I still wonder if he knew before he was born that he would be on this earth for only 15 years. I can see him in my mind’s eye, arm lifted high in the air, hand reaching, stretching, grasping for attention, volunteering to go. That’s how he was, always wanting to go, without even knowing where he was going.

He was an answer to my prayers. After two girls, I began to selfishly ask for a boy. The nurses were sure Heidi was having a girl because the fetal monitor registered a fast heartbeat, so I was surprised when he arrived, all five pounds of him. We named him Grant Marcus after his grandfathers, but he became “Granty” to me.

At five months he was back in the hospital as a ten-pound, failure-to-thrive baby. We learned to feed him at night with a tube down his throat. Heidi would hold down his legs and insert the tube. I would hold his head and arms. Sometimes he would get an arm loose and pull the tube out, and we would start all over. I knew Heavenly Father knew of Grant, because our prayers were answered over time, and little Granty began to grow.

A few years later I again came to know Grant was a special son. We call it the miracle of the fish. We were camping in the Uinta Mountains with our friends and left early in the morning for the lake. I began baiting Grant’s hook with salmon eggs and casting it out, letting my six-year-old reel it in. “Slower, Grant, slower.” I must have said it a hundred times, but Grant was too excited to wait.

The fish were biting. My friend caught three or four before 10:00 a.m. My daughters had defected to him for help in catching their fish, but not Granty. He stayed by my side. By noon I knew I was cursed. Everyone had caught a fish except Grant and me. I borrowed my friend’s pole, used his bait, and moved to where he had been fishing. Nothing. When the afternoon rains came, we hunkered down under a raincoat, and I told Grant the fish would bite now, but still nothing.

I don’t remember what time it was when I began praying. “Dear Heavenly Father, I don’t know if this is trivial or not, but for the sake of a little six-year-old boy, please let him catch a fish.” In the evening we watched a family come with a boat and catch five or six fish in thirty minutes. It was getting dark, and we began moving toward camp, fishing as we went. Nothing.

Finally, I baited the hook for the last time. “Slower, Grant, slower.” I turned and began gathering our gear and started what I call a complaint prayer. “I guess it was too trivial, huh?” Then I heard those words I will never forget. “Daddy, look!” I whirled around to see a five-inch fish being pulled the last ten feet to shore. He lifted the pole and swung it over to land, and the fish fell off the line. I don’t even think it was hooked, but probably just got its gills caught in the line. I began to cry as Grant grabbed the fish in his tiny hands. As we headed back to camp, my prayer changed to one of gratitude and humility.

Two years later this scene was replayed on the baseball diamond. I had great hopes that my unfulfilled sports achievements would be realized in my son’s athletic glory. He looked so good in his uniform, but that didn’t seem to help his hitting. We would practice in the backyard, and eight times out of ten I had to say, “Switch hands, Grant.” He finally got to where he could hit a few in the backyard, but in front of parents and the other team and a real pitcher, he froze. He would swing at the bad pitches and shy away from the ones down the middle.

I don’t remember what inning it was in the last game that I started praying. “Dear Heavenly Father, I don’t know if this is important enough to ask for, but could Granty just get one hit this year?” In the sixth inning he had another chance but struck out. In the last inning I didn’t think he’d get up to bat again, so I began gathering the other kids and getting ready to go. But several of his teammates reached base, and finally there he was, with two outs in the last inning of the last game of the season, staring at the pitcher.

I was too nervous to look, but I didn’t really need to look. The distinct crack of the bat was the answer to my prayer. I wheeled around in time to see little Granty chugging to first base. He hit the bag, rounded the wrong way, and made a beeline straight to me and jumped into my arms. “Dad, I got a hit!” I don’t think he even knew he had been thrown out at first. It didn’t matter. I tried to hide the tears as I caught him and hugged him and again was reminded that I had a special son.

