Family Preparedness: It’s More Than a Year’s Supply

How building temporal, emotional, and spiritual reserves helped our family through times of crisis.

Family preparedness means much more than just having a supply of food and clothing. We’ve learned that it also includes being prepared emotionally and spiritually.

As the time neared for my husband, Sherm, to be released as president of the Brazil Central Mission, I felt the need to obtain help in locating a home back in the United States. I was expecting a baby which would be only a month old when we returned—and we had four other small children.

My mother found a home she thought might interest us, but because of delays in work permits we did not return as scheduled. As the weeks passed, mother finally phoned and said that the man who owned the home just couldn’t hold it indefinitely. We prayed about it, felt good about it, called her and said, “Buy it.”

My mother made the arrangements. About thirty days before we needed the money for the down payment, one of three pieces of property we owned finally sold, giving us the money we needed. Another piece sold just as we arrived in the States, giving us something to live on while Sherm started his law practice. Both pieces of property had been for sale for over three years! The third piece sold just when we needed funds to live on before the law practice took hold. Each sale came just at the right time, with no real effort on our part—just when the money was needed. A coincidence? I hardly think so.

And then we felt a great sense of urgency to get our food supply, pay off the house, and obtain some insurance. On our nights out, which we have had weekly for nineteen years, we would often ask each other why we felt that we had to hurry so much in order to get these things done; we weren’t accustomed to putting such emphasis on financial and temporal matters. But neither of us could deny that the urgency we felt in this direction was real and that we felt right about what we were doing.

Finally, on our weekly night out in August 1977, we both felt that the urgency was gone. We were at last ready for whatever the Lord had in mind for us next. We felt such a peace and rightness about the things we had done. Our food supply was up to date, the house was paid for, and we had some insurance.

Three weeks later as we sat in an evening stake leadership meeting, I looked at my husband and said, “Sherman Hibbert, you’re sick.” We had talked casually for a couple of weeks about his sore throat and the funny feeling in his chest. Until two weeks before that time, he had been running two miles every morning and four miles on Saturdays. He had not missed a day’s work.

When we took him to be checked later that evening, the doctor took two liters (a little less than three quarts) of liquid out of his chest cavity. For the night we thought it was pneumonia, but the next day the doctor gave us his staggering diagnosis: a strong possibility of terminal cancer.

It was difficult to stay dry-eyed when we stopped for our traditional picnic lunch after stake conference that day. As we watched our eight children (five of whom were seven and under), we hoped an ordeal with cancer wasn’t really what the Lord had in mind for us. But later tests and surgery confirmed the early diagnosis.

During those first weeks we decided to live normally—as normally as we could—to be grateful for the time we had, to use it to the utmost and build some special memories. The disability insurance money helped make possible a trip to Yellowstone at Christmastime and a vacation to Disneyland when school was out. Sherm’s strength was limited—he could only spend an hour or so with the family, and then he’d go to the motel and rest. While we swam in the ocean, Sherm lay on the beach and smiled as he watched.

As the summer progressed, each child received a father’s blessing. We finished the part of his personal history that we’d been working on. Every two or three weeks we saw the X-rays. We didn’t need the radiologist to read them any more. By September we were into the hardest part.

The blessings? They were numerous that year. And the joy I felt as I watched my teenagers serve and give to their dad was a joy beyond measure. I don’t remember a child complaining even when the task took hours. We felt a peace in our home that we knew was from the Lord. I felt truly sustained to do what I had to do. Even a rather challenging back problem all but disappeared. We didn’t like what was happening, but we had a feeling that it was right in the Lord’s eternal plan of things. It amazed us that the Lord would guide us to become temporally prepared, and then sustain us emotionally as well.

The day of the fire (10 November 1978), the Lord outdid himself in pouring out his blessings. I had gone to the store. Only my husband and a lady helping with the house were at home. I returned to a house in flames but was so relieved when I found my husband safe and the lady there, and knew that the family was all out.

I have never beheld such generosity from people as was shown to us that day. Several families invited us to move in with them. Others offered to move out of their homes to let us have theirs for as long as we needed it.

We stayed with the Eubanks that night. The next day as the bishopric gathered members to help me inventory the items in my home, others cleaned and gathered the things we would need to move into a home we had chosen, one just a block away that needed a renter. Oh, the Lord does provide! I will never forget the joy we felt as a family as we entered this home. There were beds (with a name on each one), sheets, towels, kitchen items, and groceries. My husband said, and I felt the same way, “What a blessing this fire has been—to have the choice opportunity to feel the love of the members of this ward.”

And what did we find in the ashes? The genealogy, located in the center of the worst part of the blaze. It was singed a bit, soaked, and frozen into one large chunk—but legible after my mother graciously took it home, thawed it out, and dried the sheets. And I found our scrap books. What more could we ask? Even though the dining room fell into the basement and the kitchen burned, one cabinet in the far corner stood intact—the one containing all of our family slides. Coincidence? I hardly think so!

And then the following Friday at 11:00 P.M., after working with me all day to check references on contractors who would rebuild after a fire, after spending some time listening to each of the older three children, after signing the last letter he planned to send to his law clients, Sherm told me he would not see tomorrow. He had told me that earlier that day, but at the time I would not or could not believe it.

We talked; he spoke with great difficulty. I knew then that he was right. He quietly left that body at about 9:00 the next morning—with all four of his wishes granted: (1) that he die at home, (2) that I be there, (3) that he die in his sleep, and (4) that he be able to “work” until the end.

Blessed? Yes, truly blessed—for he was spiritually prepared. He had the love of a family and wife and all in this world that counts—a temple marriage, a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, and a lifetime of service.

I pause so many times as I enter the home where I now live. There’s Nielsens’s couch, Memmotts’s lamp, Jenkins’s stand and lamp, Murphys’s chair. So many blankets have Gibsons’s name on them. The silverware is Ashbys’s, the canister set is Jorgansons’s, the chairs are Johnsons’s, and so goes my list. Everything we have right now belongs to someone else. And my mother and brother continue to give and give.

It is a unique experience, humbling in a way, and yet one of the choicest that I think we’ll ever have. We feel so loved as a family. And we know we have a lot to pay back in the areas of love and service to others. The Lord wants us to grow with our new challenges. He hasn’t given them to us to tear us down, but to help us grow. In the eternal scheme of things, we’ll come out of this stronger, I’m sure. We are so grateful for all we have.

I am also thankful for the time Sherm and I had together to prepare ourselves and our family for the things that were to come. I’m grateful for the urgency we felt to get temporally prepared; the peace that followed fostered the emotional preparedness that was so essential for the coming months.

As a family, we’re continuing our efforts to become spiritually prepared; we have a strong desire to be together as an eternal family.

JoAnn L. Hibbert, a widow and mother of eight, teaches Relief Society mother education lessons in her ward in Bountiful, Utah.