"Every Trial Is Necessary for Your Salvation"

by Patty Denhalter
As I begin to share my experiences, joys, love, trials, and testimony, I am so grateful for the trust Heavenly Father has given me, as His daughter. For every joy and happiness I have experienced and the many trials I have gone through, I am thankful. Most of them have been difficult and emotional from early in my life to now, as I am growing older.

But everything is worth it for me to be able to once again live with my Heavenly Father and my eternal family, and to be with and see my sweet daughter and tender son again. What joy lies ahead as I try to be obedient to the commandments of our Heavenly Father.

I often think about Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, and how she raised her perfect son and later watched him suffer and die. I in no way compare myself or my son Dennie to her or our Savior, but I can feel her anguish as she watched her Son in so much pain and suffering, prayed for and comforted Him, and finally watched Him die. I feel a small, small part of what she suffered and maybe felt.

I love her and admire her strength. Her example has helped me through this trial. My testimony has grown so much and in so many different ways over the years because of what Heavenly Father has let me experience. I have a stronger testimony than I have ever had because of my life and the happiness and trials I have been given. I will be forever grateful.

My Youth

I was born and raised in Utah. My parents, Alta Parrish Kerr Odell and Adrian William Odell, were good to me and my three older sisters, Colleen, Sharon, and Adri Ann. We raised chickens and rabbits. I had a happy childhood, even though things were not perfect. My dad had problems with drinking, which caused problems between him and my mom. But I knew I was loved, and I distinctly remember my dad teaching me how to pray.
 I have a stronger testimony than I have ever had because of my life and the happiness and trials I have been given. 
When I was 12, my father had a massive heart attack, and had to quit work. Many of the household responsibilities landed on my shoulders. When I was 16 years old, my mother became very sick. The doctors thought she had a brain tumor, but two years later she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, at the young age of 48. My older sisters were all married by this time, raising their own families, so I was left to handle most of the care for my mother.

During this time, I met a handsome young man, and we were soon married, when I was 17 years old. We moved to California and started our own family. Our first son, Brett, was born a year later, when I was 18. When I was 20 we had a second son, Bart, and at age 25, our son Darryl was born. Life was good with my cute little family.

We visited my parents often, and things were becoming progressively worse with my mother. She eventually had to go into a rest home. I missed being with her and caring for her. In April of 1970, she passed away. This was a very difficult time for me and my family. I knew where my mom was, and that she was better off, and that I would see her again someday.

A Miraculous Healing

Just two months later, Darryl, who was not quite two years old, became very sick. The doctors thought that he had picked up some type of infection from being around chickens, but after many tests, they ruled that out. They could not figure out what was wrong with him. Darryl was taken to the children’s hospital. After many more tests, they told us he had hemolytic uremic syndrome, but still had no answer for how to make him well. Darryl had eight blood transfusions, and his kidneys stopped working for five days. His whole body was swollen. The doctors were preparing me for his death. I was at the hospital day and night with him through this entire ordeal--I could not leave my little boy alone in the hospital. Our ward, family, and many friends were fasting and praying for Darryl to recover.

One day, Patriarch Woodhouse called us, saying that he had just returned from Salt Lake, where he had been ordained to “bless the perfect souls.” He asked if he could come and give Darryl a blessing. We readily agreed, and my husband brought him to the hospital. I was in a chair holding my baby boy, who had tubes and wires all over him. Patriarch Woodhouse gave Darryl a blessing, but Darryl was moaning so loudly from his pain that I did not hear a word of the blessing. My husband, as he was taking the patriarch home, said, “I fear that this child is too perfect to live on this earth any longer.” The patriarch turned to him and said, “Have no fear, he will live. He has a great mission to perform in his life here on earth.”

While my husband was gone, I was still holding Darryl. I looked down at the tubes coming out of his body, and saw same bloody fluid passing through one of them. I let out a horrific scream, thinking that my baby was dying. The doctor and nurses came rushing in with a crash cart. They also thought he was dying until they saw that fluid, then they said that it was 2 cc’s of bloody urine, and that he was on his way back. 

