I don’t know if you believe in angels, but I do. Of course, we all have experience with the flesh and blood kind as in, “You are such an angel,” but I also have firsthand experience with the beyond earthly kind. I have had too many unexplained miracles occur in my life to deny that they are out there, watching out for us, helping when no earthly help is near, and yes, singing. Singing in heavenly choirs (that a few humans have been privileged to hear) and, when needed, joining in some earthly ones. This story is about both kinds and the challenges of having the benefits of those angles while social distancing. Well, the earthly kind anyway, as far as I know, heavenly angels are exempt for Covid.
I don’t have a great talent for leading adult vocal choirs, so I was a bit unsure when I was called to be the choir director for the church in mid-2019. We had a great choir director, but she was unable to continue due to some circumstances at home. I have loved directing children’s choirs for many years and feel very competent in that realm, but my only other experience as a choir director for adults had been less than positive. That calling came during a very busy time in my life and it was hard to juggle all I had to do. In addition, I had an accompanist who was a great pianist but did not have much experience playing for vocalists. On top of all of that, it seemed that most of the ward’s (a local congregation) talented vocalist had a lot of other obligations, so I felt I was always imposing to get people to participate in the choir as it wasn’t their top priority. That little choir had some good moments, but I was not unhappy when I got another call and needed to be released.
The current stint seemed to be going much better. I managed to put together a respectable Christmas program for 2019 and there were a lot of really supportive people that participated. I felt encouraged, maybe this experience as a choir director would be better. Enter 2020, and the pandemic. At first, I thought great, a break. I can’t do this calling while on church hiatus, I will just enjoy the respite. But then the lock-down dragged on, and as we got closer to Christmas. I realized we needed the normalcy of a Christmas program, even if the program would be less than normal. I could do this and was actually a bit excited. Unlike leading a choir of grown-ups, this was right up my alley. Video production has been a hobby of mine for some time now so it seemed I had found the very reason I had this calling at this time. So, I put some irons in the fire, and we came up with a plan for a virtual program. Most of the music would be pre-recorded, with some live instrumentals. We had some talented people, the earthly angels, who stepped up. And, I hoped the heavenly angels, the unseen kind, would indeed help as well on the less than perfect areas.
As the recorded submissions began to come in it looked like those earthly angels were doing their part. Most of the musical pieces were sung by family groups and sounded wonderful, so it would be easy for me to do some quick edits and produce some wonderful finished pieces. One number would be trickier. It would be a women’s number which included several female members of the ward choir. All were willing and eager to participate, but most were a bit apprehensive about recording themselves and how it would look and sound. I assured everyone that I would make them look and sound polished through the magic of video editing, and we came up with a plan to blend our voices together.
One by one the ladies began sending me their recordings, but for the most part, they also sent along their messages of inadequacy on the job they had done. I advised them to use headphones or earbuds when recording, so all that was picked up by the recording was their voice alone. The singers told me they were concerned about the quality of their voice, or that they didn’t know all of the notes exactly, or that some parts didn’t sound just right. Even our pianist, who is a very accomplished accompanist, struggled and felt that she did not do as good of a job as she felt she should.
As I listened to each individual recording I had to admit they were right. No one really sounded great and polished alone, and this became glaringly true when I recorded my own voice. It sounded thin and inconsistent and quite gravely in places. My years of video editing told me I had the skills to make this sound good, but there were moments of doubt and fear that I didn’t have the time or the footage to adequately pull it off. This was meant to be a part of a worship service that highlighted the true meaning of Christmas. A poor performance would detract from that spirit. We needed to be more than good, we needed to be great.
As I worked away, cutting away a few slow areas of the accompaniment, raising the volume of some vocal parts while lowering others, arranging the video tiles, little by little the project came together. My little group of women began to sound like angels, instead of a bunch of imperfect humans. I may have even heard some heavenly voices added into the mix. When the finished project was ready to present I realized something profound; while none of us sounded great and polished alone, it really came together when the voices were blended and adjusted to one another. This was true even though we were not able to sing in the same room together. I have long been acquainted with the power of singing together in a musical group, but this experience made me realize that power and support can come from a group with a common goal, even from a distance.
This year has been hard on all of us. Many things that we love we can’t do. Many people we normally socialize and worship with are out of reach. Humans are social creatures. We work best, we enjoy our play, and we support each other best when we can do it together. But during this pandemic, there have been angels. This experience taught me that even if we aren’t physically near, we can still receive strength from each other when working on a common cause. We can feel the strength and support from others, even at a distance and when we do, we can hear the angels sing.
One of the challenges of trying to share my story is identifying a genre that describes my book. Is it LDS fiction, Christian fiction, or what? When I look at some of the genres it seems that this book does not really fit into the standard categories. So to try to explain what it is about I have created this short video. Please watch it and let me know what you think.
