I've been having quite a week, and did not think I could do the topic assigned to me the justice it deserved. For too long I've lacked faith in myself. For too long I've been trying to smother my light so I wouldn't have to shine. My Heavenly Father has blessed me with so many gifts, but I've felt so uninspired when it comes to using them.
A friend, whose insights I have come to soundly respect, and I have been discussing some of my fears and frustrations, in particular my wish to continue creating but lacking inspiration and desire to do so. He said I sounded like a pen with no ink. In that instant I could see myself scratching against a piece of paper in the hopes of dragging out any last bit of ink, but there hasn't been anything there. He told me I needed a refill, and this weekend I have received a beautiful answer to all my prayers in the form of the talk I gave today. I would like to share this talk with you, and I invite you to send it on to anyone you feel could benefit from the message I was given. This is deeply personal, and will probably bring up some difficult feelings for those who were also involved, but I know this message needs to be passed along.
You should know when I mention the Bishop in the first sentence, it's my hubby :)
The Bishop and I have been talking a lot about the subject upon which I have been asked to speak to you today. These last several months have not been easy on our ward, and we’ve been praying for a message that will help strengthen and uplift those who are even now in the midst of suffering.
We all have trials, unique to each individual, some of which the Lord asks us to endure knowing full well they will never be more than we can carry and will bring with them lessons that cannot be learned in any other way. Other trials we bring upon ourselves or are thrust upon us due to the choices of others. When this happens the Lord is there to sustain and uplift us if we will but turn to Him. He will
grant unto us additional might to endure, in the hopes we will never turn that
No matter which way these trials come upon us, the Lord is there. Too often we forget, thinking we know better, and despair because we feel abandoned, hurt, or punished. To any of you who have felt something remotely close to this I share a message of hope.
In the April 2005 General Conference Elder David A. Bednar spoke of a truth Dave and I have been reminded of recently, and many of you have heard us speak of: The Tender Mercies of the Lord.
“The tender mercies of the Lord are real and they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.”
As I thought back to some of the toughest times of my life, one in particular stuck out in my mind. Most of you were here the year our first son was born and then died barely an hour later. I know this experience was a tragedy, yet when I look back on it my heart fills with gratitude. It was one of the hardest, yet greatest times of my life.
I firmly believe that when we actively look for and willingly recognize the tender mercies of the Lord, our deepest sorrows can be turned to our greatest joys. When we recognize the hand of the Lord, especially in our harshest trials, we can see ourselves being gently led toward higher truths.
With your indulgence, I’d like to share some of my experience during that time, as well as some of the things I’ve learned because of it.
I went into labor in the early morning hours of the baby’s due date. M____ was sent over to Grandma W____’s house around nine or ten when we determined to head into the hospital. I remember hoping they wouldn’t tell me it was indigestion and send me back home. Fortunately they didn’t.
In no time at all I was appropriately dressed in one of those becoming hospital gowns, all the right sensors in place, watching the little heartbeat of our son on the monitor to my left. I was a little distressed as my regular doctor would be in meetings all morning long, but his partner would be available when the time came.
As my labor progressed the nurses began to worry. With each contraction the heartbeat of my baby would dip. This had happened as well with M____ so I didn’t think too much of it. There were other concerns as well, but in my agony and excitement I didn’t pay them much heed. The hours went by in this manner, my parents and older brother in attendance, all our attitudes happy and anxious.
Things went slowly enough for my regular doctor to finish his last meeting and he was able to attend me. I eventually felt it was time for the baby to come, my family exited, and I began to push. It didn’t take too long before this tiny, scrawny baby was placed on my chest. Two things jumped out to me at once.
First was the color of our child. All babies don’t exactly come out looking pretty. Our
son was too gray, too dark. The second thing was when he tried to cry. I can still hear his fervent attempts to take in a breath, to make a noise, and all that came out was this tiny squeak. As I tried to take all this in the nurse whipped the oxygen mask off my face and placed it over his, but his skin wasn’t pinking up. She grabbed him, towel and all, told my husband to follow, and left the room.
I was left alone to wonder and wait for word that all was well, though a part of me knew this was not so. The nurses and my doctor were busy all around me, but I was hardly aware of their presence. I went through many silent prayers, hoping against hope all would be well. Into my mind a quiet voice broke through.
“Everything will be okay,” it said.
I heaved a sigh of relief. “Everything will be okay,” I thought. “My son will be fine. We’ll get to take him home. M____ will get to see her baby brother. Everything will be fine.”
“No,” came the voice again. So gentle. So quiet. Yet so firm. “No. But everything will be okay.”
My doctor went to check on what was going on, and my mother came in to sit with me. Neither of us said a word, but thanked those who kept us in the loop. At last I was told I needed to come with the doctor to visit my son, that it just didn’t look good.
During this time my husband watched with an aching father’s heart all that the paramedics did to try and help our son live. What he witnessed I cannot imagine, but I am grateful that since his own father couldn’t stand there with him, that my own father and older brother were able to be there in his stead.
It wasn’t long before my mother and I joined them. Dr. Jung, the physician taking care of my baby, knelt by my wheelchair and told me the little guy wasn’t going to make it. I nodded, knowing this already, but not able to stop my heart from breaking. They took the wires off his body and the tube from his throat, wrapped him in a
blanket, and placed him in my arms.
