Another year is almost behind us. What a turbulent ride we have all experienced with a global Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. Our hearts go out to all those who have lost loved ones and experienced hardship this year. Susan and I hope this post finds you healthy, both spiritually and physically. This writing continues our holiday tradition, now 38 years running. No longer a simple mailed letter, in 2020 we decided to shift to an online holiday greeting. We hope to edify and strengthen at a time when finding lasting peace can be a challenge.
Mark & Susan McKell
The pandemic forced a myriad of changes on all of us. Of course, our lives outside the pandemic continued to tick forward with added challenges and change. This was certainly the case for the McKell Family in 2021.
I love this quote by Jack Canfield regarding change,
“Change is inevitable in life. You can either resist it and potentially get run over by it, or you can choose to cooperate with it, adapt to it, and learn how to benefit from it. When you embrace change you will begin to see it as an opportunity for growth.”
Having concluded a six year church assignment in late 2020, Susan and I decided to embark on a new adventure which included selling our Riverside home of 21 years. Finding new pastures has been a big change for us, a result of significant pondering and prayer. We have loved Riverside for 36 years, the home of so many friends and the place where our children were raised and call home. We extend our gratitude and continued friendship to so many in the Inland Empire and hope to remain connected in the years ahead.
To memorialize our final Riverside gathering, we took a round of family photos at our Washington home.
The McKell Family, November 2020
Leaving our home would prove to be heart wrenching. So many memories of struggles, challenges, triumphs and blessings. I initially fought the change, but felt resounding peace when I finally realized our home had served its purpose in raising our family and that we could take all the memories with us.
“A Team” Handprints from Days Gone By
Speaking of memories, here is a shot of the kids’ hand prints in May 2001 when we poured a new cement floor in the barn. This pulls at our hearts! I think we all have these memories, whether it’s the wall in the hallway where you mark the kids growth over the years or the file folder you store their early artwork, drawings and school work. Oh, and Auto Maximillion? Our beloved “Auto,” a Wire Haired Fox Terrier, now in doggie-heaven.
News Alert: Although we’ve decided to move, McKell Partners is staying put in Southern California! The firm continues to grow with clients in over a dozen states. Technology is a wonder allowing us to communicate all over the globe. Susan and I will continue to have a presence in our Riverside Office. Look for McKell Partners to open new offices in the Mountain West soon. We love helping others experience financial peace!
Our desire to downsize resulted from a strong spiritual nudge to simplify and to live a less complex life. Many months after our move we truly feel a lighter load and a freer sense of life and living. Feeling the added emotional and relational margin has been rejuvenating. I have wanted to reverse this endemic societal trend in my life for years. The rushing, running, battling the calendar, the loss of important transitions, emphatic overload and on and on. We are beginning to feel some relief from a never ending pace of go, go, go.
How can we be living in a world of such advancements in medicine, information, education, wealth, healthcare, technology and transportation and yet people feel overloaded, exhausted and stressed out? Because we are losing social, emotional, relational and spiritual margin in our lives. I would suggest that most of the pain we feel is centered in these areas and the loss of important margin in our lives.
News Flash: A new I-phone app or mindlessly scrolling through a social media feed won’t medicate the problem. Consider these prompts:
- Why is it that happy sales associates at Chick-fil-A seem like such an anomaly today?
- Does life often feel like a treadmill, always running but never really getting there?
- How often are you able to spend an hour in a good book?
- Have you had a casual conversation with an unknown neighbor lately?
Does the margin in your life feel like it’s evaporating?
We decided to take the ancient prophet Lehi’s advice and “act rather than be acted upon.” As a vote of agency we seek to recapture the lost margin in our lives. A feeling of renewal and restoration has begun.
Raising a family in a home for 20 years means accumulating a bunch of stuff. Been there? My car hobby was no exception. With the extra garage space it was always easy to add another car project. With the boys always around the garage was the “go to” place. Oh, what great memories we had there! With them gone I needed to take a hard look at where I wanted to spend my time.
