For many of the twelve years that Bob and I had been married, we searched for a quiet, secluded place to raise our growing family. Our dream was to find a small farm where our six children could raise some animals and experience greater responsibility. We wanted our four young boys to begin money-raising projects for their missions.
A small town in southwestern Missouri appeared to be just what we were looking for. We visited the area, searched out employment possibilities, and returned home to fast and pray. We received answers and decided to make the move.
Bob arrived ahead of the family to locate our “dream home,” but after much searching, he could find only a modestly priced older home in town. He said the house needed a lot of love and attention, but it was in sound condition and located in a nice area. It had a large lot and we would have room for a garden, fruit trees, and soccer. I agreed that it would do, and he purchased it. We moved into the home and began cleaning—a long, slow project.
Two weeks slipped by, and we were adjusting fairly well. We had met many friendly ward members at church, and the older children seemed happy in school. One morning my visiting teachers came by for a visit. In the course of our conversation they told me of many of the difficult struggles that members in this area were experiencing. Even though Bob’s employment was not working out well, I assured them that we had earlier experienced our “refiner’s fire” and that we probably wouldn’t be so tested again. How little I understood!
Within a week our precious baby, Joanna, became suddenly ill and was admitted to the nearby hospital. The attending physician assured us that her illness was not serious but should be monitored. Bob went home to watch the younger boys, and I remained by her bedside.
During a medical procedure, I was asked to wait in the waiting room. I walked to the window and prayed as my tears flowed. A peaceful feeling came to my heart as the Spirit bore witness that Joanna was to be called home. I understood; and though the loss of one of my children had always been unimaginable to me, I told Heavenly Father that I would accept his will. I only asked that he take her “gently.” She died quietly two hours later. Bob took me home, and we talked to the other children. They seemed to understand and were filled with compassion.
Ward members began arriving to comfort and console. We felt and appreciated their love. Under any other circumstances, we would have been very embarrassed to have visitors. Boxes were stacked everywhere. The furniture was shoved into corners, and only the entryway had received a coat of paint. But none minded; their only concern was for us.
The task of feeding, bathing, and putting the children to bed was finally accomplished later that evening. I explained to Bob that I was fasting and desired to be alone for a while. I went into Melanie and Joanna’s empty room and knelt to pray. As grief overcame me I felt a desperate need to understand the truths I had learned about death since my conversion. I also needed a strengthening of testimony at this critical moment. I pleaded with Heavenly Father for help.
Morning finally arrived. We mechanically dressed, made beds, and fed the children.
And then the angels came.
They came in the form of ward high priests. They moved boxes and furniture. They painted room after room and scrubbed down floors and woodwork. Younger angels in the form of priests came and changed storm windows to screens, then cleaned and mowed our yard.
Beautiful Relief Society angels brought in food all day. My visiting teacher told me later that as she called to make food assignments the sisters answering the phone would say, “It is prepared and I am on my way.” Wonderful new neighbors came also, with heartfelt condolences, flowers, and food.
We had agonized over the thought of how we would ever make order of our home in time to receive relatives who were to come for the funeral. When our families arrived, our new friends took them to their homes.
These and other angels attended Joanna’s beautiful and uplifting services. The bishop and speakers were inspired, and the Relief Society choir sang in a most heavenly manner. After the services, we found gifts of food and flowers at our home. My mother, a nonmember, told me later that she had never before met such loving, caring people.
The days and months have passed since that sad farewell. We marvel at what we have learned and how we have grown.
I sat early one morning next to Joanna’s little grave watching the sun rise over our lovely, peaceful country cemetery, wondering if resurrection morning could be any more beautiful than this. While thinking of the Savior I was reminded of a day shortly after Joanna’s death. The two youngest boys and I were driving past the funeral home and Daniel, two-and-a-half asked if we could stop there and bring Joanna home. I gently reminded him that she was no longer there but had gone to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus.
“With Jesus?” he asked.
When I answered yes, he very assuredly stated, “Oh, I know him.”
How thankful I am that I know him, too—as I know Heavenly Father and his special angels.