Dear Topher, …

By Ray Goldrup

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    Jesus said … , I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25).

    November 12

    Dear Topher,

    Thank you for the get-well card and the snapshot of you and that kangaroo on the playground. It sounds like school in Blackwater isn’t much different from here in Michigan, except I have never seen anyone bring a wallaby to class!

    Yesterday was my twelfth birthday. My little sister, Kimmy, drew me a picture of an elephant on stilts. It was pretty funny. The nurse hung it on the wall by the side of my bed. Oh, and Mom and Dad bought me a puzzle—one of those hard ones with zillions of tiny pieces. I guess they think I’m going to be here for a while! Dr. Gunnerson tries to find a piece every time he comes in my room, but he says it’s harder to put together than some of his patients.

    I feel about the same, I guess. Some days are better than others. It’s hard to know about cancer.

    Well, I’d better go now, Topher. I’m real tired, and Dad is making funny faces and it makes it hard to write.

    Your pen pal,


    November 29

    Dear Topher,

    It was fun reading your letter. Good luck with your part in that ward musical. Are you serious about your bishop playing Bigfoot? Maybe they grow bishops bigger in Australia—ha, ha!

    Speaking of bishops, Topher, mine has been coming to see me a lot lately. In fact, he helped me finish that puzzle. It’s a picture of a raccoon and a turtle. I told him that I wish more people would show reverence for Heavenly Father’s creatures by being kind to them. He said that life is precious—all of it. I asked him if animals go to heaven when they die. He said that it says in the Pearl of Great Price that all things were created spiritually before they were placed temporally upon the Earth.* He said that spirits are eternal, so that certainly ups their odds!

    Then we talked about dying, how it is a part of living, that it is like a door we all pass through in order to keep on living forever. He said that it isn’t so important how much time we have on earth but what we do with the time we have. Then he held me a long time and didn’t say anything. It was like he couldn’t talk. I think he was crying. Then he whispered in my ear and said that Heavenly Father was very proud of me and had a special place prepared for me in Heaven.

    Later that day Dad and our home teachers—Brother Sullivan and his son Larry—gave me another blessing. Dad asked Heavenly Father that if it was His will that I should be called home early, that my pain might stop so I could better enjoy whatever time I have left. Well, Topher, guess what? The pain went away. It is easier for me to write now too.

    Linda, one of the nurses, is bringing my supper in, and it smells good, so I guess I’ll say good-bye for now.

    Your pen pal,


    December 8

    Dear Topher,

    You asked me in the letter I got from you yesterday if I was afraid to die. I guess I should be, kind of. But I don’t feel scared. Mom told me what Grandma Clanton said before she died about four years ago. She said she would be leaving Mom and the rest of us for just a little while and to not be frightened. She said she’d be happy and that we shouldn’t worry about her. That helped me a lot.

    Another reason I’m not afraid is because I have a testimony of Jesus. He died so that we might all live again and so that families can be forever. I have an older brother in Heaven. Maybe I’ll be able to see him. And my Uncle Eugene. And my ancestors. I kind of got to know some of them when my parents were working on their family history. One of them, Nathan Twiggs, carried a chair on his back all the way across the plains—and not just so he would have something to sit on when he got tired walking! His grandfather, Thomas Twiggs, made it and used to sit on it with Nathan on his knees and read the Book of Mormon to him. Dad said it was in that chair that Thomas got his testimony.

    If I could choose between staying or leaving, I would stay here on earth for a while because when I think of leaving my family, I feel sad. But Heavenly Father knows best, and Mom said that we were all probably both happy and sad when we left our heavenly parents to come down here.

    Oh, I wish I could see that play you are going to be in, Topher! It sounds like it will be fun. I laughed when you said you brought a friend to dress rehearsal and you pointed to Bigfoot and said he was your bishop, and your friend said, “No wonder everyone is so reverent—I wouldn’t want to upset him, either!”

    Take care of yourself, Topher. Kiss a kangaroo for me. I think they’re cute.

    Your pen pal,


    December 21

    Dear Topher,

    I’m Cindy’s mother. You probably don’t know me. Or maybe you do, a little. Cindy most likely told you about her family in some of her letters. She’s told us a good deal about you.

    Cindy passed away last week, Topher. She wanted me to tell you good-bye and that she would see you later. She said for you to work on your testimony every day because it will help make your trials much easier to bear. And you know what, Topher? It does. It does!

    Write us when you can. We would like to keep in touch.


    Cindy’s mom

    February 12

    Dear Cindy’s family,

    I cried a lot when you told me about Cindy. Then, well, it’s hard to explain, but a warm feeling came over me. It felt like the sun when it pushes down through a bunch of dark, wet clouds. I know Cindy is happy, just as she said she would be. And what she said about you asking me to work on my testimony? Well, I am. I want one, too, so that when things get hard or confusing I can be strong—and happy, even when I’m sad.

    I’ll write again soon.



    Photos by Matt Reier