At that moment my husband, my father, and my older brother laid their hands on this little baby’s head, gave him a name and sealed him to our family. For several seconds after not a sound was heard in that room besides gentle weeping.
How, might you ask, can such an experience be termed as great, uplifting, life affirming, and testimony building? How, might you ask, can I look back at this tragic event and say I have come out the better for it?
I testify to you now that throughout this entire experience, and even before and after it happened, I was blessed by the tender mercies of my Lord.
A particular woman who lived in the ward at the time felt strongly inspired to befriend me a few weeks before my due date. She herself had had a traumatic experience with the birth of her first child, and talked to me in depth about it. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this was the first of many blessings. Allow me to share with you more.
I hadn’t had a desire to buy a lot of clothes nor really set up his room as I had for M____. I didn’t feel the need to prepare for this new child.
I was given my own doctor to be there. It could have been a stranger who delivered my baby. Instead I had the comfort of a man I was familiar with, who had become in many ways a friend.
I had most of my family there to support me.
I heard a voice. It wasn’t a figment of my imagination. Into my mind came a voice so clear I could not deny the truth of what it told me.
At the time our baby was taken away, four paramedics had flown in from Primary Children’s Medical Center on a delivery, and had decided to wait around for a bit. I have never believed this happened by chance. Just as I never believed the leading neonatologist in the state of Utah happened to be attending there at the hospital.
I was blessed by those who came to visit. The friend I had made during the previous
weeks heard what had happened, was inspired to get me a gift, and presented me
with a beautiful picture that sits in our living room to this day. She has remained a true sister to me ever since. Bishop H____ and his wife came to see us. He and my sweet husband bestowed a very special blessing upon me at that time from my Heavenly Father. We were given insight into this special spirit that had been bestowed upon our family, as well as knowledge that there were more spirits waiting to come here to earth and join us.
I healed quickly. There was so much pain in my heart, but my body did not suffer. In mere days I was feeling almost back to normal.
Brother N___ was there to help my husband arrange the funeral for our son. Words cannot possibly express our gratitude for this gentle giant, whose job at the funeral home helps to guide and bless those who are grieving.
So many came to the funeral, even many we didn’t expect. One of the nurses from the hospital came, so touched was she by all that had happened.
My mother recorded and then typed up every word spoken during the funeral. We have read them over and over again, and have found increased comfort even after all these years.
We had a beautiful little girl upon whom we could shower love upon, a little girl who at the time gave us comfort and returned our love tenfold.
Another nurse from the hospital called us every once in a while to check up on us, so touched was she by the entire experience.
Gifts of money, many of them anonymous, were given to help pay off many of our bills and to help buy the headstone for our little guy.
Extraordinarily enough, I could go on. We were blessed. Yet in my heart there are two things in particular that stand out.
The first, that my husband and I were blessed to be members of a church where true knowledge of the Plan of Salvation is known. I cannot begin to tell you what it means to me, what inspiration and motivation I attain, every time I think that so long as I strive to do all that is right in the sight of the Lord, this little boy will forever be a member of my family. I cannot being to explain what feelings of intense joy and hope I am given when I think that one day I will be able to hold him in my arms again, and raise him in a time of peace. The blessings and hope the Atonement brings to me are
immeasurable. What an extraordinary mercy the Lord has given me with this simple, yet grand knowledge.
The second tender mercy I have come to recognize in the eight years since our baby's passing, is knowing I can be of service to others who have dealt with the loss of a child. Though I cannot know exactly what each individual parent goes through after enduring such a horrific loss, I can say with truth that I understand at least a little of what they’re feeling, and that there’s hope. Hope for healing. Hope for continued life. Hope for continued love. Hope for things we may not even understand at this time.
So now I ask you to look inward. Take a good hard look at the difficulties you are asked to bear in your lives. Whether you’ve been around for five years, fifteen years, fifty years or more, look at the things you are asked to bear in your lives. But do not dwell on the hard parts. Instead, look for the tender mercies. They may be small, but even small things are made great in the hands of the Lord. Don’t discount even the small things.
Elder Bednar tells us: “The Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.”
These blessings are there for all who choose to look for them, yet too often we’re focused too much on trial itself, or don’t believe such blessings are for us. We discount them as coincidences, nothing more. Believe me as I say God is waiting for the
chance to pour out his mercy upon us, if we will only look toward Him. He loves
us more than we can ever comprehend in our limited mortal existence. Even if we
mess up a little, or a lot, He is standing by with open arms ready for us to come to Him.
As Elder Bednar stated: “We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”
I bear you my testimony that trials will come to us all. Some of these trials will be big, seemingly more than we can bear. Other trials will feel easier to overcome. Through it all, we must actively look for the tender mercies of the Lord. We have a loving Heavenly Father, and a remarkable brother in the Lord, both of whom know our greatest lessons are learned through our greatest trials. I also bear testimony that when we actively look for the Lord's tender mercies, we will find blessings untold! We will discover they have been showerd upon us, and we will find the strength to continue on, even when the laws of this world say it's time to give up.
The tender mercies of the Lord are all around you, but you must be the one to search them out. This message I leave with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.