In 1988 life was pretty normal for Jared Anderson of Pocatello, Idaho. Much like other ten-year-old boys, he had a paper route and assigned chores around the house. He loved to play basketball and baseball and ride bicycles with his friends. But during that year his life changed quite dramatically when he suddenly became responsible for assisting with his mother’s care.
Thirteen-year-old Jared still remembers the pain he felt when he heard that his mother had collapsed with a grand mal seizure one April Sunday in 1988. Jared was visiting that day at his grandmother’s home when a phone call came from the hospital. Tests and surgery later that week confirmed that Marcia Anderson had two types of brain cancer. Doctors gave her three months to live. “I was really scared,” Jared recalls. “It was so frightening to hear that my mother was dying. She has been my best friend. She’s always been there when I’ve needed her.” Now it’s Jared who is there when his mom needs him. He is the youngest of four children in Neil and Marcia Anderson’s family and has the most time at home to be with his mom. Jared’s oldest sister, Trina, is married; his brother, Shane, is on a mission in Roanoke, Virginia; and his sister Kim is a senior in high school.
After Sister Anderson’s surgery, she had to relearn everything—walking, speaking, reading, writing, and dressing herself. She has been involved in extensive physical therapy—all of which Jared has learned to help her with. She still suffers from seizures. So nurses taught Jared how to reduce the danger of her seizures by catching her when she would fall and holding her head so it wouldn’t be injured.
“Jared has a kind of sixth sense,” his mother recalls, “and he always seems to get there to help me at the very moment I need him.” But Jared explains that any boy would do that for a mom he loved.
Jared has cheered his mother on as she has outlived the doctors’ predictions. He has helped her progress from bed to wheelchair to walking again. Through it all, Jared has turned to his Heavenly Father for help. “Even when she’s having seizures, I always stop and pray for help, but I remember also to ask Heavenly Father that his will be done.” He adds, “It has taught me a lot about patience.”
There are many sobering times when mother and son are together. “My mother lets me talk about how hurt I feel and how angry I get that she has to suffer,” Jared says. “Sometimes we cry as we talk.”
When Sister Anderson was a Scout leader, Jared’s class went to the planetarium at Idaho State University. They loved watching the constellations, and he still enjoys identifying many of them. Last summer Jared and his mother often put blankets on the grass and watched the stars from their front lawn.
“That is where we have had some of our best talks,” Sister Anderson says. “They are more than astronomy talks. We talk about the premortal existence and the hereafter, all under the stars. We talk about problems and how we can best face the life we have ahead of us.”
Other happy memories for Jared and his mom took place in April and October 1990 when they attended general conference in Salt Lake City. Since only one family member could sit in the special section of the Tabernacle with Sister Anderson, Jared was chosen. Sister Anderson sat in her wheelchair near the railing and Jared was assigned a place on the front row. He attended her every need, including wrapping her legs and shoulders in shawls for warmth and quietly massaging her feet as they went into spasms.
In the last session of conference in October, Sister Anderson began having a seizure. Jared sensed her distress and immediately put the medicine in her mouth, averting a problem. One of the hosts in the Tabernacle said, “I’ve played a lot of football in my day, but I’ve never seen a bigger man than you were in the way you showed compassion to your mother today.”
Even though Jared often gives up plans for himself to stay near his mother, he finds time for his peers. When his dad or another family member can be with his mother, Jared and his friend Tom Illum like to ride bikes or play soccer and baseball together. Jared also helps another friend, Sarah Hardy, by cheering her on as she practices for track meets after school.
For the past three years, Jared and his family have counted each day as a bonus. “I used to take my family for granted,” Jared says, “but now I realize how fast a healthy person can change and become ill. Heavenly Father has answered our prayers. And I know that when my mother is called home, she will always be with me in spirit.”