Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin left with us a remarkable legacy, including an incomparable conference talk given in October of 2006. Of the life changing events we commemorated on Easter Sunday, he said:
“I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross. Those evil men who sought His life rejoiced. Now that Jesus was no more, surely those who followed Him would disperse. On that day they stood triumphant. On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled. It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God. I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest.”
Each one of us will have our Fridays while here in mortality. I have had mine. For as long as I can remember, I have dreamt of becoming a mother. Whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told them that I wanted to be a mom. Even my college degree in Elementary Education was completed with the primary intent of making me a better mother. Fortunately, I fell in love with a man who had the same dreams of parenthood that I did.
We chose not to delay starting a family after our marriage nearly two years ago. We hoped and prayed that the Lord would bless us with a child. Becoming pregnant proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated and we were thrilled to learn one year ago that we were expecting our little Eli. After a challenging pregnancy, we became a family of three on the fourth of January. The joy Logan and I felt exceeded even our expectations. Eli was absolutely beautiful and appeared to be perfect in every way.
At a mere five weeks old and following an aggressive rash, Eli was hospitalized and diagnosed with an immune deficiency that would begin the fight of his life.
Eli’s diagnosis left me feeling helpless and heartbroken. Every mother’s desire is to protect her children and shelter them from any pain. I felt entirely powerless. In order for Eli to have any chance of survival, we had to submit him to pain and suffering. That realization was devastating.
The words of President Boyd K. Packer bring comfort and perspective during our Fridays. He compares our lives to a three act play:
“There are three parts to the plan. You are in the second or the middle part, the one in which you will be tested by temptation, by trials, perhaps by tragedy. Understand that and you will be better able to make sense of life and to resist the disease of doubt and despair and depression.”
“If you expect to find only ease and peace and bliss during act 2, you surely will be frustrated. You will understand little of what is going on and why things are permitted to be as they are. Remember this! The line ‘And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right. Until you have a broad perspective of the eternal nature of this great drama, you won’t make much sense out of the inequities in life. Some are born with so little and others with so much. Some are born in poverty, with handicaps, with pain, with suffering. Some experience premature death, even innocent children. There are the brutal, unforgiving forces of nature and the brutality of man to man. Do not suppose that God willfully causes that which, for his own purposes, he permits. When you know the plan and purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven.”
I am not here to suggest that I completely understand the plan and purpose of all that Eli had to suffer. However, I do believe with all of my heart that his suffering was not in vain and I know that one day Logan and I will have a perfect understanding of the precious purposes of every day of our son’s brief life. King Benjamin taught this valuable truth:
Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in Heaven and in Earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in Heaven and in Earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
By the time the third act of our life closes, we will comprehend all that the Lord comprehends and we will live happily ever after.
As you know, the majority of Eli’s brief life was spent at the hospital. Logan and I were determined not only to endure his hospital stay but find joy there as well. While we weren’t able to participate in typical new baby activities, we discovered happiness in simple things such as dressing him in a new outfit every morning, watching Jazz games together and capturing his first smiles during our many photo shoots.
Our happiness wasn’t confined to our hospital room. Logan and I were blessed to become acquainted with many extraordinary people during our stay. Some of the finest people I have ever met are the parents of those children who are waging battles similar to Eli’s. These families who are bearing heavy burdens of their own were quick to reach out and make our burdens lighter. We will be forever grateful for their amazing examples of faith and courage.
It takes a special person to serve critically ill children day in and day out. Each of Eli’s caregivers was blessed with exceptional gifts of caring and compassion. These good men and women celebrated each victory with us and grieved every setback. We were never alone. Because of Eli’s need for strict isolation, our family and friends had very restricted visiting privileges. As a result, the hospital staff became our family.
Elder Uchtdorf reminds us:
"We shouldn't wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover that happiness was already available--all the time! Life is not meant to be appreciated only in retrospect...there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it."
The greatest lesson I learned during our hospital stay is how much we are all known and loved by our Heavenly Father. It is sometimes easy to forget God during the sunny days of our lives but when the storms rage around us, we find our knees and plead for understanding and miracles. Survivors of the Willie and Martin handcart company expressed the feelings of my heart when they said:
“The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay.”
Perhaps the darkest of our Fridays occurred one week ago when Logan and I made the decision to say goodbye to our precious baby. Despite our knowledge of a glorious reunion one day with Eli, separation is excruciating.
Returning to Elder Wirthlin, I quote:
I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest. But the doom of that day did not endure. The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind.
And in an instant the eyes that had been filled with ever-flowing tears dried. The lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise, for Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, stood before them as the firstfruits of the Resurrection, the proof that death is merely the beginning of a new and wondrous existence.
Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays. But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come. No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come.”
Once again, thank you for the continued support that Logan and I appreciate so much! A friend of mine posted this song on Facebook today and it definitely hit home for me. I dream about the day I will see Eli again and know it will be a glorious reunion!