Darryl improved bit by bit until he was well enough to come home, but the doctor was still concerned because one kidney was too large and the other was too small. He had to return to the hospital a few months later, where the doctors planned to remove the smaller kidney. However, when the doctors performed an exploratory surgery to check the condition of his kidneys, they found that they were both healthy and perfectly normal. The doctors were astounded. The doctor asked me, “Patty, do you believe in God?” “Yes,” I said. She said, “Patty, kidneys do not repair themselves. We have just seen a miracle.” 

Darryl has not had one problem with his kidneys since then. This incredibly difficult time became the moment when my simple testimony grew. I knew then that Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. That testimony has helped me get through all the other trials I had yet to face throughout my life.

Raising My Family

After much prayer about whether to have another child, five years later we were blessed with another son, Dennie. He was a blessing to have in our home, and his brothers all loved him so much. Three years later, our fifth son, Dustin, was born. He and Dennie were best friends, and still are to this day. Five years later, we were overjoyed to find out that a baby girl was on her way to our family. We were devastated, however, when she was stillborn just a few weeks before her due date. My arms were empty and my grief was great over our little Laura Patricia. I received a great deal of love and support from friends. The ache in my arms did not go away until a new baby, our sixth son, Daniel, was placed in them a year later. Daniel was my joy.
"My pain was almost unbearable, but I turned to my Heavenly Father and the scriptures, and went to the temple often for peace, comfort, and answers to my prayers."
We continued to raise our family in California, until 1998. During these years, my four oldest boys left on missions. Brett served in the Boston, Massachusetts Mission; Bart served in Santiago, Chile; Darryl served in Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Dennie served in Hamburg, Germany. Life was good, and our family was happy, for the most part. All four of these boys also got married in the temple while we still lived in California, and started their own families, often living close to us. We enjoyed welcoming grandchildren into the family.

Cancer Strikes Twice

Dennie got married in June of 1998, and just two months later was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. When he told me he had cancer, I thought my heart would stop beating. Dennie kept saying, “Mom, it’s okay. I’m not going to die from cancer.” He received chemotherapy, which was effective in killing the cancer. In November, we moved to Utah, to the same neighborhood where Darryl lived. Dennie continued his radiation treatments here, and it left him very weak, but doctors were hopeful for a good recovery. Dennie was declared cancer-free.

Dennie and his wife returned to California to spend Christmas with his wife’s family. While there, he started having back pain. The doctors did an MRI to check for cancer, but they saw no signs of cancer in his body. Just a week later, we learned that cancer had entered in his spine--he had a 16 inch tumor along his spine. On a terrible night in February of 1999, Dennie became paralyzed from the chest down. He was in so much pain, both physical and emotional.  First, we couldn’t stop the pain in his back. His legs were wobbly and he was having a hard time walking. Soon he couldn’t walk and he went paralyzed on the sofa in our home. 

We called 911 and off he went to one hospital, then another. The numbness was going up--first his toes and feet, then his legs, continuing up to his chest. It finally stopped after receiving chemotherapy and radiation. Our journey really began. So much to learn, so much to do. As his mother, my heart was broken for my son. His life had just completely changed. He was about to enter the life of a paraplegic person, and so were we as his family. 

Dennie said chemotherapy was like taking you as close to death as you could go, and then bringing you back again. His doctor said it was barbaric. The radiation burned his esophagus. He got bed sores from not being able to move, which caused him horrible pain. He had a flap surgery to repair his wounds, but because he didn’t have enough protein in his body, the surgery failed. A huge wound was left, and he was admitted to the burn unit. Dennie had a colostomy.

When he was able to leave the hospital, he and his wife lived in our home. It was a hard change for all of us, and we had so much to learn to take care of him. Dennie couldn’t walk, and depression set in. A few months later Dennie and his wife moved into their own apartment. Dennie’s wife was a wonderful support to him through six years of marriage. Sadly, she became addicted to Dennie’s pain medication, and eventually she divorced him. It broke his heart.