I presume all of us have interests or hobbies, places where we elect to focus our time outside of daily routines. Maybe it is sports, travel, music, art, or writing. Life is not a dress rehearsal! We don’t get a do over. We must make our time count! As Alma said, “Now is the time.” When these decision forks in the road appear, I have found it helpful to ask the question, “What matters most?”
What Matters Most?
Re-reading the book by Hyrum W. Smith, “What Matters Most, The Power of Living your Values” was reassuring. Over 20 years old, but still a great book for living on purpose. I highly recommend it.
Well, I made the hard decision. Time to start thinning down the garage. Deciding which classics had to go was not fun. This was going to be painful!
1937 Ford Tudor Sedan and 1962 Ford Ranchero heading for new homes. Ouch!
So long dear friends! I must admit I shed some tears saying good bye.
Getting the house ready for sale proved an enormous task. The stuff we needed to get rid of was overwhelming. We had definitely been to Costco and ordered from Amazon way too many times. Ha! Susan had the idea to pursue one bedroom at at time. This proved to be the trick while I worked on the garage and barn. Slowly we began staging things for donation or sale. We set a goal to fill the trash bins each week. Week by week we made progress. Whew!
We Made our Southern Utah Pit Stop our Main Stop!
To help the transition, we purchased a second home in St. George, Utah in late 2020. We’ve always loved the desert colors of Southern Utah and all of the beautiful national parks close by. Susan’s parents live there too, so helping them in their golden years is a plus. Additionally, we love the option of using St. George as a warm winter getaway when we likely decide to put down roots further north.
Move it Up!
Between February and March we made many trips to the new home. Only the essentials were packed. Finally, we were pressed to decide when to list the Riverside home. With so much to accomplish, we slated May or June on the calendar. In dedicated prayer and pondering, I received an undeniable impression on my knees. “Move it up!” was the heavenly answer. I resisted. “Move it up?” I thought. I didn’t think we could be ready for a May/June listing date. How could we do this any faster?
Annie Hewlett and son Aiden
Lacking faith, I found myself having a conversation the next morning with my daughter, Annie. I explained my prayerful experience the night before and she said, “Well Dad, if that is what the Lord is telling you then you need to trust it.” Of course I knew she was right, but my energy level and resolve to act was wavering. Isn’t that how life is? We know what we need to do, but stepping into the darkness of doubt before the light appears can be scary. Thank you Annie!
Susan and I quickly called our real estate agent and said, “Put the house on the market!” It was late March. In short, the house sold in four days to a wonderful family. Escrow closed a few weeks later on April 30th. Working tirelessly every day we got all of our belongings to Southern Utah, leaving only a couple classics still awaiting transport.
Enjoying temporary quarters for the summer.
Not knowing exactly where we would go, we decided to move into our motorhome for the summer. Some of the looks we got from close friends was priceless. I think they thought we’d lost it! But, we still had a business to run and Susan and I were on assignment working with 250+ full time missionaries in the California Riverside Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What a rewarding and fulfilling experience to serve with President & Sister Watson and such a wonderful group of young people and senior missionary couples.
Susan served as our Ward’s Relief Society President before and during the pandemic. This was a great experience for her before being called by my side in the mission. These opportunities to serve, lift and build is the juice of life. How grateful we are for these experiences.
Susan and Mark at the Newport Beach LDS Temple hosting full time missionaries.
And then it happened. In mid May, my Dad’s health was rapidly failing. Quickly, my father, Eldon C. McKell was deteriorating in hospice. He passed on June 17, 2021. He was 88. He had been struggling for a few years prompting frequent out of state visits. No one knew when he would be called home, but God knew. As his final days neared, my heart yearned back to my answered pray and the insistent impression, “Move it up!” Such a testimony of seeking the Lord’s will and following it. May I once again give my witness that God is in the details of our lives, but we must yield our will to Him. This experience is post marked in my life, along with many others, evidencing God’s never ending love for us.
Eldon & Claudia McKell
The number of spiritual experiences and tender mercies that surrounded the weeks preceding my father’s passing are too numerous to list. All I can say is to testify that our Heavenly Father is aware of us and knows the challenges we face. If we will draw near unto him he will draw near unto us. He wants us to exercise our faith and yield our hearts to him. If we will with faith in every footstep he will show us the way.
