My family is a very special family because we came about in an unusual way.
When I was two years old, my real father and mother were divorced. My father took the three oldest children and moved to another state. I never saw or heard of them again. We three younger children were placed in different foster homes, where we remained for two years.
The next ten years of my life were filled with hurt and sadness. During this time I had two alcoholic stepfathers and as a result, we experienced a great deal of unhappiness. Our family was not a family. We merely existed together with everyone going his own way.
As a result of my situation at home I began to strike out and to seek attention in other ways. I became involved with the wrong crowd and began sluffing school.
I had learned of the Mormon church through a friend of mine, and when I was 13 years old I was baptized. One of the main reasons I was attracted to the Church was the love and concern I felt from the members of my ward.
I had become quite close to a family in my ward—the Fishers. I was their babysitter. They were my friends, and I grew to love them very much. I loved to babysit for them, and they accepted me for the person I was. I knew they cared about me, and I felt secure when I was with them.
To make a long story short, in the next few months I ran away from home twice. The Fishers went to Social Services and requested that I come live with them. I was surprised but thrilled! After several court trials, I was placed in their home as a foster child. I was 14 years old.
That was eight years ago. As I look back over the years, there are many memories. But perhaps the greatest memory I have is being legally adopted and going to the St. George Temple to be sealed to my parents. My whole family was present, grandparents and all, and it was a peaceful, beautiful, and glorious day.
My parents have worked very hard with me. They encouraged me to go back to school, and I graduated from Brigham Young University. It was a great day, and my parents helped me to make it possible.
There are so many other things my parents have done for me, I could never name them all. However, the most important thing they did was to take me into their home and to love me. My parents helped me to learn to love others. They taught me about the gospel. They answered my questions. They had faith. And they were and still are my examples. My parents gave me the opportunity to have a family and to experience the security of belonging.
When I first went to my foster home I was bitter and felt sorry for myself. I often asked myself, why me? It all seemed so unfair. Fortunately, I have since learned that the experiences I had during my first 14 years of life were meant to be. Those experiences have made me into the person I am today. Those experiences were to teach me. Yes, I had to learn to have compassion for others who may be hurting. I have promised myself to never forget how it hurts to be lonely and frightened.
There is no doubt in my mind that my parents were to be mine. My patriarchal blessing tells me so. We just all came together in a different way. I want to repay my parents for their love, help, and understanding, and I know I can do this by living a good life, helping others, and remaining faithful to the gospel. This is what they would want me to do. I know because it is what they have done in their lives.