Monday, October 10, 2011

Happily Ever After

Yesterday I was blessed to teach part of the Young Women's lesson at church.  This was a first for me since, obviously, I was never a young woman.  I was very impressed with how elegantly everything was done.  It was truly celestial compared to how we do things in Elders Quorum.  I had tears in my eyes before it was even my turn (that's when the water works decided to turn on full blast).

The lesson was based on President Uchtdorf's 2010 General Conference talk "Your Happily Ever After". It talks about how between life's "Once Upon a Time" and "Happily Ever After" there will be trials and adversity that will help us to gain attribute that wouldn't be possible without them. And he talks about how the Gospel is the way to our happily ever after.

The instructor invited me to talk about the trials Krista and I endured throughout our life together and how the Gospel strengthened us and helped us endure each one well.  I spent last week preparing what I wanted to share.  It was harder than I thought it would be, all of the the emotions I've been dealing with since Krista passed away came flooding back and I shed many tears while putting the words together.  Since I had invested so much effort and emotion into it I thought I would share it here.

Our “Once upon a time” started in the fall of 1980.  I had just started my ninth grade year of Junior High.  I remember the first day of school during band class; I was sitting in the trumpet section on the right hand side of the room.  As I was waiting for class to start a new girl with beautiful eyes and a gorgeous smile sitting in the clarinet section caught my attention.  The problem was the clarinets were with the woodwinds way over on the left side of the room giving me little opportunity during band to get to know her.  Add to that my overpowering fear of talking to girls and I felt like I would never have an opportunity to become friends.  Luckily the next year we both tried out for our high school clog dance team “Cloggers West” and were both selected to join their beginner group.  Finally I had my opportunity.   That year we became close friends and by the end of our junior year of high school we were inseparable.  We had many wonderful experiences together but one in particular let me know we were destined to spend our lives together.

One night during our senior year we were sitting at the top of 4th North in Lindon Utah looking out over Utah Valley watching the sun set behind the mountains on the far side of Utah Lake.  As we watched we talked about what we saw as our future together.  We discussed a mission, being sealed together and raising a large family.  Despite knowing little about how our Heavenly Father refines His children, we thought we knew how our “happily ever after” would unfold.  But what I remember most from that night was the overwhelming peace I felt as we talked.  The Holy Ghost was proclaiming to me “this is your wife to be” to be sealed to you for all time and eternity.

After graduation Krista immediately enrolled at BYU and I worked and prepared for a mission.  As we were two of the youngest in our class we had a year and a half before I left for a mission to Japan.  While I was in Japan we faithfully wrote to each other and we both grew spiritually and gained stronger testimonies of the Gospel and the importance and lasting value of the Temple ordinances.

Upon successfully serving for two years I returned home to find that in Krista’s typical fashion all the wedding plans were made and all that was left was to become officially engaged.  I gladly complied.  

On the morning of August 20th 1988 Krista and I were dressed in white sitting on a couch in the Celestial Room of the Salt Lake Temple.  I remember the anticipation and joy because we were about to be married.  I also remember the overwhelming peace I felt.  It was the same peace I felt years prior while sitting with her, overlooking Utah Valley and talking about our future together.  Then while holding hands across the alter I remember the look in her eyes and the smile on her face as we were pronounced husband and wife for time and all eternity.  There was a complete joy and peace in her countenance.  We had finally made it, we were ready for our “happily ever after”, or so we thought.

We knew we wanted a large family but didn’t know when our children would come.  We patiently waited years for children.  Finally it was apparent that things weren’t going to work out on their own and we sought professional help.  The answer we received wasn’t what we hoped for.  Because of compounding factors the only way we could possibly have kids was through the best medical science had to offer.  And with it came an appropriately outrageous price tag.  For us to even hope to have children it would cost over $10,000 each try and there was no guarantee that each time we tried it would result in a child.  This was a huge blow to us.  We were both young in our careers and didn’t have that kind of money to spend on a hope that it might work.

So we did what we had done in the past when faced with a tough decision, we went to the Lord to find out what He wanted us to do.  After pondering about this and asking our Heavenly Father we both felt like this was what we needed to do so we agreed to give it a go.  We scraped and borrowed enough money for a procedure.  We knew this was what the Lord wanted us to do and we had faith that He could make it work.  Throughout the two months the procedure took everything looked wonderful.  This wasn’t just things were progressing as normal, it was as good as it could be.  The doctor had high confidence that all would work.  That just made it more devastating when despite everything looking so good it didn’t result in a pregnancy.  We were heartbroken.  We questioned how this could be, we had confirmation from the Lord this is what we needed to do, we had faith He could do it, everything looked as good as it could, yet it didn’t work.  We forgot one piece of the puzzle.  Despite our faith and following the Lord’s direction we didn’t take into account His will and His purposes.  We thought we knew what the blessings for following Him were to be and that’s what we expected.  We forgot to humble ourselves and find the blessings even in what we considered a failure.  

