Warned in a Dream
The winter of 1979–80 was more severe than usual in our area, and the heavy snowfall in the mountains collapsed the roof on a friend’s cabin. The entire roof system, all the way down to the concrete footings, needed rebuilding. I was hired to do the job.
The cabin is located in a very secluded spot in a nearby canyon, nestled among majestic pine trees along the bank of a stream. It is so beautiful and peaceful there that it almost seems as if it doesn’t belong on this telestial earth.
Because of the lovely setting and the peace I felt every time I went there, I decided to do the work myself rather than subcontract it out, as I often did. My brother Rusty helped me, and we started tearing down the damaged structure in the latter part of April, as soon as the snow melted enough for us to get down to the cabin.
As the weather gradually got warmer, I started taking my little son Kenny with me every day. He was two and a half years old at the time and really enjoyed going to work with his dad. He would entertain himself all day, exploring everything in sight. He was fascinated by all the new-found beauties of nature—especially the squirrels, chipmunks, and birds—and he spent hours playing near the stream, throwing rocks and sticks into the fast-moving water. Often he would curl up and take a nap under the protection of a shady pine tree.
This went on day after day. He took many minor falls and got a few scratches and scrapes during his adventures, but I seldom went to his rescue because I could see the growth he was experiencing. As he became more familiar with these new surroundings, he developed confidence in himself and his abilities. Nevertheless, I was very careful to keep a close watch on him because he was so young and small, and especially because of the nearby stream which was swollen by melting snow. He showed surprising common sense, never getting close enough to the water to fall in; but I noticed that each day he felt more confident about edging closer to the bank of the stream.
One night, after taking Kenny with me for four or five weeks, I had a terrible dream. I woke up in a cold sweat after dreaming that he had fallen into the rushing water and drowned. It was so real and scared me so badly that I sat up in bed and found myself shaking.
I couldn’t go back to sleep. I spent the rest of the night trying to calm myself down and thoughtfully considering the frightful images that kept turning over and over in my mind. I had the distinct feeling that this dream was a warning not to be disregarded. At the same time, I wondered how I could tell little Kenny that he wouldn’t be able to go with me to work on the cabin again. I was concerned about hurting his feelings because I knew how he loved to go to the mountains to work with me.
The next morning I told my wife, Georgia, of the experience and of my feelings, and she agreed that I had better not take him with me to the cabin anymore. But she, too, was concerned about how he was going to handle the disappointment.
Kenny got up early that morning, and as usual, started to dress himself. He came into our bedroom and sat on my lap, and as I was helping him put on his shoes and socks I was still trying to figure out how to tell him he couldn’t go with me anymore.
All of a sudden he said, “Dad, I can’t go to work with you today.”
“Why?” I asked, surprised.
“Cause I will drownd in the river,” he said.
Tears of joy came to our eyes as we realized that little Kenny had received the same warning that I had that night. A strong feeling of peace came over us, knowing that our Heavenly Father had given us this inspiration to protect our son and save him for his mission in this life.
Fresh Crab and French Bread
It was a typical winter day in San Francisco, cool and damp. We had lived there a few years before and were back renewing memories. Seeing the large, steaming crab vats as we walked along Fisherman’s Wharf, I exclaimed, “Oh, let’s take some crab home to Emma.”
“Crab?” asked my husband. “Why crab?”
“I don’t know. Maybe she would enjoy it.”
Sensing my ever-present desire to bring cheer to a grieving widow in our ward, Ron counseled me to find a more easily transported gift. He suggested that we find something more suitable in one of the souvenir shops beckoning us.
In and out of the shops we went, searching in vain for just the right memento. Empty-handed and tired, we started for our car, only to pass the crab vats once more.
“Ron, I still want to take some crab to Emma,” I pleaded.
He was still resistant to hauling crab 150 miles, especially when I wasn’t even sure Emma liked it. Nevertheless, we asked the vendor about transporting un-refrigerated crab that distance.
Soon we were crossing the Bay Bridge with the crab carefully wrapped in many thicknesses of paper; a long loaf of the Wharf’s famous french bread was tucked in the side of the sack.
