16 April 2019

Whole Again

During a recent area conference at my church, Kevin J. Hathaway, one of our general authority seventies from Salt Lake, gave the most magnificent speech, centering on not focusing so much on good things that we sacrifice the best things.

One of the really good things in my life I thought of as he spoke is Ride the Rockies, a seven-day bicycle ride across the state via a different route every year. I've done Ride the Rockies and other charity rides that hog up a Sunday morning many times. Ride the Rockies is a really good thing, but I should not sacrifice something very good for my soul for something that is very good for my body. I smiled inside as I listened because I often left before dark when riding on Sundays so I could make it to church on time. I've attended church in my sweaty bicycle gear, with my bike parked in the lobby vestibule, twice so far because I did not finish the ride in time to clean up and change.

Elder Hathaway read from the Book of Mormon, the verses about Nephi building a ship, not as the world builds a ship, but as the Lord taught him to build a ship. He changed the words to parents building a family, not as the world builds a family, but as the Lord builds a family. Teaching our children about the gospel and how to choose right from wrong is every bit as important as spending Sundays doing family things you can't do during the rest of the week because of school and work.

Tears were streaming down my cheeks because I tried so hard with my kids. Back in the '90s, I adopted two older special-needs children, one of them alone, as a single parent. I adopted them thinking I had enough patience, consistency and love to heal anything. It didn't take long to realize I cannot heal everything. Both kids took permanent unauthorized field trips in 2002. (They ran away.) Both returned to the lifestyles of their birth families, and both have been through the wringer more than once due to choices they have made. Both face consequences with the potential to haunt them the rest of their lives.

I am stronger now than I was then, and I know so much more now than I knew then. My parents did the best job they could with us, but I was not raised in a gospel-oriented environment. As a parent, I tried to make my own home as close to gospel-oriented as I could, based on what I knew then. And yet, my children strayed. Far. In my head during that recent Sunday morning, I was confessing to God - yet again - I did my best but failed.

Suddenly a sweet, peaceful feeling swept over me. I felt as if He had wrapped His arm around me as He whispered, "I know." I didn't hear a voice, but I felt it, deep inside. It pierced my heart. For the first time, I felt as if I don't have to beat myself up over the way I raised my children anymore.

Both my kids have the right to make their own choices, just as I did when I was growing up. I did not always choose what my parents wanted, and my kids are no different. They have had to learn some things the hard way, just as I did when I was young.

At the very end of Elder Hathaway's talk, he spoke of a vacation with his family on a beach, where the waves were incredible. He said they were all body boarding, which I did not know was a thing. He said he was out on a wave that grew super high, and he realized and felt at the same time he probably should not do that again.

He swam back to the shore, and when he turned, he saw his son and his son's cousin get swallowed up in the waves and carried out to the ocean. He immediately dove in to try to rescue them but realized as he was fighting the waves he could save only one, and his skills were not strong enough for him to do even that. The cousin was the closest to him, so he tried to make his way to the cousin, wondering the whole time who would save his son. He had to fight the waves for a long time, at times thinking both of them would drown, but he managed to get the cousin to shore safely. As he looked back out onto the water, he saw a lifeguard bringing his son to shore.

"After we have done all we can to teach and protect our children, sometimes we have to trust that Heavenly Father will be there when we can't reach our children, and just be ready to try to save those who are within our reach," Elder Hathaway said. I was absolutely bawling my eyes out because of what I'd already felt, but now, in addition, I realized the teenagers I worked with at the residential treatment center, the young girls I taught for seven years, my neighbor's children, and even my daughter's kids and their siblings, are all now within my reach. Although I don't feel as if I'm that much of an influence on my kids anymore, I can still try to teach and be a good influence, and perhaps that's exactly what I'm supposed to be doing.

Elder Hathaway said if we keep our covenants, pray always and continually try to help and serve those within our reach, the Lord will provide a "lifeguard" to help and serve those outside our reach. Our Heavenly Father loves my children even more than I do, and He will not forget them.

The best part of all this whole experience was that Lizard was sitting right next to me in the church. He had not been able to go to church with me at all the last two years while he was working, and then when he retired in December, he was having such a difficult time sitting still (thanks to Parkinson's), it had taken him weeks to feel like he could control his tremors just long enough to sit through two hours of church with me.

After we got back in the car, we talked about why I had been crying. He thought I was agonizing and grieving over my kids again, as he had seen me do many times during the last 15 years. He was quite touched by what I'd felt and remarked the experience is something neither of us will ever forget.

When we got home, my daughter had called and left a message asking what song she, my son and I had sung in church - "A Child's Prayer." I sent her a link to the YouTube video, and she immediately posted it on Facebook, telling everyone she sang it in church with her family, and that she hoped everyone would like it. I commented on her post that she'll have to teach it to her daughter, and she said she would. I told her she will have to learn the mother's part now (which I sang when we sang it together), and she said that will be the hardest part, but that she will do it.

I've had some amazing days in my life. The day I adopted each of my children after a childless decade. The day Lizard popped the question, and 10 days later when we tied the knot. The day I made it to the top of Independence Pass after feeling my brother, my sister and my brother-in-law encouraging me not to give up from the other side of the veil. The day my parents reached their golden anniversary.

Etched in my memory now for the remainder of my life is the day I felt my Savior's love so strong, it healed a wound I thought was permanent.


  1. So touching.... wow!this touched me, but the lifeguard part - just wow - hugs!!

    1. Thank you, Alycia. That lifeguard part is getting me through thick spots these days...

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, Kathleen. So awesome to "see" you again!


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