardest things, working when my kids were home. I wanted to be home."
And she is so appreciative of the people who helped make it easier. When their house burned down in 1993, the family spent three years rebuilding with a lot of family, Church and community assistance. "I could never express the wonderful outpouring of love and concern.... We moved five times until we were able to find a rental house that would accommodate eight of us. I have been on the receiving end of tremendous examples of service."
Then months before the house was completed her husband died. Again the Church and community reached out to help the family.
She will always be grateful for what the community did for the family, especially for her children. "Motherhood means the highest honor that a woman can be given, because it is a trust from our Father in Heaven to guide and instruct and love His children."
But that doesn't mean a mother has to be perfect, she added.
Just a few weeks ago she was talking to one of her sons. She asked him about those years of family trial and stress. The house was never really clean, and Sister Barlow spent each evening after work carpooling children to activities and trying to figure out what she could serve them for dinner. She remembered being tired and grumpy.
Her son remembered the time differently. It was a good time, he said. "It made me realize that we are harder on ourselves than our kids are sometimes," said Sister Barlow, who now has 20 grandchildren. "We can do only the best that we can do. That best might change as circumstances change."
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