Honoring My Father
For many years I struggled to honor my father, although I knew it was a commandment for me to do so. He was an alcoholic, abusive, and critical of the Church. More than once I said to myself, “If only I could learn to love my father, I could surely love my enemy.”
One Sunday many years after I had left home, the ward family history teacher gave a talk on the importance of families and temple work. As I listened to her talk, I felt prompted to repent. I knew I needed to find some way to honor my father, so I turned to Heavenly Father in prayer.
After I prayed, I felt impressed that to truly honor my father I must first learn to accept him as a child of God. I thought, “My father, a child of God?” As I continued to pray about the matter, I was inspired to write to him. I didn’t have to tell him I loved him, just that I was thinking of him.
The first letter was hard to write. As I wrote more letters, it became easier for me. My father never answers letters, so I did not know what effect my letters were having on him. But it was something I needed to do, and soon I could feel my attitude changing.
During this time I received a telephone call from Los Angeles telling me my father was in the hospital in critical condition. He was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, the result of many years of heavy drinking. He was also in need of a serious operation that could not be immediately performed because of the poor condition of his body.
When I received the call, panic swept over me. I cared more about my father than I had realized. I could not bear the thought of him dying without knowing that I cared. I now prayed that he would live long enough for me to see him again. As I prayed that I might know the right things to say and do to help him the most, I felt prompted to ask him to tell his personal history.
Eventually, I was able to fly from my home in Idaho to Los Angeles to be with him. A few days before I arrived, he was released from a five-week hospital stay. Upon my arrival, family members warned me that my father’s memory was very poor because of his illness. In prayer I questioned the advisability of asking for his history, considering the condition of his health. The answer was still the same. I was to ask him for it. After being with my father for a few days, I knew the time to ask had come. So I did. He thought for a while and then began to talk. It was hard to believe. His mind suddenly became clear. He was like a different person as he spoke in detail about his life.
He recounted his high school and college years, describing his love for sports and the thrill of nearly qualifying for the Olympics. He talked about being a bomber pilot instructor for the Canadian Air Force and the sorrow that came when he learned that only three of the 21 men he enlisted with survived the war. He spoke of being a young father living on a Canadian homestead in a small house with seven children, the oldest being six years old. He related how fortunate he felt for conveniences such as a well “only” 200 feet from the house.
My father shared his personal history in two sessions, totaling about 16 hours. I became acquainted with the man I had grown up with but never really known. The love and honor that I had prayed for became a reality. I was proud to record 14 notebook pages of his personal history.
After returning home, I continued to write my father letters. His condition improved until he was able to have the much-needed operation. Then, just before Christmas, I received a beautiful Christmas card from him—the first card I’d ever received from my father. Enclosed was a letter. In part he wrote, “Thank you for your letters and prayers. I think someone up there likes me.” The day before Christmas he called and again thanked me for my letters and prayers. “I couldn’t have made it without them,” he said.
The commandment to honor our fathers and mothers does not apply only to those children whose parents have the same beliefs and values. Although it required considerable effort, I learned that honoring parents can bring great blessings to a family.
The Faith of a Child
A few years ago in October, our black Labrador gave up her doghouse when our mother cat decided to move in with her litter of six kittens. The mother cat had five healthy kittens and one runt. The runt was a homely calico, but because of her small size the children gave her extra attention and made sure she was not bullied out of line during feeding time. This extra attention created a special bond between my children and the kitten.
By November, the kittens were ready to eat dry cat food, and they seemed to enjoy it. We thought we were putting out enough food for all the kittens, so we quit paying as much attention to the runt.
On a cold, rainy evening a week later, I brought food to the kittens and took a flashlight to look in on them. As I counted the kittens, I noticed the runt was missing. Looking around, I found her in the small, covered wooden box in which the kittens had been born. Apparently she had become ill during the day, and the mother cat had moved her away from the rest of the kittens.
When I found her, the small kitten was lying on her side, almost dead. She was wet, cold, and so weak she could hardly make a sound. When I picked her up, I saw how malnourished she had become. Although I was sure the kitten would die within a few hours or even minutes, I decided to try to save her.
I took her into the house and, with my children, bathed the frail kitten with warm water and dried her in front of the heater, making sure she did not get too hot. The kitten did not seem to be breathing, and the only way we could tell there was life in the small body was when it occasionally twitched.
My nine-year-old daughter, Kristine, became very upset at the thought of the runt dying. This was the special kitten she had watched over from the day it was born to ensure that it received a full portion at mealtime. Now it was going to die, simply from a week’s lack of attention.
Looking up at me, Kristine asked if we could say a prayer for the runt. I am not in the habit of praying for sick cats, but I told Kristine she could say a prayer if she wanted to. She left the room, but soon my wife came in and told me Kristine wanted to have a family prayer for the kitten.
I gathered our family of five into the living room near the kitten and offered the prayer. I asked Heavenly Father, if it was His will, to intervene on the kitten’s behalf. I also asked that if the kitten was to die, that it would go quickly and in peace.
As soon as I said “Amen” the kitten took a deep breath, lifted its head, and made a soft cry. I couldn’t believe it. This was the first sign of life we had seen from the kitten since I’d brought it in. Within minutes the cat was strong enough to drink milk from a bowl. By the next day it was able to rejoin its litter mates, and the children took special care to feed the runt separately from the other kittens until we found her a good home.