For sure I was going to do it one day when I got around to it. Of course, it was my fault for bringing it up in the first place. Surely, my husband now had time for all of those projects that he hadn’t gotten done. With the pandemic and all, and being stuck in the house, he had plenty of time. I kindly pointed out what a great wife I had been, always doing what he needed. Even difficult or annoying tasks I eventually finished for him, like didn’t I hem those really annoying pants?
Now, ladies and gentlemen, let me pause for a moment to tell you this was not your typical hemming project. Sewing is not hard for me, and hemming is normally an easy job, although not a favorite. My husband, bless his heart, tries to buy clothes that come fitting correctly, but it is a challenge because he is built all wrong. He has a big, long body, but not much for legs. Clothes buying is always a problem; there is never enough fabric on the top, and way too much on the bottom. Not to be deterred by his clothing-challenged body, my husband is always looking for what the cool kids are wearing. When he found these fantastic cargo pants with all kinds of cool pockets he, of course, had to have them.
When the pants arrived, they were about 6 inches too long. Normally, to hem pants, you can just wack off a few inches of fabric and turn up the bottom, but that wouldn’t work with these gems. You see, all of the cool pockets and accessories on these pants came to the wrong places on the legs so instead of hemming the bottom I had to move up the middle of the leg. It was quite the job figuring out exactly how long they had to be, finding the right spot with no pockets in the way, and easing in the width to fit correctly.
Now back to the story, as I was sweetly pointed out to my husband all that I had done for him he got that look. You know, that look of recognition when you realize your story is not adding up, but you aren’t quite sure why yet. “Oh, yeah,” he replied, “didn’t I have one more pair of those pants that never got altered?” Okay, wait, this was supposed to be about jobs I needed done, not something else I had to do. But, being the loving, dutiful wife I agreed to check out the possibility, and sure enough. The second pair sat on my sewing machine just waiting for when I had the time for another lengthy project. Ouch.
Reluctantly I decided there was no time like the present. Heck we were all locked inside so I might as well delve into this time-consuming project. Besides, if I did what he needed maybe he would feel more of a need to complete the tasks I wanted done.
“Go try them on,” I commanded, with as much enthusiasm as I could muster.
Five minutes later my husband came back wearing perfectly fitting pants. How was this even possible? Had I altered them without remembering? Was he able to order the correct size without realizing it?
My husband and I both examined the pants. The tag was still on them and they had never been worn. We searched the legs for any evidence that they could have been altered, but found nothing. We looked at the tag and verified that the legs should have been several inches taller than my husband’s short inseam. And yet, they fit perfectly. No need for altering, and they were ready to be worn.
Why we humans put off the hard, the labor intensive, the difficult or unsavory tasks is unclear. Maybe we think that the passage of time will make it easier or more interesting. Maybe we think if we wait long enough it will just go away. In my experience those things are seldom true, and sometimes waiting even makes things worse, or harder or more unsavory. I have also found that sometimes when we stare that big, bad task in the face it is not nearly as big, as scary or as difficult as we made it out to be in our mind. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting up, walking over to that sewing machine, taking a look at what really needs to be done, staring it in the face and realizing the job really is doable. And maybe, just maybe there is just no job at all and it is just waiting for you to call it good..
I was outside in the garage working on a piece of furniture that I was refinishing when my husband stuck his head out in the garage. “Neither of the little two were napping, so I told them they could get up from their nap. I’m going to run to Costco.” Husband left, I came inside to wash my paintbrushes.
“Hi mommy!” My two year old daughter said. “I threw up in my bed.”
What?? Gross. Ugh. Why?
“Did you tell Daddy?” I asked her.
“Yeah, he didn’t hear me though,” she said.
I started feeling annoyed. Annoyed that Husband didn’t hear her and left for Costco and now I have the joy of cleaning up the throw up. Annoyed that she didn’t make it to the bathroom. Annoyed that I have been stuck in my house for what feels like 15 years with the Coronavirus. Just annoyed.
I send a snippy text to Husband about the throw up then go upstairs and carefully take her things off the bed so as to not drop any of the throw up all over the floor. I carry it down to the kitchen sink and start rinsing the small piles of barf off of her quilt. The annoyance continues to grow as I start to find new reasons this is someone else’s fault. I move on to the next pile of throw up and at the very bottom of the small pile of vomit is a nickel. In that moment, my world shifts. Tears of thankfulness begin pouring down my cheeks. Suddenly this very throw up that I was annoyed by and feel agitated over I am suddenly deeply thankful for to the very core of my being.
In that moment I know with every fiber in my being that the only reason my daughter is alive and breathing is because of these small piles of throw up all over her blanket. During nap she got some coins out of her piggy bank and put one in her mouth and began to choke on it. Instead of not being able to breath, she threw up. The only reason my daughter is still here is because of the throw up. If I could choose, I would literally choose to clean up throw up every single day of her life than to find her stiff and blue at the end of nap.
