I stood and watched my sleeping son. His sleep was heavy from the sedatives the doctor had given him. My heart felt just as heavy; indeed, my whole being felt heavy, as if a great burden had been laid on my chest.
What effects would the terrible events of this day have upon my son? I wondered. He was only 20 and had watched his oldest brother and one of our best friends fall down a snow-encrusted Icelandic mountain and die. Both were young men with their whole lives ahead of them. One was our branch president. He left behind a young wife and two children, the youngest only six weeks old.
The three friends had left my home that January morning to hike up a nearby mountain. I had begged them not to go; I knew there would be ice on the mountain, and the weather report forecast poor conditions. But they had not listened. I could still see their smiling faces as they waved and drove away. I would never see two of them alive again. The sorrow was so great that I closed my eyes. Pain pierced my heart like a sharp knife.
How could the Lord allow this to happen? These young men had been almost all we had of priesthood leadership in our very small branch. I could not understand. I felt the Lord had let us down.
I undressed and as usual knelt by my bed to thank my Heavenly Father for the day that had passed. But I could not utter a word. How could I thank Him for this terrible day? What was there to thank Him for? There must be something, I remember thinking. And then I remembered my sleeping son and felt shame flood my heart. How could I have forgotten him? He had been in the same danger as the other two, but he had come back alive. I thanked my Heavenly Father for protecting him and bringing him back to me. I asked Him to help my son get through this ordeal.
And then I thanked my Father in Heaven for those two young men who had died—my oldest son and our friend, our branch president. I thanked Him that I had known them and loved them and enjoyed their friendship. I thanked Him that they had both been converted, that both had believed in Him and in His Son, our Savior, and that both had changed their lives before they died. They had both died in the Lord—oh, how grateful I was for that!
And then I thanked my Heavenly Father for my four other children who were alive and healthy, for my good children-in-law, and for my grandchildren. And I kept on. There was so much to thank the Father for; there seemed to be no end to it.
With each word of thanks, the burden on my chest lightened, and a warm, life-giving feeling started flowing through my body. My mind was filled with peace, and my heart with joy.
How could that be? I thought. How could I feel joy after what had happened? But I did, and I knew it was right. The sorrow was there still, deep and painful, but there was also joy. I had learned that even in deepest sorrow our Father in Heaven can bless us with peace and joy. The key is faith in our Lord and Savior, complete trust in him, and gratitude—gratitude to our Heavenly Father for all that we have and all that we have had.
I finished my prayer and lay down in my bed. I still didn’t know why the deaths had to happen, but it didn’t matter. I had felt my Heavenly Father’s love. We were in His hands, and everything would be all right.