When I picked Henry up after school today the first thing he said to me was, "Mom, I have some bad news." Without hesitation I asked, "What did you do?" I was not prepared for his answer: "Kendall's mom died."
Kendall is a little girl in Henry's class. Her family lives in the apartments we first moved into when we came out to Michigan. She's a funny kid. She'd just show up at our door every once in a while, invite herself in, eat all our food, and talk our ears off. The social worker didn't tell the class exactly what happened to Kendall's mom, only that she died unexpectedly.
Tomorrow will mark 25 years since my dad unexpectedly passed away. I was 7 years old-- Kendall's age. I will never forget planting flowers at the church that one Saturday morning. We were right by the steeple outside the bishop's office. Ben came racing up on his banana seat bike and between breaths called out while waving his arms, "Hurry up! Dad just had a heart attack!" I couldn't have known what a heart attack was at 7 years of age, but the look on Ben's face told me it wasn't good. As convincing as he was, I quickly replied, "Shut up, Ben!" Ben, like any good big brother, was always teasing us. This was just another one of his jokes, I thought. I was wrong.
The five of us ran after Ben's bike, down the hill and then up the big hill leading to our house. When we got to Hammonton, I could see the ambulances and firetrucks parked along the street in front of our house. The next thing I remember is six of us (I don't know where Don was) sitting in the living room with my mom. Bishop Fox walked in. "Children, I am sorry. Your father has passed away."
Dad's death was hard for me. I wasn't sure how to deal with it. I was sad. I cried a lot. I remember being taken down to the office in the middle of school on several occasions because I'd start crying and just couldn't stop. Sometimes I'd wake up at night and just sit outside my mom's door crying. Eventually I'd wake up my mom and she'd come get me. She would hold me and ask me what was wrong. When I didn't answer, she knew. She'd just sit there and hold me until I couldn't cry anymore. Primary was really hard. Those songs we'd sing would just pull at my heartstrings and the floodgates would burst right open.
Every once in a while those sad feelings creep back in. I don't remember much of my dad. For a long time if I concentrated hard enough I could replay his voice in my head. That's gone now. Most of my "memories" of him are borrowed from my mom, my siblings, and cousins. I do remember that he loved me, though. I guess feelings are harder to forget.
Perhaps it was one of the Lord's tender mercies that Nephi speaks about in the Book of Mormon that Dad died just after Easter. As much as I wish he was here, I know he is not really gone. He is very much alive. I have felt his presence on a handful of occasions. I know he is very mindful of the family he left behind on earth. At the same time, I know he is very busy, engaged in the work of the Lord on the other side of the veil.
How grateful I am for a loving Heavenly Father and His great Plan of Salvation. How grateful I am for my Savior; for his sacrifice that will allow me, through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, to live with them and my family for eternity. I know with absolute certainty that I will see Dad again. I am sealed to him. He is my father and I am his daughter forever.
My heart aches for Kendall and her family. As hard as it was losing my dad, I really think losing my mom would have been harder. It's a tough road their family faces. I pray that they will be comforted and have the strength, the faith, whatever they need to get through this. If you have a minute, I would ask whoever reads this to do the same. Thank you.
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