Hard things happen in life. They just do. But what if….what if the hard things that happen in life are to replace the even harder thing that COULD have happened? What if that gut wrenching thing that I am going through right now is happening so that the even worse thing DOESN’T happen? What if, the nickel in life isn’t optional? But the throw up is one choice and the possibility of no throw up is another option? What would happen if instead of looking to place blame, anger, resentment, and hostility I could have an eternal perspective? What if I could see the other choice I would have been given if I didn’t have the throw up? Would I become more thankful for my life? Would I learn to count my blessings instead of my problems? Would I find the little annoyances in my life less annoying? Would I be able to turn my life over to God more often and easier? Would I have peace? What if I could understand that in every pile of barf, there was a nickel? I would be changed.
Recently, my 9 year old son walked up to me and told me about the “pressure” he was feeling during the day. The pressure of needing to be good enough, the pressure of needing to be smart enough, the pressure of needing to be kind enough, fun enough, happy enough, loved enough, proud enough, capable enough. When we started diving into this idea of “pressure” I suddenly realized my sweet 9 year old was feeling anxiety.
Together, my son and I started exploring what to do to squash this pressure. We discussed the theory of a fist. Often, pressure or anxiety feels like a hand that grabs hold of you and won’t let go. Sometimes it feels like a hand grabs your heart and begins to squeeze. Sometimes it feels like a fist stuck in your throat and you can’t swallow. Sometimes it feels like a fist punched you in the face and you can’t relax your mouth. Sometimes it feel like the fist punched you in the gut. Pressure can take on many, many forms but it usually revolves around this fist.
We talked about this fist and how many fingers it has. Five. What are 5 truths that you know about yourself? Each truth has the power to make one of the fingers relax and lets you get out of the grasp of this hand. My son started to list off things he knew to be true about himself.
“I am smart. I am good at school. I am fun to be around. I will do my best. I am strong.”
That was when I realized. Positive affirmations were not helping my son. In fact, they were hurting him.
It is great to think about yourself as strong. As capable. As fun. As good at school.
But what happens WHEN (not if) life kicks you in the face? What happens when you are laying on your dirty bathroom floor, unable to move because you are suffering so badly for post-partum anxiety that the thought of looking at your other children makes you want to vomit? What happens when your family member comes to you and tells you that they have cancer and are living on borrowed time? What happens when you don’t have money in your account and hungry kids and shoes with holes in them? What happens when the person you have given your life and soul to looks you in the face and tells you that they don’t love you anymore?
What happens when you don’t feel good enough, strong enough, fun enough, good at school, or like you can even take another breath because the hand around your heart is squeezing so hard you can’t even breathe? How are your positive affirmations going to help you then? My son needed 5 things that are true, have always been true and will always be true. And I’ve come to realize, we all need these 5 truths. We all need to know that when there is nowhere else to turn, when there is nowhere else to hide, when we are backed into a dark, scary corner; that there are 5 things about us that are still true. That there are 5 truths that no one can ever take away from you.
Here are my son’s 5 truths:
I am a child of God
Mommy loves me
Daddy loves me
I am a part of this family
I am enough. No matter what person I show up as today, I am enough. If I get no questions right on my math test, I am enough. If I get every single question right, I am still enough. If I feel mean and mad and angry, I am enough. If I am happy and kind, I am enough. I am enough.
None of these truths will ever change, even as the surrounding circumstances around my son change. His personality will change. His interests will change. His life will change. But none of his truths will change. We talk about his truths every day. We discuss how they have been life changing to him and how he no longer feels pressure. We don’t “do” positive affirmations in this house. We do truths.
It seemed like the reasonable plan, the sand was blazing hot, the potty was far, and between my daughter and I we had already taken three unsuccessful trips. But when my daughter told her 2 year old to just go in her swim diaper her response was, “I don’t know how Mommy!” It seemed strange; only a short time ago this little one regularly used her diaper, not the potty seat, but here she was now, unable to relieve herself on demand.
“It’s okay,” we all encouraged, “you have a swim diaper on, that beach bathroom is way too far, and the sand will burn our feet. We will get back to using the potty next time, but just this once, please use the diaper.”
Finally, it came, she figured it out, she was able to use the swim diaper successfully. Seemed like a win win, we didn’t have to brave the hot sand and little Abby realized she could indeed go in her swim diaper.
While the battle had been won on the beach day, as the days passed it seemed that the potty training war had experienced a setback. When Abby and her family first arrived in town it appeared she was pretty reliable at using the potty. But after the beach day, accidents began. At first, it seemed that she was just so busy with fun summer and cousin activities that she just plain forgot to go. But as time went on, and we continually found little puddles around the house, it seemed a major backslide was in the process. When my daughter quizzed Abby about it, she giggled and announced, “Ha ha, I peed!”