Two more times we attempted the procedures without success.   Then In January of 2000 while on a break from trying to have kids, Krista miraculously became pregnant.  We were amazed and overjoyed while the doctors were baffled; this wasn’t supposed to happen on its own.  We thought this was the blessing we were waiting and working for.  Sadly eight weeks later we lost our child.  This was the hardest trial for us to deal with yet.  We couldn’t understand why after all our hard work, money, suffering and hoping, Krista would miraculously become pregnant only to lose the child.  This was a dark time for us.  We couldn’t see how this could be a blessing that we could give thanks to our Heavenly Father for.  We knew that in the Doctrine and Covenants section 59:7 we are commanded to “thank the Lord thy God in all things”, but how could this be a blessing.  Looking back, it’s much easier to see how greatly we were blessed during this trial.  We didn’t get a baby but here’s a few of the blessing we received: 
  • An opportunity to learn how faith and prayer work
  • A lesson on trusting in the Lord, even when things don’t go the way we’d hoped
  • A lesson in patience, which is something every parent needs!
  • Valuable friendships gained through helping others going through the same trial
  • Opportunities to communicate better as a couple
  • Moments where we cried together, laughed together, and expressed our love and gratitude for each other
  • Opportunities to feel the power that comes from the collective prayers and fasting of others
  • Refining experiences that strengthened our testimonies
  • “Make or break” experiences that strengthened our marriage, helping us realize that we can withstand anything together
  • Peace in knowing that the Lord loves us and knows how to bless us beyond our own imaginations
  • The realization of blessings from paying an honest tithe
  • Love and appreciation for the children who finally came, so that they would never be taken for granted
  • Opportunities to experience the “tender mercies” (1 Nephi 1:20) of the Lord
  • Humility and flexibility sufficient to change the picture of our life
  • Opposition and sorrow, so that we could fully appreciate the joy that came from the realization of promised blessings.
As you know we were eventually blessed with children.  Jacob and Emma didn’t come the way we originally planned but our past trials had taught us to savor the experience and that it didn't matter how children came into our family.  These children were ours, anticipated and loved just as much as if they were biologically ours.  After we adopted Jacob and throughout Emma’s adoption we were experiencing a season of joy.  Life seamed complete, we had endured our trials well and were finally living “happily ever after”.  

Then in November of 2005 Krista started having what we called smell nightmares.  She would wake up suddenly smelling a strong chemical smell that wasn’t there.  At first we were perplexed by it but weren’t too concerned.  When it started to happen more often we started searching for the cause of these nightmares.  As you know a tumor was found in the right temporal lobe of her brain and upon resection of the tumor it was found to be a grade 4 glioblastoma.  This is the mother of all brain cancers and on December 12th of 2005 Krista was given 14 months to live.  

As if our past trials weren’t hard enough on us this news was devastating.  This was the first time that I was truly worried about what could happen.   Many things concerned me and a few terrified me including: 
  • How would Krista be able to endure the treatment and typical course of this disease?
  • How would I take care of Jacob and Emma and raise them alone?
  • What adjustments to our standard of living would we have to make with the loss of the income from Krista’s business?
  • Would Jake and Em have to watch their mom’s health, ability to take care of herself and mental capacities deteriorate to the point where she wouldn’t even recognize them.
  • And how would I be able to go on without my sweetheart and best friend of nearly 30 years. 
These occupied my thoughts constantly to the point of despair until I found time to fall upon my knees with tears streaming down my face and plead and with my Heavenly Father to bless Krista that she would have a long and healthy life.  And if there was any way, to extend her life, just long enough so we could raise Jacob and Emma together.  As I plead with the Lord I was overcome with peace and the thought came to my mind that no matter what happened we would be taken care of.  At that moment I ceased to worry and I knew that we would be blessed to endure all that would be asked of us.  Despite that confirmation I never stopped praying for Krista to live just long enough to raise Jacob and Emma. 

During Krista’s recovery from her brain surgery we were blessed in abundance.  We had legions of – as Krista would call them – "angels" attend to our every need.  We had meals, laundry, housecleaning, rides, childcare, yard work, home organizing, unpacking, cookies, caroling, presents and so many other blessings from ward members, friends, neighbors, family and many of you here that our every need was attended to physically, emotionally and spiritually.  During what could have been our darkest hour we were constantly surrounded by love and charity that it was truly a season of blessings for us.  Like with our previous trials there were many ups and downs over the next five years.  But Krista’s prognosis continued to look better and better.  I was sure that my prayers were being answered. 