On the trip home my thoughts turned to Emma. I remembered the sacrament meeting ten months before when Emma, her husband, Ed, and their oldest son, David, had spoken just before David left to serve a mission. That was the last time we saw Ed. After accompanying David to the Missionary Training Center, Ed suffered a fatal heart attack while still in Utah. He never returned to California.
Ed was a gifted surgeon, highly respected in our community. His passing was felt deeply. In addition to Emma, he left six children, the youngest just a toddler.
Though many grieved with the family, it was difficult to express their sympathy because Emma was extremely reserved and quiet. Few knew her well. As the months went on, her sorrow did not seem to lessen. Grief and poor health found her withdrawing from activity outside her home.
I was determined to be her friend, her sister in the gospel, and not let fear or personal rejection dilute my concern. Each week I went to her home, sometimes to be invited in while she shared her heartache. Other times she met me at the door but quickly terminated the visit with, “Thank you for coming.”
As I rang the doorbell that day I could hear many feet running to answer. The door opened. Emma, surrounded by her children, stood there puzzled at my brown sack and protruding loaf of bread.
“Yes?” she inquired.
My spirits were dampened by her coolness, but I faked enthusiasm over our trip to the city and the gift we had brought.
As she took the fresh crab and french bread, Emma asked, “Is this for any special occasion?”
“No,” I replied, “I just thought you might enjoy some crab from the Wharf.”
“Thank you very much,” she said, expressionless, and closed the door.
I returned to the car and slumped down into the seat, deflated. All I could say to Ron was, “I’m not sure Emma likes crab.” We finished the drive home in silence.
Two days later came the following letter:
My dear friends:
I was very touched by your kind gesture last night and feel compelled to share a few thoughts with you.
Yesterday morning began with the usual daily tasks. I was out sweeping the walks when I looked up to the heavens and, noting the vast, billowing, white clouds, asked, “Ed, do you know what day this is? Do dates have a meaning in heaven? Can you possibly know how much I love you and how desperately you are missed; how I long to be taken into your strong arms and held again just for a minute?”
With tear-stained cheeks I wanted to know if he remembered twenty-three years ago, or even two years ago this day.
All day long memories came rushing back. I remembered our first trip to San Francisco and how cold it was as we walked by the steaming crab pots at the Wharf. Ed was so handsome in his Navy uniform. He always took my hand in his, and holding it tight placed both in his overcoat pocket. How comforting the warmth was. I could see him sitting in the cable car, with his boyish grin, a loaf of bread and a crab under each arm. So many times he repeated this procedure.
San Francisco was our playground. I cannot begin to count the number of seminars and scientific meetings we attended there. To learn more was almost a disease with Ed. After each session we always ended our stay by going to the Wharf. A loaf of bread and a fresh crab became symbolic of a wonderful time together. Now that he’s gone, I wonder what mysteries of heaven he is exploring, what avenues are being opened to him. So many unanswered questions … so impatient I am.
Yesterday was a difficult day to get through. In late afternoon a beautiful floral arrangement arrived with a card from the children declaring their love for me. It was heartwarming. As I looked at the two little ones, then at Eddie and Janet and Miriam—then remembered David—I could see a part of Ed in each and realized that my cup runneth over.
Then at the close of day when I opened the door and saw you standing there with a loaf of bread and a package of fresh crab, it was like a direct message. You denied knowing it was a special day. Therefore I felt it was Ed’s way of saying, “Happy anniversary. I do remember.”
As ever, Emma
My heart was pounding as I awaited my new daughter,
“I must be as frightened as she is,” I thought. “I wonder if she is scared to be joining our family. What will she be like? Will we be able to show her our love? Will she love us?”
It was seven o’clock in the morning, and my husband and I and five of our children were sitting tensely in the chapel. We were waiting for our name to be called to pick up our Indian daughter, Irene.
“This is almost like having a baby!” I exclaimed to my husband. This new addition to our family had just turned eleven and was a fifth-grader in school. Like us, she was new to the Indian Placement Program.