What had happened? Where was the girl who such a short time ago had very few accidents? Where was the child who just days ago told her mommy that she didn’t know how to go without a formal potty? And now, it seemed that she was just randomly piddling on the floor like a little puppy.
Eventually, with more time and practice, and a few less distractions, Abby learned again to successfully pee in the designated place, but this experience got me thinking. Did our encouraging her to use the swim diaper instead of taking her to the bathroom cause the backslide? As her body became accustomed to using the potty instead of her diaper, going anywhere but in a toilet seemed not right, and she rarely had an accident. But, with a single time of using a diaper again, her body had no trouble relieving itself again and again away from the potty.
Recently, I was pondering this incident and realized how similar this was to our attempts as mortals to learn to avoid sin. Just as a baby comes to earth with no natural ability to avoid soiling itself and use a toilet properly, we come to this earth with no natural ability to avoid sin. Just as a child is taught, and then learns, to use a toilet properly, we are taught right from wrong and learn to make good choices. Little by little, as a child uses the potty correctly, their body no longer feels that it is right to pee just any old place, and their ability to hold out for the right time and place increases. And, just as we learn right from wrong and get in good habits of making correct choices, our ability to hold out for the correct way to do things increases.
But, sometimes things go awry. Sometimes life if hard, the sand it hot, and the bathroom is too far away. Sometimes those voices tell us, “It’s okay, just this one time, use the diaper, no one will know if you don’t do it this week, think only of yourself just for today, skip that good habit you have acquired. You will get right back to the better choices next time, when things are easier.”
But then, just as Abby’s body no longer felt that it had to wait for the toilet to relieve itself, we find ourselves with a lot of exceptions, a lot of times we didn’t do the right thing, only think of ourselves and our good habit, that seemed so well formed, has just gone out the door.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is unique among the world religions of our day in several ways. First, we believe that a book of scripture called the Book of Mormon joins the Bible in teaching about Jesus Christ and His teachings. Second, we believe that one can gain a testimony of not only the Book of Mormon by reading it, but can also gain a testimony and understanding of Jesus Christ and His teachings. A third, but certainly not the last, thing that makes the Church unique is our belief in modern day prophets.
Since the time of Joseph Smith, who translated and published the Book of Mormon many of these modern day prophets have testified of the power of the book and promised blessings to those who read the book. One such prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, made a promise in 2005, and I took the challenge. Here is my story.
There were many small miracles that came with completing the Book of Mormon challenge. There was the miracle of the youngest child of the family being the first to complete the book. There was the miracle of two daughters reading all day New Year’s Eve just so that they could finish on time. There was the miracle of a little more kindness, a little more respect and a little more forgiveness between siblings. But the big miracle came in the most unexpected way, at the most unexpected time.
I started reading as soon as I read his words, “There will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord.” With grown children still at home, mixed with testy teenagers and the added challenge of learning to be an extended family to our married children and their spouses I had found, that at times, our relationships were strained and tense. If there was anything I truly needed it was an added measure of the Sprit of the Lord in my home. So I began my reading according to the plan that President Hinckley had proposed.
As time progressed I became aware that many others were taking this challenge. Stakes passed out reading plans, wards discussed how to help the members complete the challenge, my husband challenged our children to complete the reading and many speakers at conferences and sacrament meetings reaffirmed the challenge. But in my mind this was a very personal challenge from a prophet of God to me. When President Hinckley gave the challenge, it was as if he knew my personal needs and gave me a promise of how I could have them met.
As I came nearer and nearer to completing my goal I began to look earnestly for the added measure of the Spirit in my home that I had been promised. It seemed that there was more kindness and tolerance between the family members living at home, but as these relationships grew, others seemed to be more strained. Small misunderstandings and thoughtless comments had driven a wedge right through our extended family. As the Christmas season approached I began to fear that tense feelings would taint the happiness of the season. I began to pray, as I continued my reading, that hurt feelings could be set aside so that we could enjoy the company of our entire family on Christmas. I gave sincere thanks for the small improvements I had seen, but now I needed a slightly larger miracle. I needed the added measure of the Spirit to help everyone at least tolerate one another over the Christmas season.
Being a good LDS mother I decided I had to do more than sit idly by and wait for my family to get along. Surely there was something I could do or say to make them see the error of their ways. And so, I worked on a child here, and a child there. I talked to the married kids and the adult age kids. “Couldn’t you just try to get along for a little while?” or, “It might be nice if you bought a little Christmas gift for so and so,” were some of my suggestions. Unfortunately, it seemed the harder I tried the worse it got.Quiet tolerance began to be replaced by outright intolerance. I became more and more agitated as I began to wonder how we could have our entire family together during the Christmas season. I began to doubt that the miracle of a greater measure of the Spirit in our home could really happen.
