At three in the morning, Beverly and Amber Williams, of McCammon, Idaho, are usually asleep. But July 1, 1996, wasn’t a typical morning for these teenage sisters. Instead of sleeping, they were rushing their mom, Effie, to the hospital in nearby Soda Springs. About four hours later, their mom delivered a healthy baby boy. She named him David, after her husband and the girls’ father, who was killed not long before in an industrial accident.
“We wanted to be there with my mom,” says 16-year-old Beverly, “and to be with a brand-new baby who just came from where my dad is.”
The girls stayed by their mom’s side through the delivery and probably would have stayed at the hospital much longer if it weren’t for one small problem: most of the baby clothes Effie had purchased were pink, for a girl. So Beverly and Amber hopped in the car and drove more than an hour to Pocatello to exchange the clothes. They also used their personal savings to buy a dresser for their new baby brother. They put the clothes and dresser in his room at home before returning to the hospital. Oh, and Beverly mowed the lawn first too. After all, Monday had always been the day that Effie mowed the lawn. Beverly knew her mom wouldn’t be up to it.
Amber and Beverly seem to be around whenever their mom needs them these days. They help out willingly and do everything from balancing the checkbook to helping their younger sisters with homework.
On December 18, 1995, their dad was killed in an explosion at his work. He left behind five daughters and a wife, who later found out she was pregnant with their sixth child. Since then the Williams family has survived on prayers and faith, along with help from the two oldest daughters.
“It was a really hard time, and I just knew that it wouldn’t help anybody if I didn’t do something to help out,” says Beverly.
Amber, 14, agrees. “For the first couple of days we were so hurt and shocked that nobody could do anything, but then you realize it’s real, and you just can’t sit around,” she says.
“They basically took over for a while,” Effie says. “They just didn’t act like typical kids. They’ve had to do adult things. And instead of resenting the responsibility, they have done whatever’s needed to be done.”
Beverly says she likes the responsibility. She wants to help her mom. She enjoys baby-sitting and running errands. She has even noticed the value of her math skills from doing things like balancing the checkbook. Amber also has a positive attitude about her responsibilities. She loves to spend time with her family, and baby-sitting the younger kids is her favorite way to help. She also says that diving into this type of service helped keep her mind on other things right after her dad’s death.
Their dad, David Williams, was a man of strong character. He taught his children to work. He also taught them the gospel and showed them how to love one another.
Amber and Beverly see their contribution to the family as a way to follow that example. “I want to be like my dad in the way that he loved this life and loved people,” Beverly says. “He’s a good example for a lot of people. He cared about you and took time for you.” Now, she and Amber are doing the same thing.
“We try to have fun times with our little sisters because their dad’s gone now, and our dad helped us have fun when we were little,” Amber says.
They also try to help out with the little things. At first that meant addressing thank-you notes after the funeral and doing the small but necessary things that their mom was too busy to do. Now that means doing some of the bigger things too, like getting ready for church on Sunday mornings.
With five girls, six including their mom, and only one bathroom, it’s not hard to imagine what the Williams’s house is like on Sunday mornings. “There’s a lot to do,” Amber says. “So we give the kids baths and help them get dresses on.”
“They even help me with my Church calling if I’m busy with the baby,” Effie says.
In everything they do, they remember their dad and his positive attitude and zest for life. It helps them to remember to work hard but to have fun too. “I know my dad will live on in my heart if I learn to love life as he did,” says Beverly, “and I enjoy waking up to each new day with the bright intent that he had to make each day the greatest.”
The girls are grateful for loving neighbors who invite their family to come on camping trips and go water skiing. They’ve learned how to snowboard. They hang out with friends. Mostly, they just realize that life can be very short; therefore, it’s important to do what is right and be happy.
An eternal perspective
Faith was what pulled Amber and Beverly through those first few months and still helps them along today. “If I hadn’t known the gospel was true then, I probably wouldn’t have even wanted to live,” Amber says. “But I have something to live for. I want to be a better person.”
Beverly has similar feelings. “If I hadn’t believed how I did then, I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything. But I want to do my best so I can see my dad again.”
Their new baby brother has given them a namesake for their dad. And, as babies usually do, he has given them reason to laugh and smile on a daily basis.
Their family has pulled through the initial shock and sorrow of David’s death. That sadness will not go away soon, and it has permanently changed their lives, but the Williamses know that they can be happy and that their family can be together again.
They look at things in a positive way. “The kids have given me hope instead of giving up. They were so strong. David instilled that in them,” Effie says.
Because David Williams did instill the basic principles and concepts of the gospel in his girls, they have made the best out of a difficult situation. They have followed his good example and blessed their family. They will continue to do so. They will do it for themselves and for their dad.