Oh, what a life this has been, and continues to be! When I was a little girl, my favorite uncle gave me an assortment of petrified wood and explained to me how water and minerals and time had replaced the living wood. So in my hand I held a bit of what had once been tree, connected to the earth and reaching for the sun; now it had become something as eternal as anything of this world can be. I could see the beauty of that tree and feel the cool strength of the rock.
I was also fascinated by butterflies when I was young: how they start out as something icky [their mamas would probably disagree] and earthbound, and in process of time become gloriously colorful and capable of flying for many miles to reach their goals.
I had made such a mess of my life, in part because I am ridiculously susceptible to alcohol. One sip of wine makes my eardrums burn. I am tipsy on one beer and dancing on the coffee table after three. And I was drinking a lot, that summer of my first divorce. Not an alcoholic, but at the rate I was going it wouldn’t have taken long to get there. [One more reason to love Crazy Aunt Purl’s book Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair. That was me, minus the cats because I was allergic.]
I had been working as a tax auditor trainee for the IRS. My third major college was accounting. [The first two, for the record, were electrical engineering and boys, and psychology and boys.] I had spent six weeks in LA that summer, ostensibly learning how to be a bureaucrat, but in reality hitting the bars with my classmates as soon as the bus let us off at our hotel. I had to take No-Doz during the day to stay awake. Four hours of sleep will do that to you. I am also ridiculously susceptible to caffeine. So my legs would start jumping up and down violently [and audibly] under the table. I finally had to cross one leg over the other and weigh the top knee down with my left hand.
So how did I get from sitting on the back porch at sundown, probably hungover and definitely caffeinated, having read a handful of religious tracts and a profoundly moving testimony of Christ, to where I am today, matriarch of a lovely and lively tribe? It’s simple, really: that book is true. It does not matter what people say who have not bothered to read it, or who have read it trying to disprove it. The book is true. It speaks of Christ more often than the New Testament. It testifies of God’s love for us in providing a Savior. And it has brought me to Christ. My parents laid the foundation, in terms of example, and God has built me a whole new life, and it is good.
I would never have had the courage to raise two children, let alone five, without a faith that sustained me. How our parents raised my sister and me to be decent, productive individuals without family scripture study, family prayer, some semblance of family home evening, is beyond my comprehension.
Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was the keystone of our religion. If the Book of Mormon is true [and it is], then Joseph Smith was a prophet [and he was]. I sat on the back porch that August evening in 1975 and asked God if the book were true [following through on the promise that if you pray with an honest heart, you will get a clear answer]. And I did. Clearly and unmistakably and undeniably, I did. God spoke to my heart in words that had meaning for me, and I knew He was there and that He loved me, and that His Son really had given His life for me, and that They wanted to help me. They knew me.
Ten days later, I was baptized by the professor who had saved my life. Two years later, he and his wife drove 400 miles to go through the temple with me when I married the children’s father. Going on 33 years later, I still believe. Like water seeping into wood, the doctrines that I cherish have penetrated my stony heart, rendered me capable of love and loyalty and faith, and blessed me to endure. Like the chrysalis that protects the caterpillar as it becomes capable of flight, the covenants I have made with God, beginning at baptism and continuing in His house, have been a blessing and a protection to me. Every week when I take the sacrament, I renew my baptismal covenants and gain strength for the week ahead.
The best things in life are not our houses, our cars, our jewelry, our stuff; the best things are those which some call intangible or unprovable. I testify to you that they are nonetheless real.
Before I had my gall bladder out in 2001, I went to an attorney and wrote out my will to protect my children. I will be blissfully unconscious in a few hours; I expect to be my usual feisty self by mid-afternoon. There is a Twix bar on the table behind me, with my name on it. And there are two or three guys that I would like to know better, and I have Middlest’s socks to finish. I don’t have any premonition that This.Is.It.
But just on the off-chance that it is, I want my girls to know how much I love them, and how proud I am of them. I want my sons-in-law to know how delighted I am that two of them are righteous patriarchs in their families, and the third to know how disappointed I am in the choices he has made. I want Fourthborn’s beloved to know how much I love him, and that yes, I would love to knit him a sweater; we’ll talk. And I want my two oldest granddaughters to know how precious they are to me, and how glad I am to have them in my life. And I want the Bitties to know that I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and that Jesus is the Christ, and that they should listen to their Mama and their Papa and follow them and grow up and be good, strong people who love and serve God and their neighbors. And if they both learn to knit, so much the better!
[And if I’m not here to do the asking, would one of you please do Brother Stilts’s temple work, after October? LittleBit would probably be the best choice to contact his family for permission.]
There’s more to my story; I fully expect to share it with you in weeks to come. We now return you to your regularly scheduled knitting. And, oh yeah, be careful out there; you’re important to me. And to Others.