That night, I learned that the simple faith of a child can bring forth miracles. This was a miracle of no apparent importance—except to a child. Though only nine years old, Kristine truly understood and had faith in the power of prayer.
My Search by Postcard
Years ago I spent quite a bit of time gathering information for my four-generation family group sheets. The information on one of my group sheets was eventually complete, with the exception of one great-uncle. I had searched extensively for his birth and death dates without ever finding a real lead. Every time I glanced at this group sheet, the white space where Edward’s information should have been loomed out at me.
Several times I despaired of ever finding his information and thought of sending the sheet in as it was. However, I prayed for inspiration to know what I should do. I asked Heavenly Father to help me find a record or a person who would be able to help me. After praying I felt that I must not give up.
One day, after having tried every other place I could think of, I picked up a postcard and addressed it to the “Rector of the City Cemetery” and put the address of a town that Edward’s family had lived in for a while. On the back I simply asked if there was a grave marker with Edward Oren Tarbutton’s name on it. I wasn’t even sure a cemetery existed in that town, yet as I sent the postcard I suddenly felt free of frustration.
A few weeks went by without any answer to my postcard, nor did I expect one. Then one day I felt unusually excited, like a child on Christmas morning. At the normal mail delivery time, when I heard the familiar noise of a metal mailbox being opened and closed, I ran out to pick up the mail. The stack was big that day, but I stood on the street at the open box and looked carefully at every piece. In the stack was the returned postcard, and on it was Edward’s missing information!
As I gazed at the long-sought-for dates on the postcard, a warm feeling embraced me. I felt that Edward was somehow close to me in that moment, and I could feel his great joy.
I will never forget the prompting to send the postcard and the circumstances of its return. Later I learned that the town I had sent the postcard to had no rector and no official cemetery. The postmaster realized that no one in the town would know about my ancestor. His first impulse was to stamp the card Return to Sender, but on second thought he decided to search for the grave site himself. He remembered once seeing headstones in a field near a small church. It was there he found Edward’s headstone and copied the inscription.
This experience deepened my love for my ancestors and helped me understand how much they long to be linked permanently to their families. And as I encountered disappointments in the following years of family history research, I thought of the postcard and kept going.
Tatting for the Temple
Two years before the San Diego California Temple was to be dedicated, a letter came to my stake Relief Society president asking that she find women in the stake to make altar cloths for the new temple. The altar cloths were to be tatted or crocheted and had to be completed within 10 months. My ward Relief Society president suggested my name. I accepted the invitation to help with much trepidation because up to that point I had tatted only small strips of lace.
I immediately called a cousin who also tats and asked her to send me several patterns she thought would work for the temple. When they arrived, I quickly chose one and began to figure out exactly how much work I would have to do each day in order to have the cloth completed in time. Each repetition in a pattern, or what I call a medallion, takes 30 minutes to make, and I would have to make three each day. I would have to tat for an hour and a half every day, six days a week, for approximately nine months.
I felt I had gotten in over my head. I was already a busy wife and mother of four children, ages 7 through 12. I was also a brand-new schoolteacher and Young Women adviser.
I was about to say I couldn’t fulfill the assignment, but then I thought of the women who had crushed their china to beautify the walls of the Kirtland Temple and the women who sewed shirts for those who worked on the Nauvoo Temple. I wanted to participate as those women did. I didn’t know where I was going to get an extra hour and a half each day, but I trusted that the Lord would accept my sacrifice and provide a way.
The Lord truly blessed me during those next nine months. I took my tatting with me wherever I went. I washed my hands before I touched it and wrapped it in a towel to make sure it stayed perfectly white. I wanted this altar cloth to be perfect. Many times I would find a mistake and have to pick out as many as five or six medallions, thus increasing the time per day I would need to spend tatting. However, somehow I still found time each day to work on the cloth, and what started out to be a sacrifice became a great privilege and joy.
When the cloth was finally completed, I carefully washed and shaped it. Before I turned it in, I gave it one last look. There in the middle was a huge mistake! I had inadvertently added an extra piece to one of the medallions.
I had handled the cloth hundreds of times. How could I have overlooked the mistake? I would gladly have picked it out when it had occurred or even weeks afterward, but now there was no time. The date for delivery was upon me, and correcting the mistake would take at least four months of work!
I was devastated beyond words. I cried. I berated myself. I had worked painstakingly to have this altar cloth perfect for the Lord’s house, and now there was a mistake in it that could not be corrected in time. I prayed to Heavenly Father, asking why this had happened and how I could have missed something so obvious. I told Him how sorry I was that it was not perfect.
Then a beautiful peace came over me. I realized that like the altar cloth, I am not perfect, but the Savior accepts my sincere efforts, and He would accept my gift for His house. He makes up the difference when I fall short. His grace is sufficient for me.
Feelings of gratitude and relief washed over me. I got off my knees and did my best to fix the mistake so that it was barely noticeable and delivered the cloth on time.
A few months later I was with the Young Women of our ward as we toured the temple before its dedication. I was thrilled when we walked into a sealing room and there on the altar was my cloth. It looked beautiful.
When I began the altar cloth I felt I had been given a way to honor my temple covenants by making a sacrifice for the Lord. What I learned is that I was blessed for making the sacrifice. I thought I was giving something to the Lord. In reality, He was giving me the opportunity to draw closer to Him.