With all that we were going through, my husband made some bad choices, and we were divorced. That added to my heartbreak--not only the pain of my son having cancer and becoming paralyzed, but now a divorce from the father of my six sons and daughter. My pain was almost unbearable, but I turned to my Heavenly Father and the scriptures, and went to the temple often for peace, comfort, and answers to my prayers.

My fifth son, Dustin, had served a mission in Charleston, West Virginia. After returning home, he was married in the Manti temple. Now I was sending my sixth son, Daniel, on a mission to Houston, Texas. When Daniel returned from his mission, he married his beautiful wife in the Salt Lake temple. I was also called on a mission--a service mission at the Bishop’s Storehouse, where I am still serving. This calling has helped me through a very rough time, and I love serving there.

Struggles and Service

My son Dennie was also called as a service missionary and served a short time with me. Unfortunately, he was susceptible to infections, and this often put him in the hospital. Many times the infections were so severe he was not expected to live, but through much prayer and fasting, we witnessed several miracles of healing, and Dennie was able to return home until the next time. We called 911 so often they became our good friends. Dennie went through so much--constant tests, blood work, IVs, x-rays, CT scans, MRIs. His wounds were big and painful, and had to be changed every two days--still, they never healed.

Dennie was always happy and positive, and said he would go through anything Heavenly Father wanted him to. He amazed me, his mother, and I loved taking care of him. He became my life, and I spent hours at the hospital each time he was there. When his van broke down, he had to go everywhere in his wheelchair and on Frontrunner. We had a good time together. We loved each other so much. He took care of me as much as I took care of him. He would listen to me when I had a hard day; he would pray with me and give me blessings. We would go to the temple together and enjoy the spirit there. I loved to hear Dennie pray. He told me I was the best mom and he was sorry if he ever made me feel bad. He always made us laugh. Dennie taught me and often reminded me that I could never ask WHY all this was happening.

Dennie was called as an advisor to the Priests Quorum in our ward. Most Sundays he was unable to get to the church, so the boys came to him, meeting in our home. Dennie loved teaching the Priests, and always tried to help them improve. Even when the Priests came to our home to give Dennie the sacrament, he would ask them to share a spiritual thought with him. He wanted to prepare them all to be great missionaries, and never missed an opportunity to teach them.

During the summer of 2011, an amazing group of friends wanted to raise money to help buy Dennie a new van. It had been years since his van was working, and he was very limited in the places he could go. We had to call an ambulance just to take him to doctor appointments. These wonderful people held a neighborhood breakfast and garage sale, and then organized a huge carnival and 5k run, all to raise money for Dennie’s new van. Dennie was so touched that people would do so much for him--it brought him great joy. He looked forward to being able to drive his own handicapped-accessible van. 

We cannot thank all of you enough for all you did for Dennie--not only those who worked so hard organizing and running the events, but also the hundreds of you who donated to the fund. Our family stands in awe of the wonderful neighbors surrounding us and supporting us. Unfortunately, Dennie went into the hospital shortly after all the money was raised, and never returned home. Instead of a van, the money went to pay for his funeral expenses, burial plot and grave marker--it was so greatly appreciated.

Dennie’s last stay at the hospital started on July 10, 2011. He was feeling okay, but I was concerned about how little urine he passed, plus he didn’t want to eat much and his energy was low. I knew the signs. I told him I was going to call 911 and just go get him checked out at Davis Hospital. I started to call, and he told me to give him just a few more minutes to finish his game. Oh Dennie! They came and got him, and he crashed shortly thereafter. He came around but was so sick that after one week they sent him to the MICU. He had 13 infections. They didn’t even know if they could save him then. He was there for several weeks, maybe even months, back and forth to the ICU. He so wanted to come home. He was so tired of hospitals and all that goes along with that. So was I. I was there every day 12 to 18 hours a day with my son--taking care of him and loving him. I tried to ease his pain just by being there.