Finally, everyone agreed to try. We would have a family gathering a few days before Christmas. I was sure that this would do the trick and tempers would be soothed. It started out wonderfully. Everyone was laughing, enjoying each other’s company, just as I felt it should be. Then comments were made that inadvertently hurt feelings. Others were hurled to counter those. My husband and I steered the conversation toward safe small talk, the evening quickly ended, then everyone retreated to their own homes and rooms. As members of my family later expressed how much they were hurt by what had been said that night it seemed more hopeless than ever that my family would be able to heal their wounds before Christmas. But for some reason the feelings of agitation and dread that I had carried for the last few days were gone. I had done all that I could, and it was now up to my children to patch up their relationships, or not. Suddenly I realized that the greater measure of the Spirit in my home was there. I felt comforted, and sure that eventually all would work out. This Christmas was not the event that would make or break our eternal relationships. Building eternal relationships would take time, and I could be patient. I could feel the comforting Spirit of the Lord, even if those around me could not. Perhaps this was the miracle I sought. I had followed the prophet, I would now trust in the Lord and show patience.
The next day we were all in final preparations for Christmas. We were busy wrapping, preparing and arranging the last minute details. A phone call came, and our married children made an unexpected visit. Suddenly, all were there, and earlier apprehensions began to creep into my heart as I worried about what would be said. And then, without warning, the unexpected miracle occurred. A sweet daughter offered a heartfelt apology, hearts were softened, forgiveness was extended, tears flowed and hugs were offered. The greater measure of the Spirit of the Lord flowed freely in our home, not just on a limited basis, but to all members. Because a lovely young woman felt the tug of the Spirit of the Lord and humbled herself enough to make the first move, sincere communication was able to take place and all were healed. We could now spend Christmas together as a family in peace and harmony.
I finished the last chapter of Moroni a few hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve. As my husband and I ate a few snacks and relaxed before celebrating the new year, two daughters continued to read to finish before midnight. The youngest child reveled in having been the first one done. Yes, it was wonderful to have so many family members, and so many fellow members of the church, complete this challenge to read the Book of Mormon before the close of 2005. But in my mind, this had been a very personal challenge that I had personally completed, and I had received much more than I ever dreamed of the blessings promised. I had witnessed a mighty miracle of a family being healed through the gifts of the Spirit of the Lord.
From the time that I gave birth to my 3rd child I didn’t have time to do much else other than take care of my family. This is understandable being as these children were born within 3 ½ years of each other. Being a person with many interests, I often felt a tinge of jealousy for women who had the time, talents and energy to do the things that I would have enjoyed. But I was always able to pacify myself with Ecclesiastes 3:1. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose…” Most of these women were in a different time and season in their life. They were either older than me and had their children at least partially grown, or they were yet to be blessed with a family. I knew that my children would not be small forever, and that this was my time and season for full-time motherhood. Later on I would have more time to follow my interests and build my talents.
Then I met Lynn Lee. Lynn was friendly and outgoing and she was the kind of person that everyone took an immediate liking to. She often told people exactly what she thought about almost everything. But she had a talent for doing it in a way that made you want to please her, not become defensive or angry. Having always been a basically shy person myself, I admired the way she spoke to everyone and made friends so easily.
Lynn and I shared a love for music, but she seemed to have been blessed with more talent in that area than I. She had a beautiful alto voice and was always the first one in the choir to get the part right. In stake choir everyone wanted to sit by her so that they could hear the part correctly. She led the ward choir and the music in Primary as well as the stake choir on occasion, and also a children’s singing group at her children’s elementary school. She claimed she didn’t play the piano well, but when asked to play a song for a meeting when no other pianist was available she played it perfectly.
Lynn was very active in PTA and in the church. She spoke freely about the church to many people. When Lynn put her mind to something, she did it. When she decided she was a few pounds overweight she started a diet and exercise program that gave her a figure that made many of us envious.
Lynn had done, and was doing, many of the things that I wanted to do. She had many talents that I admired. Unfortunately, my reasoning of times and seasons did not work in this case. Lynn was a couple of years younger than I was and, at the time I met her, had one more child than I did! I struggled not to become jealous. I figured that the Lord must have his purposes for allowing Lynn to develop her talents so far and to be able to do so much by such a young age. Sometimes the Lord’s purposes are made known sooner than we would like.
When the tumor on Lynn’s adrenal gland was discovered we all decided that it must be benign. The doctors assured her that with its location it probably was. I figured that no one could be so well with a tumor the size of a ham inside them unless it was benign. The operation to remove the tumor went well. Life seemed to be returning to normal. Tests were done on the tumor removed from Lynn to determine whether it was benign or malignant. We were all shocked when we heard the news that the tumor had been malignant. Lynn was devastated. But the doctor assured her that he felt he had gotten the entire tumor.
