Talk given Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017
I was born into a family that was raised with the gospel. I was taught and lived gospel principles. I went to BYU and followed it with going on a mission. I was married in the temple and had children of my own. But it wasn't until the following experience that I finally learned and truly understood the principle of the Atonement and our Saviors Resurrection.
In September of 1983, Del and I became the parents of our first son, Michael. Within minutes of his arrival, we were made aware of complications that required him to be flown to Primary Childrens Hospital in Salt Lake City. Del left within the hour to drive to Utah to be with Michael, while I remained in Idaho to recover from the delivery. I was feeling very much alone - literally - as I was left to wonder whether I would ever see our little Michael again.
Over the next few months, Michael had multiple surgeries and several 'touch and go' moments before finally, in December, we were able to bring him home. Our days consisted of 24 hour round the clock care of changing colostomy bags, suctioning his trach tube, putting a feeding tube down his nose, and at night, as we put him to bed, we had to hook him up to a respirator. Our lives literally revolved around keeping Michael alive - but it was all we knew.
The next two years were filled with multiple and numerous miracles and hopeful moments of an actual future with Michael. But on Saturday December 14th of 1985, I called Del at work to tell him I felt Michael was in pain - as he would shake his head as if trying to clear pain from a headache. It worsened as the day progressed. I called the doctor. There was no advice but to just watch him and give him Tylenol as needed. When Del arrived home, Michael had worsened to the point that I called the Emergency Room doctor and described all the symptoms, but I was once again told to 'keep an eye on him', and if he wasn't improved, I was to bring him to the ER in the morning.
Del felt the urgency to give Michael a blessing, and in preparing to do so, he slipped into our bedroom for a private moment, so as to ask the Lord what he should say. As shared to me by Del months later, he pleaded to the Lord to give Michael a blessing that would allow Michael to remain with us, just as he had many times before and had his prayers answered as such. But it was not to be. Del felt helpless in having the power of the priesthood to bless Michael to stay, but being restrained by the Lord to only bless Michael with a release from this life - along with the counsel to work hard on the other side and to know of our great love for him and our Savior.
I was none too pleased - not knowing of Del's spiritual conversation with the Lord, I was panicked at the words Del spoke in the blessing. Michael had been released. After a night of heart wrenching experiences that I won't share at this time, I awoke in the morning to find that Michael had passed just a few hours before. In the confusion of it all, we rushed his body to the emergency room where the doctor I had spoken to the night before, pronounced him gone.
The next few days were a fog - funeral arrangements were made, family arrived, and the week before Christmas, we buried our son Michael. I found it a heavy emotion to realize that as the world celebrated the birth of a Son, we would now and forever remember the season as when we lost our son. The Sunday after the funeral was our ward Sacrament Christmas Program with the choir, and I was, of course, the choir director. I didn't know how I could do it. I had not the strength nor the desire to even be there. It was difficult as many tears were shed by those singing and I nearly collapsed during the closing song of Away in a Manger'. It still remains impossible for me to sing that hymn every Christmas - now 32 years later.
For the months following, Del and I functioned in a state of disbelief. I was in a combination of hurt and feeling completely lost. I had gospel knowledge of the resurrection- the atonement and eternal families. But it wasn't until at that time, that I had ever really applied any of those concepts in my life.
Now, it was personal. Now, it meant MY son would be resurrected and live again. No more feeding tube - no more colostomy bags - no trach tube - no more respirator. Now, it was real - the Atonement, the resurrection. Now, it was personal.
I was asked to sing that May for Mother's Day. Me? I wondered 'why me?' Couldn't someone else do it? I was the one who was no longer a mother - no longer had my child. I should have been allowed to mourn and be left to grieve the day. But that is not what my Heavenly Father wanted of me. Instead, He wanted me to share my new found personal testimony of the Atonement and the Resurrection, and the joy I could now feel from that personal application. I was joyous - I was still a mother of a child that would one day, because of my Savior, be resurrected and my child to raise again. It filled my soul with joy.
That was 32 years ago. There have many many more times over those 32 years, that I have been able to make the Atonement and His resurrection, personal. That's the ONLY way it CAN be now for me. Because now, it's personal.
Toward the end of the inspiring oratorio Messiah, Handel put to beautiful music the Apostle Paul's words that rejoice over the Resurrection. "Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump...the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?... But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.'
What a powerful experience it will be to see Michael again - not just as a spirit, but with his resurrected body.
THAT is my Easter.
THAT is my testimony.
THAT is personal.
In the name of Jesus Christ.