They finally sent him to another hospital--on the fourth floor they have a section called Promise. He really didn’t want to go there. But we did. He had many more tests and medications. His wounds started to improve, but fluid started to come on his body--he gained 140 pounds of fluid weight, which was terrible, and made Dennie so uncomfortable. The extra weight also made breathing more difficult. His kidneys started to shut down, and new wounds erupted. The doctors and nurses began telling us Dennie was going to die--over and over, day after day. Dennie kept saying, “I’m not going to die, I feel fine.”

Eventually, Dennie pretty much stopped eating. Family and friends prayed and fasted, and blessings were given. His brothers and family and friends were visiting often. Dennie had to have dialysis twice a week because his kidneys were destroyed as a side effect of a life-saving antibiotic. His blood pressure would often drop dangerously low during dialysis. He was on a bi-pap because he wasn’t breathing well. Many, many things were going wrong.

On Monday, November 6, they called me and told me that he needed to be intubated because his was unable to breathe well enough. I called all of his brothers, and they all came to the hospital. They were all concerned and emotional, as the doctor didn’t know if we would make it in time--he was that bad. I was very upset and crying as we drove to the hospital. 

The doctor came in and talked with all of us, including Dennie, and explained what was happening. Dennie was dying, and he had three options. First, they could just take everything away, and just make Dennie comfortable until he passed. Second, they could intubate him, and he could possibly live one or two more weeks. Or third, they could perform a tracheotomy. Dennie didn’t understand, he was upset and crying. He didn’t want to die. The choice was so, so hard for him, for all of us. The boys explained it all to him again. Dennie was unable to speak because he had the bi-pap on, but when they went through all of his choices again, he raised two fingers--he wanted to be intubated. Each brother said his goodbyes to Dennie, which was so difficult, but it was such a deeply spiritual experience. Dustin got him laughing. I just hugged him and cried. I knew I would never hear his voice again. So sad. I was overcome with grief. We left the room while they intubated him, and he was sedated when we returned.

We called my oldest son, Brett, who lives in California, and he started driving out to Utah. I stayed with Dennie most of the night, and then came early again the next morning. I took tender care of him, feeling his heartache and pain. Oh, my boy--his life was coming to an end, but he couldn’t talk to me. I felt so bad. I finally went home and got some sleep.

Wednesday morning, I arrived at the hospital early. The doctors and nurses kept telling me Dennie was dying, that he wouldn’t last long. I could hardly bear it. I knew he was dying--they didn’t have to keep telling me.

Bishop Hansen came to the hospital that evening. Dustin asked me to ask Bishop Hansen to interview Dennie to see if there was anything he wanted to clear up before he left. Bishop said that was a good idea. I left the room while this happened. After a while, Bishop Hansen found me in the hallway, and with tears and emotion he said, “Patty, he has nothing to clear up, he is ready to go be with his Heavenly Father. His next assignment is in the hereafter.” 

Bishop said he gave Dennie a temple recommend interview. We both just hugged and cried. He then took me by the hand and said, “Let’s give you a blessing and let Dennie help.” The spirit was so strong in there. I thanked him, and then he left. I stayed with Dennie, and because he couldn’t talk I wrote some questions. 1) "How did you feel about the blessing?"   He gave me a thumbs up. 2) "Are you ready to go?"  He moved his head slowly--yes. I cried again and he motioned for me to come to him--he held me and hugged me, and cried with me. He touched my face and hair with his tender love--oh, the pain we both felt.

I told him that Brett was on his way and would be there soon--Dennie gave me a thumbs up sign again. Brett arrived at the hospital around 9:30 pm. As he walked in, Dennie gave him the “I love you” sign. They hugged and cried, and Brett and I rubbed Dennie’s back, and washed his hands and face and hair. We told him we loved him, and that we would be back in the morning, and hugged him goodbye. We all needed some rest. It was a very emotional day. Brett and I got home and went to sleep.

I woke up early the next morning and got in the shower. I was just getting dressed when the phone rang. Dennie’s nurse Trevor said, “Patty, Dennie just died.” I couldn’t believe it, even though I was expecting it. Not now, not this soon! I ran to wake Brett, and we cried so hard. We called the other brothers, and we all headed to the hospital to be with Dennie.