The children, who had traveled all night by bus, had arrived two hours earlier and were now being examined by volunteer doctors and dentists to make sure they were all right. “They must be dead tired, poor kids,” I thought.
At last, Brother Smith from LDS Social Services, who was handling our placement case, called us into his office. His kind face looked weary.
“I have really been praying these past few weeks,” he said, “and have been blessed in finding the right families for all the children.”
I thought back to the events that had led us here. First, there was the interview by a stake high councilor, himself a foster parent in the Indian Placement Program for several years. He shared some of the experiences he’d had with his son—some funny, some touching. As foster parents, he explained, we should uphold the standards of the Church and teach our Indian student both by precept and by example. Knowing that we were far from a perfect family was a little frightening, but we did try to live the commandments. Lately, we had been successful in having family prayers and scripture study every day, and we held regular family home evenings.
“Everyone is going to envy us!” our son Ted interjected. “We’re going to have so many blessings.” Just back from his mission, he knew that to love and serve one another was what the gospel was all about. Our married son, Tom, and his wife, Diana, encouraged us, too.
Then Brother Smith had visited us. “These Indian parents love their children very much,” he explained. “They want a better life and education for them. That is why they are able to part with them to let them come on the placement program.” We were convinced.
After making the decision, we began to prepare. Our nine-year-old daughter, Pamela, worked diligently readying her room to share with her new sister. She discarded all her “baby things” and cleared out two drawers of her dresser for the new occupant. We went through hand-me-downs from our two older daughters, Jill, then a sixteen-year-old, and Diane, away on a Brigham Young University travel study program in Israel. We found a good pair of pajamas, some T-shirts and pants, and a pretty dress that would do while the weather was still warm. We were ready.
“Here is Irene,” announced a teenaged volunteer.
We looked up into the dark eyes of a thin, brown girl. She smiled at us shyly. Her hair was neatly brushed into two long braids. She wore a pair of new jeans, a bright red T-shirt, and a new pair of blue sneakers.
Quickly, we introduced ourselves and I gave her a hug. My husband took the small suitcase from her hand.
From that moment, Pam became Irene’s advocate. At home, she showed her where to put her things, which was her bed and her side of the closet. She showed her how things in the house worked—but the telephone was her favorite. It had push buttons.
Pamela introduced her around the neighborhood, and soon Irene had friends.
Although Irene seemed happy with us, she said virtually nothing at first. She would smile and nod or shake her head to our questions, but she didn’t speak. On the reservation, she spoke only Navajo, except at school. Since Navajo has a reversed word order, I knew Irene was afraid of making a mistake in front of us. I could empathize with her—I had been to Mexico the summer before and felt very timid in using my limited Spanish to communicate.
Since Irene was too shy to speak, Pam became her mouthpiece. “Irene wants her hair up in rollers for Sunday School.” (She had beautiful, thick hair that took a dozen curlers to roll up.) “Irene’s still afraid of Daddy.” “Irene needs a notebook for school … a pair of Sunday School shoes. …” Several weeks went by and occasionally Irene spoke a few words to me, but none to other family members except her roommate, Pam.
Then one morning an amazing thing happened. It was one of those mornings when everyone was in a grouchy mood because of approaching tests and late nights up studying or working. To make things worse, it seemed that everyone needed rides to different destinations at the same time in the only available car.
Pam announced: “Irene would like to say the prayer this morning.” Her eyes were twinkling, and I looked at Irene. Hers were shining, too.
“Would you, Irene?” I asked, incredulously.
She nodded and smiled.
A hush fell over the family. We all bowed our heads, and I could feel the mood of discord change to one of love and caring. Irene spoke slowly, enunciating each word. It was a beautiful, simple prayer, the most words she had ever spoken in our home.
We were touched. There were tears in the eyes of some of us finished. We were bursting with pride.
After the family left for work and school, I went into the room Irene and Pam shared. As usual, their beds were made, their pajamas neatly folded on a chair.
Then I discovered on their dresser a small card. On it, written in imperfect fourth-grade cursive, was the little prayer Irene had just said. In an act of love, Pam had written out the simple prayer to be memorized, spoken before the family and her Heavenly Father, by her sister, Irene.