Then almost a year ago Krista started to have severe back pain.  She went to several different doctors to try and find its cause.  After nothing concrete was found it was recommended that she have an MRI of her spine.  The MRI clearly showed a tumor had developed at the base of her spine right where the spinal cord divided into many nerves.  This tumor was creating a lot of pressure on these nerves causing her excessive pain.  Krista’s oncologist took this information to her hospital’s tumor board to plan a course of treatment.  The location of the tumor and how it had grown around the nerves eliminated the possibility of surgical resection.  So an aggressive round of radiation and multiple forms of chemotherapy was scheduled.  Again the blessing poured in, rides, meals, hugs and anything we were in need of were arranged and provided by many angels.  Once again Krista faithfully and happily endured months of constant radiation and chemotherapy, pain and discomfort.  Yet, I never once heard her complain about it and she would constantly encourage, help and show love to all she met, lifting their burdens while hers seemed so overwhelming.  As her treatment progressed her pain diminished and everything looked like the tumor was shrinking and dying off.  We were optimistic and anxious for her next MRI that would be on December 12th so we could celebrate the good news.  

Then on the night of December 9th 2010, after our family scripture study and prayers, Krista gave Jacob and Emma a hug and a kiss good night and went to bed early because she was tired as usual having had chemo and radiation for the last 3 months.  At a little past midnight Krista suddenly sat up in bed and told me to call 911.  Paramedics quickly arrived and rushed Krista to the emergency room.  After making arrangement for my sister-in-law to watch the kids I sped to the hospital fully expecting Krista to be taken care of and back home in a couple days.  

Shortly after I arrived at the hospital I understood the severity of Krista’s situation.  I called Bishop Moon and together we gave Krista a Priesthood blessing.  After the blessing we were escorted to a private waiting room where both the Bishop and I knelt as I offered a prayer.  Once again I plead with the Lord for Krista’s life, if there was any way possible for her to be healed.  But through my tears I told Heavenly Father that I accepted His will, whatever it may be.  As I ended the prayer an overwhelming feeling of peace came to my soul.  I knew that all was done for the Lord’s will to be done.  And if Krista were to pass away it was her time.  I knew she was ready, more so than anyone I've known, and she would be received into a state of love, peace and endless joy.  Shortly after our prayer Krista passed away.  Though I miss her and my heart aches for her, I know my Heavenly Father loves me and wants what’s best for me and all of his children.  He wouldn't take her unless it was a necessary part of His plan, to refine me and Jacob and Emma so that we can truly have a “Happily Ever After”. 
The last five years that Krista and I had together were the best that we had as this trial brought us closer to each other and closer to the Lord.   And I cherish our last three months together.  I don't know if she knew her time was coming but she had a quiet peace about her.  I remember being at the temple and while doing sealings for her family we gazed across the alter into each others' eyes.  I remember the total contentment and love I saw.   We had been through a lot together.  If we would have let it, it could have torn us apart but we drew closer together trusting the Lord’s wisdom.  He is the refiner and watches over his children as they are tried and purified so they can reach their full potential.

One of Krista’s favorite quotes is from her friend and former General Young Women’s President Ardeth Kapp, she said:
"this life experience is designed for our growth and progress. Our trials will not be more than we can handle, but they cannot be less if we are to fill the measure of our creation."
This is so true, though I still have a ways to go I know Krista has passed her mortal test and is waiting for me to finish mine.  30 years ago as we sat discussing our future lives we couldn’t have imagined what it would be like and what trials we would be blessed with, we never would have believed how much we would grow and learn to trust the Lord and accept His will in all things.  We could not have comprehended the abundant blessings to be poured out upon us despite the difficulty of the path we would be asked to follow.

Trials are necessary for us to fill the measure of our creation, they stretch us and expand us to allow us to reach our full potential.  They teach us compassion and understanding and a love for others.  They give us the ability to lift each other’s burdens, to comfort those in need of comfort and mourn with those that mourn.  And they give us a glimpse into the heart of our Savior Jesus Christ.  That we may love as He loves so that we may become even as He is.
Orson F. Whitney put it this way:
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”
I don’t know what life still has in store for me but I know if I remain faithful and trust the Lord and accept His will in all things that I will be able to return home into Krista’s waiting arms and together we will finally live “Happily Ever After”.


Kate said...

thank you for sharing this . . . Krista was always an example to me, first in the 2ofus4now group, and then through the blog . . . I miss her, and will always treasure the blessing she was and continues to be in my life.

cojoki said...

I appreciated following Krista's blog, but expected it to end when she died. Jared, thanks for sharing your spirit as well.

Krista said...

That is such an inspiring story--you should consider submitting it to the Ensign! Even through the grief you are sharing the burden with the LOrd and gaining spiritual knowledge. Thanks you for posting!

Cindy O said...

Jared, I found your blog through a google search about glioblastoma, and appreciate the insights shared by both you and Krista.
My husband Dave was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in March of this year, and we have been on a roller coaster ride since then. He is doing fairly well, and we feel very blessed, but it has been an eventful and exhausting 6 months.
We too, are Latter-Day Saints, and have been blessed with many "angels" as well. Our children are older than yours - our daughter is just graduating from BYU, and our son returned from his mission in July and was just married 2 weeks ago. We are thankful for them, and are grateful that we are able to grow closer during this time.
We know that the Lord is in charge, and we are striving to understand His will and do it every day. Thank you to both you and Krista for sharing your testimony and faith in such a positive way - it blesses more lives than you know. ;-) CindyO