In the days that followed Lynn learned all she could about the type of cancer she had and weighed her options. She found the type of cancer she had was very deadly. No one lived past a few years with this cancer. But it was also a very rare disease and there weren’t many figures to go by. Lynn felt she would be the one to beat the odds. Besides, she believed in miracles. When she felt impressed not to have the chemotherapy that the doctor’s suggested she felt that was “the miracle” that she had been looking for.
Not long afterward some of Lynn’s symptoms returned. Fearful that the cancer had come back she visited the doctor. She was overjoyed to find that instead of the cancer she expected she was carrying a baby! Unfortunately her doctors did not share her joy. They cautioned her about continuing her pregnancy, fearing that the cancer may return. She made the only decision she felt she could and delivered a healthy daughter.
I’ll never forget the night the word went around that her cancer had returned. It was a ward western dance and dinner. The Lee family came for the dinner and then went home. Lynn’s good friend Cindy told a few of us that the cancer had been found in many of her vital organs and in her lymph nodes. I didn’t really feel like dancing that night. I also no longer felt envious of Lynn Lee.
At this point Lynn chose to go on an oral form of chemotherapy. She started on a small dose and gradually increased the dosage. For some time she tolerated the treatment very well. She was able to care for her family and do some of the things she enjoyed. We all felt a miracle could still happen. But as time went on, Lynn’s treatments intensified, and the cancer continued to grow. Lynn made it known to her doctors that her main purpose in life now was to care for her family. With all the talents and interests that Lynn had, when it came down to what really mattered, she chose to spend what little energy she had left on her family. It was now her time and season to cut out all the extras and get down to the basics. We all have times and seasons. Ours will probably not be the same as our neighbors. It’s not up to us to question why others do not have the same lot in life. Only the Lord knows everyone’s timetable.
So many people cared about Lynn that when she could no longer care for her house and family there was more than enough help offered. As I searched for a way to show my support I decided to help with her older children who were home with her in the afternoons. One day a week I brought in something to entertain them. Often the kids were already busy so I just visited with Lynn. By this time she had pretty well accepted the fact that she was dying. She had lost most of her hair from chemotherapy, she was thin as a skeleton from malnutrition and still the tumors grew. Their large size in her abdomen made her look five months pregnant.
During this time in my life things were not going great for my family. My husband had lost his job and had started his own business. The business had its ups and downs but lately it had just been down. Financially we were in a desperate situation with no hope in sight.
As I visited with Lynn she talked of her hopes and dreams for her family without her. She hoped her husband would remarry and felt her family would be just fine. She also talked a lot about dying. She told me of times that she had prayed to be taken immediately. Her pain was so intense she felt she could bear it no longer. We talked of enduring to the end and of the Lord’s timetable. At this time once again I found myself envious of Lynn. I know it sounds silly, but she saw an end to her pain. She knew it wouldn’t be long until her life was over and her pain was ended. Mine seemed to have no end in sight. As I prayed and pondered these things I realized that we are all given tests of enduring to the end. Sometimes it’s enduring to the end of our life, but more often it is enduring to the end of each test, whether large or small.
The holiday season was coming and our stake choir was preparing for the annual Christmas fireside. Before Lynn’s illness she was a constant supporter of the choir. During Lynn’s surgery and recovery we missed her greatly. For brief periods Lynn had felt well enough to come back to choir, but she had not sung with the same gusto and surety in her voice. The disease had taken a great toll on her. This season Lynn was greatly on the minds of all the choir members. Mary, our choir director, kept us posted on Lynn’s condition and events in her life. As we prepared for a joyous Christmas celebration we felt a sad emptiness knowing that Lynn may never sing with the choir again.
One day Lynn asked a favor of me. She had borrowed a baby swing from her friend Cindy and while using it the seat had become torn. Lynn asked if I could repair it. I told her I would and took the swing home but I wasn’t really sure what I would do about it. Cindy was expecting another baby, but the swing was very old and I wasn’t sure if she wanted to use it again. Also Cindy was a very talented seamstress. I didn’t know if I could do as good a mending job as she could. I thought maybe I would talk to Cindy and see what she wanted done with it. The thought also crossed my mind that now that Lynn had given the swing to me maybe she would no longer worry about it. But she did! Every time I saw her she asked if I had fixed the torn swing. I wasn’t sure what I would do, or how I would find time in my schedule to do it. What a busy season to worry about a baby swing for a child that wasn’t due until March!
One day I got a phone call from Lynn. She needed one last favor. A water pipe had broken in her house flooding almost the entire thing. No one had heard the water running, while they slept, over the noise of Lynn’s oxygen machine. Her husband had ripped the carpet out of their room so she could walk around on a dry floor before he left for work. She needed someone to come get everything up off the floor. I called a few sisters in the ward to come and give me a hand. As we went about rescuing wet toys, clothes and blankets from the flood Lynn rested. She seemed a little sicker and frailer that day so we tried to let her sleep. Before I left I asked if she needed anything else. “No,” she said weakly, “But have you fixed the swing yet?” Why was this swing so important to her? It was as if this was the one last loose end she needed to tie up in this life.