Grant’s specialness had another side, a hard side. His mind didn’t work like most people’s. He didn’t understand a lot of things. But he did not hold grudges or take offense. He was so innocent. His resource teacher at school said it this way at his funeral: “He saw the best in everyone, and at times his niceness surpassed some of others’ unkindnesses, because Grant was naïve to them. Other times he knew all too well the meaning of their unkindness, but he, being the bigger person, chose to ignore them.”

We offered many prayers for him the year we moved to a new city and he began junior high school. Too many times he came home with a new bruise from being shoved into the lockers or with another story of someone making fun of him. Oh, if only they knew his heart. His head got him in trouble many times, but his heart never did. And in answer to our prayers, some people saw his good heart: a school teacher, a basketball coach, and a best friend. His basketball coach was able to see past his overenthusiasm and his struggles with set plays to recognize his pure shot. That shot was honed over many hours on our driveway basket. He would challenge anyone to a game, even the mailman. The coach let him be one of the five starting players. Now, that might not mean much to some people, but the fact that Grant started for a team was everything to our family. We didn’t miss a game. His team went on to win the championship game of the city league that year. Life was good again, and then he was gone.

In the back of my mind I guess I had always wondered if he would live long enough to serve a mission—no real premonitions, but I wondered. It was a hot July evening when the police officer came to the door and asked Heidi and me to come with him. It took a while for the words to have any meaning: “Best friend—raft—canal—ball floated by—Grant went back in—culvert—siphon tube.” When the realization of what the officer was telling us sank in, I offered the shortest and most heartfelt prayer I have ever uttered. “O God, this is Granty. You remember him, don’t you—the fish in the Uintas, the baseball game? This one is special. Please save him, please save him.”

When we got to the scene and saw what had happened, I knew he was gone. It took four hours to drain the canal and find his body. Words cannot describe those four hours. It is sufficient to say that I felt the sting of death and that the watery grave was the victor.

They say time heals all wounds. I don’t know whether or not that is true, but I do know there is a Comforter. After receiving a priesthood blessing, Heidi and I stayed in the hospital room for some time with Grant’s body. Neither of us wanted to call the funeral home. It was a peaceful time, and our hearts were comforted. That same Spirit buoyed us up through the viewing and the funeral.

I guess the toughest thing of all was the thought that Grant was just coming into his own. Life was getting good for him. As his father, I had hopes that he would be able to drive a car, play more basketball, go to a junior prom, receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, go on a mission, get married, and have children. But his Heavenly Father had other plans for him.

On Grant’s 16th birthday, we were able to go through the temple for him, where he received the higher priesthood and his temple endowments. As for the junior prom, I didn’t go to mine either. And I’m sure that in God’s own time and way, the promises of an eternal companion and children will be fulfilled.

The fact that Grant would never drive a car wasn’t hard to accept. I don’t know what means of transportation is used in heaven, but it is certainly more advanced than a combustion engine. I can see Grant in my mind, volunteering to go and wanting to drive.

The mission was easiest to visualize. “I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead” (D&C 138:57). Oh, the mission stories he will have!

The only thing left was basketball. And then we got a letter from the Organ Donor Society: “Just wanted to let you know that Grant’s heart valves were used in an 11-year-old boy who loves to play basketball.”

A statement by Joseph Smith sits next to a picture of Grant on my desk: “All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it.” 1

Thank you, Heavenly Father.

Save me a place, my son, my Granty!

Hopeful Mortal Life

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“The ‘lively hope’ we are given by the resurrection is our conviction that death is not the conclusion of our identity but merely a necessary step in the destined transition from mortality to immortality. This hope changes the whole perspective of mortal life. The assurance of resurrection and immortality affects how we look on the physical challenges of mortality, how we live our mortal lives, and how we relate to those around us.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Resurrection,” Ensign, May 2000, 15.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Gregg Thorkelson

Eric P. Shields is a member of the Lodi Third Ward, Lodi California Stake.

Show References

    Note

  1.   1.

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 296.