As we entered Dennie’s room, the Spirit was there--a calm, peaceful feeling. Dennie’s body was there, but his spirit was gone. I hugged him, touched him, and cried. I held his hand, put his hand in my hair, and laid my head on his chest, as my family and I wept.

Comfort After Dennie's Passing

This was extremely hard, seeing my children in such deep mourning. Watching your children in pain is one of the hardest things a mother goes through. My boys are all so close and love each other so much, it was difficult. Through all this, I received comfort and love from each of them--their strong arms and their deep faith held me up as I was about to fall. They gave me reason to go on. They took over with the funeral arrangements and everything that needed to be done along with my sweet daughters-in-law and grandchildren. The friends and leaders in our ward and stake were amazing. How grateful I am for all that was done for our family. I thank you, everyone, with all my heart.

We recognized the many tender mercies of the Lord surrounding Dennie’s death. My four sons who live nearby were all able to make it to the hospital in time to talk with Dennie and say goodbye to him before he was intubated. Dennie was able to live long enough for my oldest son, Brett, to arrive from California in order to say goodbye to Dennie as well. Most mornings, I am alone in my home, but Brett was there the morning I got the call from the hospital that Dennie had passed, so I wasn’t alone. These are just a few of the many tender mercies of the Lord that were shown to our family at this difficult time.

My last act of service for my son Dennie was to dress him in his temple clothing and prepare him for burial. I have had the privilege of doing this for several sisters who had passed on while I was Relief Society President in California. I knew this would be a spiritual experience, and that Dennie’s spirit would be there to watch and comfort. I asked my sons if they would like to help. We all gathered at the mortuary, along with two grandsons, and performed this wonderful spiritual act of service. We all felt the spirit of our Heavenly Father and Dennie. Although it was very tender and emotional, we were so grateful to be a part of dressing Dennie and feeling the spirit--we will never forget it.
"Because of the gospel, I know where my son is, and what he is doing. I know we will see him again, and I will wait for the time when I can fall into his arms again--while he is standing."
The viewing was hard, but it was wonderful to see how many people came to honor and show respect for Dennie. So many loved him and had served him in so many ways--family, friends, doctors, nurses, aides, missionary companions, missions presidents, childhood friends, those he taught, Bishops, Stake Presidents, home teachers and on and on. The spirit was there--I felt peace. I knew Dennie’s spirit was with us, and that was just his body lying in the casket. Even though his body was so sick and weak, Dennie loved his body--it was the body Heavenly Father gave him. But now Dennie’s spirit had left his body.

The funeral was so wonderful, the Spirit was so strong. The words and music were inspired. It was perfect. My sons did an outstanding job of speaking about their brother and sharing their testimonies. I cried but I felt such comfort and peace.

Since Dennie’s passing, we have felt his influence in our lives. My son Darryl has been actively researching the Denhalter family line in order to do Temple work for ancestors. A distant relative gave Dennie a chart of family history, and Dennie and Darryl studied it together often, trying to decipher it. They made little progress. But Darryl now feels Dennie’s help in understanding the writing, even though it is in German, and has finally figured out how our family line ties into the one on the chart. Darryl credits Dennie’s help from the other side. This is probably just a part of his new mission he is engaged in.

I will be forever grateful for the honor and privilege of being Dennie’s mother, and for Heavenly Father trusting me to care for him through this time of illness and paralysis. I have learned so much--medically, physically, and emotionally, but mostly spiritually. My testimony has grown so much--I know Heavenly Father answers prayers. During the 13 years of Dennie’s illness, we have witnessed many miracles. Our family has been blessed in so many ways. I am so grateful for the Atonement. Because of the gospel, I know where my son is, and what he is doing. I know we will see him again, and I will wait for the time when I can fall into his arms again--while he is standing. I will repeat his favorite important quote to him:

“Every trial and experience you have gone through is necessary for your salvation.” --- Brigham Young

I close my testimony, expressing my love for my Savior Jesus Christ, for the Holy Ghost, and most importantly, for my Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ amen.