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Elder Holland’s Touching Tribute to His Wife + a Full Recap of Sister Holland’s Funeral

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Warm words and a focus on eternal blessings permeated the touching tributes shared at Sister Patricia T. Holland’s funeral. 

Her son, David F. Holland, spoke first and shared that he and his siblings “couldn’t convey what it meant to be loved by Patricia Holland,” even if they had an eternity. “She pointed us to a God who delights to please the eye and gladden the heart.” Sister Holland always helped her family find the simple joys of living. 

He spoke of her deep love for her husband, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, saying that she once told him, “My heart still skips a beat when your dad comes home.”

Brother Holland’s most poignant tribute came when he shared a dream his wife had during a difficult time in their lives over a decade ago. In the dream, Jeanne found herself near a stormy sea.

“As the waves crashed closer and closer to her, and then upon her, she found herself unable to move. The water climbed higher and higher and higher, and her panic rose…until the unrelenting ocean had reached her neck. And then, in a moment of desperation and despair, she turned to her right and saw my mom, who began to offer counsel and calm her heart. ‘Jeanne,’ she said, “keep your head up. Don’t be afraid. These waves will pass and they will not overwhelm you.’ And in an instant Jeanne’s anxiety was released. The tide began to subside and the dream ended. Jeanne and I have referenced that dream repeatedly in the years since.” 

Sister Mary Alice McCann, her daughter, spoke next. She opened by discussing a faded 9×5 card that was taped by the light switch near her bedroom door. It held a promise from Sister Holland: “If you pray and read your scriptures every day, everything will be ok, I promise.”

Sister McCann said, “She gave it one afternoon during a very difficult period of my life. I have taped it to the doorway of my bedroom ever since.” 

She said, “Perhaps the most painful part of losing her this week is realizing the one person on this earth who loved me first and loved me longest and loved me most is gone. But she has left me with a greater gift—the knowledge that there is One in heaven who loves me even more.” 

Sister McCann shared some of Sister Holland’s own testimony. She read her mother’s words: “I think I have a glimpse of the way the Savior loves us because of my own experience of giving birth to three beautiful children. I have discovered that the child who is at the moment very content and happy often has very little need of me. That gladsome child usually runs away to play, but the child who has made a mistake has faltered, or is wounded or frightened, turns quickly to come back home for reassurance. As that child draws near to me, nothing, I repeat nothing, can stop the opening of my heart or the reaching out of my arms to enfold him or her into my protection.”

Sister McCann said, “It was impossible to unwind my mother from the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Elder Matthew S. Holland, a son, continued the program. 

“It’s impossible to think about my mother without thinking of her love of the Lord and His work,” he said. One of the “most searing” moments of all for him was an experience Sister Holland recounted about a frightening illness she faced many years ago. She shared the sacred moment with new mission leaders in 2018. In 2015, Sister Holland was “battling a lung condition that had her on the brink of death. During her 32 days in intensive care and the weeks that followed in regular hospital care, my father kept a nearly constant vigil by her bedside.” However, Elder Holland could not stay by her bedside out of sheer necessity. He shared his mother’s own words about when he could not be near. 

“Recently, during a near-fatal illness, I wanted Jeff and his priesthood to be with me constantly, but he couldn’t always be 

“What do we do now? We follow her lead. I cling to the fact that Patricia Terry Holland will live again.”

In touching tribute, he shared words from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who was not able to speak due to his ongoing health issues. “He’s not able to do what his heart longs to do, to stand at this podium and make an extended tribute to his beloved [wife].” He then read these words:

“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. This is the 60th year of my marriage to the greatest woman I have ever known. I am heartbroken. I thought the onset of neuropathy and dialysis was enough, but this loss of Pat so unexpectedly has been devastating. I feel the sustaining power of your prayers and I’m grateful. Pat was a great teacher. Among her most resonant messages was that when your back is to the wall and your heart is breaking, you still have three things: your friends, your family, your faith.”

“Her friends are found all over the earth. That is possible only because she made friends instantly. When you shook her hand or said hello, you had her full attention. She took seriously the Savior’s example of recognizing the image of God in everyone she met. She locked in, whether for a few seconds or forever. I was amazed at how often this focus led to lasting friendships. Pat’s closest group of high school friends, affectionately known as ‘the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of St. George,’ are here today as an exhibit of that 65-year-old bond. Others in the room across the globe go back even longer than that.” 

