“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times,
when one only remembers to turn on the light.”
~Albus Dumbledore (JK Rowling)

One lamp and the glow of my computer lit the room as I read an email from Claudia. The background noise of my kids playing couldn’t distract me as I read her words. The moment I received the first email from Claudia I knew that I liked her. We had an unspoken kinship, we are both mothers who just want happiness in our home. I found a sweet comfort in Claudia’s words. I know that I may never meet her in person, but she is someone who I look up to and I feel that many can be impacted by her story.
Deva, a small town in Transylvania, Romania was where Claudia grew up. However, it wasn’t a place where wonderful childhood memories were made. Most little girls have such a bond with their mothers, but Claudia watched as her mother suffered from Schizophrenia. Life was hard and her home was anything but stable. Claudia’s father did his best, but the effects from his wife’s mental illness suffocated him. An invisible cloud took over their life, Claudia too young to understand and deal with such adult situations.

Sometimes Claudia watched her mother’s small frame pace back and forth in the apartment. Her dyed red hair swinging back and forth as she had conversations with an imaginary being. “My mom was violent; she lived in her own world of fears, paranoia, imaginary discussions and a lot of smoking, during the night and day. Even back then my nights were hard and sleeping was not normal.” Claudia’s mother Maria caused so much tension in the home, but at the time there was nothing they could do to help her. Claudia dealt with so much pain and suffering before the age of five years old.

“I’m thankful for the challenges early on in my life,
because I have a perspective on the world.”
~America Ferrera

Claudia often spent time at her grandmother’s home—in Romania the term for grandma or Nana is Buni, especially at times when her mother was hospitalized. Victoria was Claudia’s Father’s mother. Claudia enjoyed time with her Buni. She learned how to love and be loved from her. Her Buni looked like most other grandmothers in Transylvania, small, with white hair covered by a maramă (head covering). Claudia has memories of her Buni reading books to her. She was the motherly figure she craved. Another thing that Claudia learned is how to pray from her grandmother. She was an Orthodox and prayed often. Claudia learned at a young age to have faith in something bigger than this world could give her.

Her Buni had Leukemia and would often pass out. They were not sure why she was fainting. Claudia was five years old and she was spending the night at her Buni’s house.  The night seemed to be normal and her grandmother didn’t seem to be feeling good. Suddenly her grandmother dropped to the floor. Claudia was alone and she screamed for help. Her grandmother’s neighbor came to help and was taken to a hospital. She died a few hours later. It was a shock, especially her young age to witness such a tragedy. Her grandmother was the one steady person in her life. She was special, Claudia didn’t know how she could get through life alone.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
~Louisa May Alcott

Any moment Claudia was alone she cried. Tears kept her company when she had no one else to go to. Her mother was in and out of the hospital and her father was consumed by the stress and pain of his wife. At the age of ten Claudia helped her father keep up on the house care, cooking and still found time to go to school. Claudia remembers times when as a young girl she painted all the walls of the house. She had responsibilities no young girl should have, but if she didn’t help her father it wouldn’t get done.

As Claudia grew up, her pain grew along with many questions. She wondered why her Buni had to die? Who is God and why do we suffer so much? Why are we here on earth? She realized that these were really tough questions and she may never get the answers she was looking for. I think most of us in our life have questioned the same thing. Does Heavenly Father love me? Does He know me? 

Her mother’s illness continued, sometimes she was taken by force to the hospital to be medicated. Life was hard, but Claudia found refuge going to the Orthodox church. At the age of ten, spirituality changed Claudia’s life. She sought knowledge by reading books like the Bible and going to church, though, Claudia was persecuted by her family for choosing faith to bring her peace.

Eight years later Claudia began attending English classes. She met four young men around her same age. She learned that they were in her small town for the purpose of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon). “That moment I was filled with a strong but sweet feeling that I needed to read that book. Only in May I got my first Book of Mormon. My best friend and I were the first to be baptized in my home town.” Claudia started college for Management and Marketing,  but spent a lot of time helping to spread the Gospel to others in her town.