If we hadn’t heeded His counsel to get the Riverside home sold, we would have been mired in a Southern California real estate transaction in May/June. This would have likely kept me from my father’s bedside in Utah. Funny how faith manifests itself in our lives. Without it, I wouldn’t have had those last days with him, days for me now “never to be forgotten.” With the home sale behind us, I was available to help my siblings with the events surrounding his passing.
The McKell Family at the Provo City, Ut Cemetery
McKell Family Graveside Pictures: Claudia, Monica, Mark, Myles & Matthew
Losing my father continues to pull at my heart strings. I have new found empathy for those who have lost a parent. I could speak volumes about the influence he had on my life and the lives of so many. It’s difficult to put into words. He was the patriarch of our family, but for me he was my best friend.
He was my “go to guy.” Whenever I needed advice or counsel he was there with sound wisdom always teaching me eternal truths that I could rely on. Dad taught me the importance of diligence, delayed gratification and to strive for excellence. Most of all he taught me the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a passion for priesthood leadership. He used to say with direct eye contact and a raised loving finger, that “the only standard was the gospel standard.” He believed that “preparation was the mother of self-reliance.”
He was a rugged individualist who often said that “the best place to find a helping hand was at the end of your own arm.” He believed in the capacity of the human spirit and the power of agency. He infected me with a passion for old classic cars. Our relationship was largely forged laying on a cold garage floor late at night bringing to life one of Henry Ford’s creations from the 1930’s, 40’s or 50’s. These are memories I hold dear.
Eldon & Claudia in their dating years at Brigham Young University, 1956
Being an eternal optimist Dad believed you could do and be anything you set your heart on. He loved my Mother and they became a great team as they lead missionaries in the Birmingham Alabama Mission from 1995-98. I miss you terribly Dad! You have left quite a legacy and big shoes to fill. I will continue to reach for that bar of excellence set by our Heavenly Father, a bar that you so eloquently always advocated. My unwavering faith tells me we will have a wonderful reunion someday. I will not say good bye but rather say, “Till we meet again!”
Claudia (Mom) is doing well. Of course learning to live alone is a struggle, but her health is good and she is quite active with Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and taking care of their Provo home and Springville, Ut apartments. She is an eternal optimist and everyone’s cheerleader. Her prayers are long as she petitions heaven for 18 Grandchildren and 30 Great Grandchildren. I always walk away from conversations with her feeling uplifted by her faith in the Savior and our Heavenly Father’s Plan.
In the midst of Dad’s final weeks, Annie gave birth on June 1, 2021 to a new granddaughter, Aria McKell Hewlett. The joyful emotions of her arrival while my Father was departing this life continues to be tender.
Annie, Aaron, Aiden & Aria Hewlett
Congrats to Aaron who graduated from Rocky Mountain PA School this year. He landed his first job in Idaho Falls where they now call home. Aaron is working in the area of Interventional Radiology. Every day is an adventure! Annie is meeting new friends in Idaho and trying to keep up with Aiden, a very active 2 1/2 year old. They purchased a new home and are getting use to the rigors of home ownership including ridding the yard of pesky critters.
Aria McKell Hewlett in her Mama’s blessing dress. Total Score: 11 Grandchildren age 7 and under.
Eldon & Claudia McKell Family Reunion
In early June, the extended Eldon & Claudia McKell Family gathered in St. George, Utah for a family reunion. Mom and Dad stayed behind in Provo as Dad’s final days neared. It would be the following week that he passed through the veil.
The next few months of the summer raced by for us as we learned how to live in tight quarters in the Canyon RV Park in the Santa Ana Canyon. What a beautiful place! Working, serving the missionaries in the mission and periodic trips back to Utah seemed to be the routine. Not having to take care of the Riverside property and all its maintenance has been a relief.
Austin, Chan, Reese and Grant
In July, Austin and Chandra purchased a home in Orem, Utah. They are making their list on all the updates and refinements they want to make. They love being near my brother Matt and Sherri McKell and being close by for BYU Sports and all the fun and adventure in the Wasatch Mountains. Reese is enjoying her dance class and Grant continues to be an active little boy. Austin is still at the Rio Tinto Mine running their mineral lab and Chan is working for Hyatt Corporation part-time. They love little getaways and recently enjoyed a week in Hawaii with Aaron and Caroline.