“I have a day set aside next week to do some mending,” I answered. “I promise I’ll do it then.”
I don’t know why I woke up early that Saturday morning, I had intended to sleep in. Everyone else was still sleeping, and I had a million holiday preparations, but I decided to start mending the swing. Somehow I felt an urgency to get it finished and back to Lynn. It mended a lot nicer than I thought it would and I was finished by the time my family awakened. I decided to take it right over to Lynn. The same urgency prompted me not to wait until my normal visit later in the week.
When I went to the door Lori, Lynn’s sister, answered. “Lynn slipped into a coma this morning,” Lori said softly.
“She asked me to mend this baby swing,” I explained. She asked me about it everytime I came, I think it was important to her.”
“Come in and show it to her. I don’t know if she can hear us, but if it was important to her maybe she will know it is done”
I came in and looked at Lynn. Her once long and beautiful hair now stuck up in small pieces from the top of her head. Her face, that at one time had been round and robust, showed every bone of her skull. Her arms and legs, that had propelled her jogging and swimming, lay thin and lifeless on the bed. Her abdomen, which held the constantly growing tumor, was the only part of her body that wasn’t thin and emaciated.
“I brought the swing,” I said lamely. “It came together very well. It’s all mended and I’ll give it to Cindy for you.” I held it up as if she could see. Why hadn’t I mended the swing earlier, when she really could see it? But, maybe she could hear me, I thought. Maybe she did know that I had fixed it and felt some comfort. I realized then that when the spirit prompts, listen and respond. Sometimes there isn’t time to put the prompting off.
That night was our Primary Board Christmas Party at Cindy’s house. I took her the repaired swing, satisfied that I had upheld my commitment to one of Lynn’s last requests. Cindy took the swing and thanked me, having no idea why I chose this time to bring it to her. As we waited for everyone to arrive Cindy and I spoke of Lynn’s condition. Later that evening a call came that Lynn had passed away. The party turned into a melancholy gathering. It wasn’t exactly the holiday celebration we expected, but it was good to be around friends who knew and loved Lynn as we mourned our loss.
Sunday, at church and at home, it seemed as if I was only going through the motions. I knew that Lynn’s time was near, and yet when it actually happened it was so hard! I was glad that it was our stake music fireside that night. Keeping busy seemed to be the best remedy to my ceaseless thoughts. I arrived at choir and was heartened to see many friends. We practiced a few songs, but my heart just wasn’t in it. Then Mary stopped us. “Lynn Lee passed away last night,” Mary announced. “I was with her when she left this earth, and I want you to know that it was a very spiritual experience.” Mary then recounted her story of sitting at the bedside with Lynn’s family and being with her as she drew her last breaths. Tears that had been restrained now flowed freely. We all sat in silence, feeling each other’s grief, until Mary said, “Now lets sing for Lynn!” New energy filled my soul! We would sing our praises to the Lord. Our friend had left this earth, but her spirit was still in our midst. We were determined to give a performance that Lynn would be proud of.
“One small child in a land of a thousand,” we sang. “Cover him, Joseph,” and “Oh holy night,” rang from our lips. We sang of Christ’s birth, and the spirit testified that He lived. We sang of Christ’s life and we received further witness. We sang of Christ’s death and we knew that His sacrifice was for us. We sang like we never had before, and we knew that through Christ, Lynn, and all of us, would live again. Mary often said that if we did our part in preparing our music, angels would attend us where we lacked. Angels certainly were with us that night, and perhaps one was a woman who no longer suffered the pain of the world. Perhaps one of them had a beautiful alto voice that had been silent and unused for some time. Perhaps one of them was free of pain for the first time in many months.
When someone dies at such a young age, Lynn died two months shy of her 32nd birthday, it’s only natural that we ask why. Only the Lord knows why Lynn had such a short earthly mission, but we can wonder. Perhaps Lynn’s family or friends needed to have this experience for their growth and development. Maybe her untimely passing has had an effect on the many acquaintances that knew and admired Lynn. Perhaps her mission was complete or she was needed more in the spirit world. And maybe, just maybe, there was an empty seat in the heavenly choir that only she could fill.
I had been seriously wronged. I had done nothing to deserve the kind of
treatment I had received, and I was hurt.
After my husband had an extended period of unemployment I had reluctantly
returned to work, even though I still had small children at home. I was happy to find an employment situation
that provided childcare so that my children could be near. I felt this was the ideal job situation. I was wrong.
At first I had a very good working relationship with my supervisor. As time progressed, however, she made some
decisions that impacted me negatively.
When I protested the decisions she made some accusations of me that made
it impossible for me to continue to work with her. Fortunately during my short employment my
husband’s job situation improved. My
income allowed us to get back on our feet and I was happy that I was now in a
position to quit my job and stay home with my children.
