The beautiful face of Tayva Patch and her exceptional talent is recognized by just about anyone who has viewed Church film productions in the last thirty years. From portraying Lucy Mack Smith in the Church feature film, Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration, to her most recent touching role in Mormon Message’s Enduring Love, Tayva has blessed countless lives.
Tayva passed away November 21, 2015 at age 62. A month or so ago, her husband, Brian, sent the following letter to his friends and family members. With his kind permission, this will serve as my cogitation this month.
March 1, 2016
Wonderful Friends and Family,
As I was going through Tayva’s computer this past week, I found a letter she wrote to a young woman in one of the BYU wards about her path into acting. As Tayva became more recognized over the years for her acting roles, she was frequently asked by hopeful young people how she did it, wondering if it would be possible for them to do the same, and did she have any advice for them. She would graciously talk with them about the pathway that led to so many roles for her. She would tell them about her early fears that having four children to raise and a husband to take care of would impact her availability for many of the roles she wanted, only to learn later in her career that those family years actually prepared her for her greatest roles.
She would always finish her advice to these young people by saying, “Star in your own life.”
Tayva titled this letter “Things I Wish I’d Known,” and her insight about individual talent is thought provoking. It included this excerpt:
Even when I was young, I worried about ‘giving up,’ about getting old or tired or losing my passion. The parable of the talents was so literal to me that even when nothing seemed to offer itself for me to develop those talents and I felt helpless to change things, I was sure Heavenly Father would hold me responsible for quitting (or burying) what I had felt was the one true gift I had in life. But then, how was anybody supposed to get from where I was—a little girl from Winslow, Arizona—to where I thought I wanted to go?
And where was that?
I didn’t have a clue.
Some years ago when I had actually built up a good size rack of VHS tapes [tapes of productions she acted in] . . . I imagined being able to relax as I approached that interview upon returning to heaven after my life. I could hear the question in my mind: “Tell me about your work.” And I would point with confidence . . . to all my films that I had carried with me and say, “Here is my work!”
It seemed like a good fantasy, so I kept going with this. I imagined the Savior smiling at me and saying, “No, tell me about your work.”
“But here they are! We can watch them!”
Then, still smiling at me, He looks me in the eye and says:
“Tayva. Tell me about your work. Was the set a better place that day because you were there? Were you kind? Were you patient? Were you prepared? Did you help other people (to) get their work done?
“Tell me about your work.”
I know (now) that my Heavenly Father never expected me to prove myself to Him. He already knew my talent. He gave it to me. He knows my weaknesses, fears, desires, and strengths.
I was the one who didn’t know them.
He was so completely involved in the details of what I thought I was creating by myself that it is staggering to me. Even with my testimony today, it staggers me. I could never have drawn a line from Winslow to where I ended up.
. . . (So), do good work!
There you have it. Tayva has been gone just over three months now, but she continues to influence us. I don’t know how I ever deserved someone so beautiful AND wise. I miss her and can’t wait to be with her again.
Well, you see why I wanted to share Brian’s and Tayva’s thoughts. I have a suggestion. Actually two. When you see Tayva portraying Lucy Mack Smith or Mary Magdalene in The Testaments, or Lehi’s wife, Sariah, or the woman with the issue of blood, or the woman at the well, remember she didn’t need to do a whole lot to act the part. I think she knew these women.
And remember—star in your own life.