Aaron, Caroline, Eleanor, Ford, Rosie and June
The Aaron & Caroline McKell’s are still hangin’ in Fresno and loving it. Aaron is active with a growing financial services firm and being leaned on more and more for his leadership. He has become quite the chef and Kamado Joe king. You will have to Google that on YouTube! His recent brisket and steaks were amazing and his signature Mac and Cheese just won a 1st Place Ribbon at a Halloween Cook-off Contest. The kids are active with soccer, dance, swim lessons, etc. Caroline continues to put wonderful finishing touches on their on-going remodel. Both are actively engaged in their Ward and provide needed leadership.
Adam, Christy, Molly, Kage and Wade
The Adam and Christy McKell’s continue to reside in Corona, CA. Adam and I continue to build McKell Partners together. Adam is a gifted professional in investment management. We love working together and growing the practice. Christy runs an active homeschool with their kids each day. Their development is representative of her influence in their lives. Saturdays are filled with soccer games and many other activities. With annual passes to Disneyland they visit the happiest place on earth quite often!
Austin McKell, 1964 Ford F100 SB Pick Up Meets Utah
One of the car projects Austin and I have been working on is this 1964 Ford F100 SB Pickup. For you car guys, this was Ford’s last year for the front straight axel and Y block motor. It’s a long story how we found it, but for the last 3 years we have been brining it back to life and making it more presentable. It’s really a fun ride and with new dual exhaust even a bit of “rumpity rump.” You will have to Google that too. Just a few weeks back we introduced it to its new home, the State of Utah. Here’s Austin at the AZ/UT border.
Eldon McKell, Skiers Repose
My Dad loved boating and water skiing. Lake Powell was a favorite place for the McKell family. Routinely, after a long ski ride, Dad would throw in the rope and as we would circle back to pick him up. We would find him sprawled out in the water with an audible sigh of, “another day in paradise.” We finally snapped a picture of what he liked to called his, “skier’s repose.” This shot is from the early 1990’s.
We went to Lake Powell in August. As part of the trip my brothers and I memorialized Dad’s favorite shot. Here is my, “skiers repose.” Love you Dad!
My brother Myles followed suit with a traditional Eldon McKell, “thumbs up.”
Susan McKell, Millennial Choir Friends Prior to a Recent Performance
It has been said that, “all good things must come to an end.” Susan has enjoyed 13 memorable years of singing in the Millennial Choir. 13 years of making the drive down to Orange County for Thursday evening rehearsals. 13 years of memorizing countless songs. This has been a wonderful, uplifting and spiritual experience for her, one of many “days never to be forgotten.” The choir has experienced notable success. They have expanded into several states and recorded many CD’s. In 2019 they performed in Carnegie Hall. Given our life changes, Susan decided to let go of this love. It will always be in her heart and I will miss admiring her from the audience.
Teaching Granddaughter, Molly how to boogie board in Oceanside. She did great!
We loved taking the Mustang on the Alpine Loop in Utah. Beautiful country in the spring with new colors popping.
Mark, Susan, Annie, Aaron, Austin and Adam McKell
Grandson, Ford McKell giving you a thumbs up at Sand Hallow Reservoir in Southern Utah
Kage and Molly McKell cooling off on a hot Corona, CA July summer day.
Early November. Finally took a week off in Maui. What an incredible trip! – See my snorkeling post.
Max De Pree, a successful American businessman and writer said, “We cannot become what we want by remaining where we are.”
We feel so grateful for both the struggles and blessings of life. The last few years have been difficult, packed with many layers of change. But, we have learned so much about life, living, ourselves and our world around us. We have also drawn closer to the master Jesus Christ in our travails. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. May we squeeze out every moment of goodness each day and finding lasting joy in the journey.
We love all of you!
Mark & Susan McKell
Our New Address: 810 S. Dixie Drive, #2111, St. George, UT 84770