I tried to put my unhappy memories behind me and forget
about the past, but there was one problem.
My supervisor happened to be a member of my stake (a large congregation
for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). I dreaded seeing her at stake events. Fortunately she did not attend many events
and I rarely saw her. I knew as time
progressed that I would heal, but it wasn’t happening very fast. I felt increasingly resentful toward my
former supervisor and started feeling paranoid that I would see her face to
face. Then the dreams started. It was always the same. I was at the stake building for some kind of
event or meeting. Somehow I became aware
that “she” was there. Fear struck my
heart. I couldn’t let her see me! I would spend the rest of the dream hiding
from her so she didn’t see me. If she
couldn’t see me she couldn’t have any power over me. I would always wake up in terror, and then,
after a few minutes, realize how silly I was being. Why couldn’t I get over this?
About a year after my employment ended I realized I wasn’t
getting over this devastating situation as quickly as I had hoped I would. I still had deep resentment for this woman. At this point I started to wonder if I should
forgive her. One day I heard a radio
commentator talk about forgiveness. “Why
should you forgive someone who hasn’t asked to be forgiven? Forgiveness should be predicated on whether
or not the person who did the wrong has repented,” he reasoned.
Was this true? Did my
former supervisor only deserve forgiveness if she asked for it? After all I had been genuinely wronged. Why should I forgive someone who wasn’t even
repentant for what she had done? For several
months I mulled these thoughts around in my head. I prayed for relief for the anxiety I felt
and the dreams I was experiencing. I
realized that I wasn’t thinking about it all of the time as I once had, but the
dreams continued and the hurt was still there.
One day I realized I hadn’t gone to the scriptures for the answer to my
question about forgiveness. I didn’t do
an extensive search for scriptures on forgiveness, maybe it was easier to just
assume I didn’t have to forgive without an apology, but I did start to notice
scriptures that talked about repentance and forgiveness. At first they all seemed to prove my theory
that the transgressor must ask for repentance.
The burden seemed to be on them to cry for forgiveness and confess their
sins. I knew we were required to forgive
those who asked for forgiveness, but I had come across nothing that said we
must forgive without repentance. I had
just about convinced myself that I was completely justified to withhold my
Then one day I was reading the Doctrine and Covenants and
came to section 64 verse 10, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive,
but of you it is required to forgive all men.”
Uh, oh. This seemed to be
contrary to what I had come to believe.
I began to search the surrounding verses for more information. Surely there must be one that said you must
forgive all men, but only if they ask for forgiveness. I didn’t get much help reading forward in the
section so I began to backtrack. When I
read the proceeding verse, verse 9, it was as if it had been written
specifically for me. “Wherefore, I say
unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his
brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth
in him the greater sin.” Was I
committing the greater sin by not forgiving?
As quickly as I had asked myself the question I knew the answer. All those months I had been unsure if I was
required to forgive, but now I knew.
Forgiveness is not for the transgressor; forgiveness is for the person
that has been wronged. When we forgive
we are empowered over those who have wronged us. When we hold onto resentment we give them
power over us. Forgiveness is the power
to heal. Suddenly everything that had
been so unsure for all these months was crystal clear.
Knowing I must forgive was easy, doing it was not. This was not the end of my quest, but the
beginning. I studied, prayed and thought
about the situation a lot. Gradually I
found that I rarely thought about the hurt, and when I did it didn’t hurt quite
so much. But the dreams continued. I didn’t get them quite as often, but they
About two years after my employment ended our stake had a
special day in the temple, a full day of temple attendance. My husband and I had been unable to attend
the sessions early in the day, but we did come for the evening chapel session. We dressed in our temple clothes, walked into
the chapel, happily greeting friends that we saw, and took a seat. I sat peacefully enjoying the beautiful music
and the company of those I was fond of when it happened. My dream came true. My former supervisor walked into the row in
front of me and sat directly in front of me.
“She’s so close,” was my first thought, “that I could reach up and wring
her neck!” I wanted to scream! I wanted to run and hide! Why now!
Why here! Then the thought
came to me, “Why not here?” What better
place to get over my negative feelings.
What better place to really forgive.
I don’t know if my former employer saw me there that
day. She left the room ahead of us, and
never looked behind to see me. I don’t know
if it would have made any difference if she had. But I do know that a change come over me that
day. I realized that she is just a woman
with faults, as we all had. I realized
that I could let the hurt go, and leave her alone to deal with her problems. I realized I could forgive. I know that the healing did end that day and
my forgiveness was complete. After that
day in the temple I never had the dreaded dream again.
For a spooky good deal, check out Amazon’s free e-book deal of my book. Three days only, Oct. 31st to Nov. 2nd. There are some string attached, so watch out for those, but if you know how to work a deal this one may be for your. Check out the link below.