March 23, 2011

Interview - Charity Tillemann-Dick (Part II)

You are definitely a person who has had what may seem to others more than her fair share of burdens. Can you say a little about how your relationship with God and yourself has changed over the course of your illness and your father's unexpected passing? (I know that's a big question.)
Yeah. You know, I was just thinking about this yesterday night as I was going to bed. Dad dying was a huge blow and I think it was the first time where I really felt anger towards the Lord. I understood he knew best but I didn't understand for the life of me why my family had a decade of what seemed like heavenly pummeling. I don't mean to blame God but faith is something that I've had forever really. That was one thing I hadn't struggled with, but at some point, when you have faith and you feel like you have an open dialogue with your Heavenly Father, and you're Jewish --you gotta ask the hard questions. And right before he died, we're talking hours, the missionaries came over for dinner. I was living in Budapest. I had a non-member friend over too. My sister Mercina had just returned under the assumption that everything had stabilized and he was going to be ok. We had this long discussion about faith.

This wonderful, spring-green Elder started telling me that he knew my dad would make it through and he would live and if we had faith he would get better. At this point, I had been living with a critical illness for a number of years and I will not tell you the number of times I prayed for it to be cured and I didn't give him a piece of my mind (but I did a little). What I realized then and now is that while -- to quote Einstein -- we seek to know the mind of God, we cannot hope to understand his wisdom. We don't know what the heck is going on in His eternal plan of life and I mean eternal life. We don't understand the lessons we need to learn, the lessons others need to learn, and if we think we do then we should study what the most serious sins are because pride is pretty high up there. So to condense that - I learned to seek miracles, and to be open to miracles unexpected. And I don't mean pretty ones with roses and daffodils. I mean that the 'D' on your last exam might have been exactly what you needed to teach you a certain lesson right now.

That is beautiful, thank you. It's difficult to accept some of the things that God wants to give us for our growth, but they tend to overwhelm us and help us to grow in ways unanticipated.

It's true.

Your testimony of that is hard to refute. Yeah, you know people can look at my life and say, well she obviously had good health insurance -- which is true Kaiser Permanente and Chris Lang be blessed, but you can find people in any and every situation that have risen out of the grime and grit around them and have done beautiful, wonderful and courageous things. I just sing, it's not particularly courageous but I love it and it makes me happy. We have to stop using our circumstance as an excuse. Now I am a Democrat, I am not talking about stopping welfare or taking food stamps away or not paying taxes. I support all of those things, whole heartedly, what I am talking about is an attitude of "If this were different", "If I only had this", "If I could have been born into that family", etc. People certainly are given different advantages and disadvantages in life. My goal of a good day is to leverage my advantage for the benefit of the most people and sometimes that has to be a little more self focused and other times it is a more external thing. But if we work on working with what we have we'll find that parable comes true and our spiritual gifts, the spiritual resources that we have to call on, will ultimately be multiplied. Not today necessarily, not tomorrow, but now in your heart and mind you will be able to call on sources of strength you would never have on your own, and that, is what we call the gift of the Spirit.
Four of five beautiful Tillemann-Dick sisters.

You brought up singing. I'd like to know a bit more about your passions in life. You're an accomplished Opera singer. How did you get in touch with your passion and also find a path to being able to truly express that passion?Oh my gosh, I just love to sing. I went to my first opera when I was four and I started writing (very simple) music the year before. I just thought it was the most amazing thing ever. I was in a children's choir in Colorado and we got to work a lot with the symphony orchestra and opera companies there and it was something my parents always encouraged. I was lucky that I could actually do what I love (thank the Lord I didn't long to be a figure skater) and while there were a lot of opportunities that I didn't get along the way, I picked a number of really good ones up, often ones that I hadn't exactly looked for.

I am a real go getter but it seems a lot of the things I want to go and get I don't get. It's one of the ways the Lord keeps me honest. I will send out every application and not get a single audition and then have a chance meeting with someone who sets up an audition and be cast in roles, or make a call on research and it turns into a major concert. It has been important for me to be aware of the Lord being at the helm and I am reminded of it ALL of the time.

Charity, Congressman and grandfather Tom Lantos, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who played piano while Charity sang for a Pulmonary hypertension benefit concert.

If you had any advice to give to other single women in the church what would it be? I know you said you don't think of yourself that way, which is great, so let's say 'women in the same phase of life'.
Don't be stressed out about being single. From what I hear, sex can get old really fast. I hope that isn't inappropriate. Maybe it is, but I think as single twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy something women we has such an amazing capacity for success, for service, for love. I had the opportunity to work very closely with Dr. Rice as a pianist when she was Secretary of State. Women need to understand that being alive is a gift and if you are dedicated and work hard, you can accomplish great things.
Some women do that inside of the home, some do it outside of the home, some are married some aren't, some are single, some aren't, but we need to start thinking of one another as family. I was in a number of singles wards where girls were so worried about getting married that they were mean to me, really mean for no apparent reason. I certainly wasn't taking the boys! But there could have been so many wonderful friendships made! We waste our time worrying about whether that girl's clothes are cuter than mine, if that boy likes me or if I'll ever get married. It's just plain stupid. We should be one another's biggest boosters, best friends and all of that other gooey, fun, girly and successful talk stuff. We need to stop competing with one another and start competing with ourselves. And when we do, we will really start to love 'us' as individuals and as a group, and we can start to share that meaningfully with the world around us in a myriad of ways.
I’m a little teary. "Being alive is a gift", it means so much to hear it from you. And I agree, we so need that kindness and love between women. That’s very powerful.
Liz, this was fun.

Charity, thank you for living the kind of life you have chosen to live - you're such an inspiration. You are a bright blessing in the lives of so many others.

Check out Charity's blog and my personal favorite: Denver's Own Royal Tenenbaums.

And most importantly, Charity has reason to be cautiously optimistic about where she is in the healing process but could certainly use your prayers. Our prayers are with you, Charity. Much love!

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