“Her family meant everything to her. She was a loving daughter, a feisty sister, and an unequal mother. I mean absolutely unequaled except perhaps by her own mother and mine. Her children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren were priceless to her. And I was at least allowed to tag along.”

“In truth, she turned down so many things to support me, including a career in music in New York. She worked sometimes 14-hour days while I went to school and joined in our naive expedition to New Haven, where we found ourselves with no money, 2000 miles from all she had known. And yet, at every stop, she made our home a refuge, a place of music, laughter, and love. I did not know a person could do so much with so little. She was everything a companion could be in this world and I thank God that we will have each other in the next.”

“As for her faith, I am almost speechless. From her childhood on, she’s been a believer, ready to act with fierce determination and conviction. Her father once told her that China was more or less directly on the other side of the earth. She immediately got up, walked out to the shed, grabbed a shovel, and furiously started to dig. That is one kind of bold belief, but there was always the other kind too, the kind rooted in the goodness of Jesus Christ, refined and tempered in the furnace of life’s afflictions.”

“She loved and believed in her Heavenly Father and Savior in a way that exceeded even her love for me. Her faith persisted through those fires of affliction, none greater than the late-term miscarriage of our last child, a child she had long hoped for and prayed for, whose premature passing ultimately deepened our understanding of the Redeemer’s love. We came to know a peace not given as the world giveth.”

“A remarkable relationship with heaven did not come without effort. She prayed all the time about everything. Her scriptures were in her hands constantly, especially the Book of Mormon. She would have lived in the temple if she could have, so she made a temple of the home in which we lived. She was as loyal to her covenants and her Heavenly Father as any woman could possibly be. There is so much more I could say and so much that is beyond my power to convey. I can only offer this: Pat’s love and faith brought divine light to my life and it will do so eternally.” 

President Russell M. Nelson closed the program with his own personal tribute. 

“Beloved Jeffrey, inspiring family, loyal friends, may I speak for all members of the Church in expressing our sincerest sympathy. We love Pat! I am grateful to all who have participated in any way in these sacred and unique services for this wonderful woman and treasured friend.”

“Sister Patricia Terry Holland is one of a kind. Truly, an elect lady. She occupies a unique position in our Later-day Siant history. Very few women in this dispensation have been married to a prophet, seer, and revelator and have served as a general officer of the Church. Emma Smith and Eliza R. Snow are two such women and Sister Holland is certainly in that esteemed circle. She also served as the first lady of Brigham Young University while her husband Jeffery R. Holland presided there. Sister Holland thus occupied a most unique position in the annals of the Church’s history. Her remarkable influence upon literally millions of women and men cannot be overestimated.”

“Sister Patricia Holland is exactly what a celestial woman looks like. We weep today for the passing of one so beloved by her family. However, we rejoice because of the celestial life she lived. At our birth, our spirits were clothes with a mortal body. That miraculous gift is the first step toward our gaining immortal body and qualifying for eternal life. The second step is receiving the sacred ordinances that allow all of us to make covenants with God, keeping those covenants. The third step is death. Death is a gateway along the path of eternal progress. Though hard for those of us left behind, we know that Sister Holland’s resurrection is certain and eternal life lies ahead. Death is both a necessity and a blessing. God’s great plan of happiness requires that each of us pass through that gateway. Sister Holland’s righteous spirit is now born again in the paradise of God. She continues on her path to eternal life. In time, Jeffrey and Patricia will be reunited. They will later be joined by their beautiful children and their covenant-keeping posterity to experience the fullest joy that God has in store for his faithful children.

“Knowing that, we understand that the most important date in Patricia’s life was not her birth date or her death date. Her most important date was June 7, 1963, when she and Jeff were sealed in the St. George Temple. This ordinance sealed them together forever. They have been completely faithful to their promises made to each other and to their Heavenly Father. Their children were born in that covenant and have remained totally faithful to that covenant. Why is all of this so important? Because the very reason the earth was created was so that families could be formed and sealed to each other. Salvation is an individual matter, but exhalation is a family matter. No one can be exalted alone.” 

“One day, each of us if worthy shall again see the glorified redeemed exalted, and perfected Patricia Terry Holland, wife, mother, sister, saint, and daughter of the living God. He lives. Jesus the Christ. this is his church, restored in its full to provide the blessing of eternal life for all his worthy sons and daughters. I so testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.” 

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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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