For the past 13 months this post has been stirring in my heart. I actually went to post it on one of my other blogs nearly a year ago, and it just didn't feel right. I have considered sending it in to the Ensign. I have thought it should be a letter to a few specific individuals. A person close to the situation suggested I write a book. I have almost come to the conclusion that it's not to be made public at all. None of it has felt right, and so, I have stored it in my heart and waited.
This morning as I was washing bottles at my sink, it hit me, without a doubt, that I was to post it now, and post it here. I claim no doctrinal authority, practical know how for others, or anything really, other than this it what happened for me and it changed my entire life. It changed my soul and the way I look at everything.
As I share this, I ask that you make an effort to refrain from making judgments and inferences about my parents, and their actions, that I have not stated. They are not pertinent to your understanding what I hope to share, and I would greatly appreciate it. It is my intent to honor my parents always, and in all ways. I hope I have done that here.
I grew up in a “perfect mormon family”. Mom and Dad went to BYU, fell in love, got married, had 5 children, canned food, built dehydrators bigger than refrigerators, had a garden to rival church welfare farms, went to church each Sunday, held “prominent” callings, and in general, we just did everything that one might expect from the typical mormon family back in the 70's and 80's.
Yep, it was picture perfect. That is until the permasmiles came off, and the doors were closed. I didn't feel safe, protected, cared for, or loved. There were many times that I tried to talk to church leaders and others that I trusted. I was always met with disbelief. You see, we had the “perfect mormon family”. That we did, by all outside perceptions, we certainly did. There was no help, no refuge.There was nothing.
Eventually, my parents divorced and a whole new world of uncertainty and fear ensued. Due to many things surrounding the divorce, and how things were dealt with, I felt very much like a child without a home or parents at all. My early adolescent and tween/teen years were particularly difficult for me. Add all the garbage going on at home and I wasn't sure I wanted parents at all.
I left the nest early, got a job, and moved into an apartment for my senior year of high school. I did my best to stay in touch with my siblings while maintaining distance from parental relationships.
I honestly can't tell you how long I went without speaking to one of my parents. By not speaking I mean; not invited to my farewell when I left on my mission, not invited to my wedding or mentioned on the invitations, not notified when I had babies, you know, that kind of not speaking. It was many years, at least 12. I didn't go around talking about this person and expecting anyone else to join my path. I simply lived my life as though this person did not exist. I believed that I had forgiven, forgotten, and moved on.
Well, the Lord knows all, and I didn't know His all. I was about to learn.
I was a young mother, with 3 children aged 4 and under. My husband serves in the Coast Guard, and was away (as is common in our life) for terrorist attack training ops (operations). It was Halloween night and he forgot to call. He always calls, unless previously telling me he won't be able to, he always calls. Another night goes by and another. I call his command. They don't know, they can't reach him either. I am certain something awful has happened. I am almost certain he is dead. He would have called. He always calls, every night.
I am going through the motions of life with my children in some sort of strange fog. My heart is tearing apart inside my chest and I can't breath. I can hardly go two minutes without praying. There are no answers coming. Do you hear me Heavenly Father? I sought a good friend and confided in her. Although she was loving and kind and helped to ease some of my, and my children's, temporal needs at the time, I was a mess.
I asked a worthy priesthood holder for a blessing. Surely I will get some answers. Surely there will be something definite in the blessing that I can hold onto. It was a typical blessing. I was searching, listening more intently than I ever had in my life, seeking His words, and His will, with a fervency I didn't know I had in me. Nothing. And then it came. “You know what to do. Forgive your ___.”
The person giving me the blessing had no knowledge, at all, about any of my past. There is no way this was anything but divine, and I felt it. I knew it. Like I have not known anything else in my life, even the truthfulness of the church, I knew. I knew the Lord wanted me to forgive and He was right by my side. Instantaneously: anger, fear, hatred, the need for self preservation and protection, all of it, left my heart. I had no idea these things were there until they were removed from me. After the children were in bed for the night, I typed a letter.
I have recently had an experience which lead me to the undeniable conclusion that life is too short for anything but love and goodwill for all. In the past I have not included you in my description of “all”. I would like that to change.
I have no interest in rehashing the things of the past. I am very much interested in starting from today and moving forward.
I would also like to apologize to you for any pain you have felt because of my choosing to remove myself from our relationship.
I would like my kids to know you. I would also like to send you our annual Christmas letter as well as occasional e-mail updates, if it’s okay. I don’t have any pictures of you and it would be nice to add one to our fridge of relatives so the boys and Ellie can become familiar with your face.
I realize that I am only half of the equation and I will respect whatever you choose to do. I hope to hear from you.
I sent the letter with a joyful peace in my heart and a full understanding that the results were not nearly as important as what had already transpired.
The next day, I spent some time with the aforementioned friend. It was a welcome reprieve from all I had been going through. As I drove home, I felt a sense of peace come over me. I did not feel that my husband was alive, or even that all would be well. I just felt peace, for the first time in days. I uttered a silent prayer, “Okay Heavenly Father. If it is your will that Sam is dead and I am to raise these children on my own, then so be it. Let's get on with it.”
For the first time in my life, I truly knew what it felt like to give my will over to His, and it felt really good. Even though I was certain my husband was dead and I had a tough road ahead, I knew it would all be okay, because it wasn't my plan, it was His.
When I got home and heard the familiar beep of the message alert on the phone, my heart skipped a beat. Could it be? I hoped and prayed that it would. I pressed play and fell to the floor sobbing as I heard my husband's voice.
The answer I was seeking only came after I learned what I needed to learn. It wasn't fun, but I wouldn't change it for anything.
About 1 week later I received a phone call in reply to my letter. It was as though nothing had ever happened and yet everything had. I now have a beautiful relationship with this parent and my children's lives are greatly enriched by the addition in their lives.
It makes no sense on any level other than spiritual. There is not a self help book out there, or sane psychologist, that would offer this type of advice without strict warnings, guidelines, and boundaries. It makes no sense to the mind, and yet, it worked perfectly.
There is a book, the best self help book ever, that does say, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. D&C 64:10 That scripture has taken on a whole new meaning in my life. We are perfected in Him.
I see things differently since that experience from 7 years ago. I realize on a very deep and healing level, that my parents are not evil an did not mean any harm. This earth life is a curious journey and we each get to take our individual circumstances and do the best that we can with them.
I operate from a much different place now. It is a place of security that does not come from earthly sources, such as parents and other relationships. It comes from full recognition and realization that I am a daughter of God. It is a place in my soul that can not be touched by things that are not of divine source. Nothing that happens, nor any person, can take it away from me. I get to decide what I will do with each moment of my life. Circumstance, no matter how dire, cannot be to blame. If it is, then I do not learn and grow and become closer to God.
It is a wonderful place to be. I can accept each of my parents for who they are, what they do, how they live, and what they have to offer me, even if it is different than I had once envisioned. Most importantly, I accept that they are just as much children of God as I am. I can't take that away from them nor can they take it from me. I am not a victim if I do not choose to be.
In the end, I suppose my “perfect mormon family” was more perfect for me than I knew. It was, of course, during the worst of times, that I was given the best of things. My knowledge of the gospel, and sense of dedication to the church, were born in those days of outward perfection. For that I am truly and eternally grateful. Thanks Mom and Dad!
I do not pretend to offer advice, or claim that I have a step by step plan to forgiveness. If my experience touches you in someway, then I guess maybe that's why I felt that now was the time, and here was the place, to offer this part of me.
All comments are welcome.