We moved into our ward a few years ago and have six children. Only one still lives at home, and that is a big adjustment. I love being a mother and serving my children. The best sound in the world to me is the sound of my children, in the same room with each other, laughing.
I have four of my own children, and after going through a divorce and remarrying was blessed with a wonderful husband and two stepsons. As you can see from our family picture, there are only five children in it.
I had a daughter at the age of three pass away from cancer. She was my first of my children to be bothered with the disease. Her little life was cut short, but for a while I was able to be with her and learn more from her in three short years than I could have taught her in a lifetime.
My second daughter was diagnosed when she was 12 with a tumor in her breast and has undergone a double mastectomy, and my youngest was 12 when he was diagnosed with a tumor and has gone through a partial amputation of his left leg from the knee down. I was married for 17 years to my first husband and also went through a few different cancers with him, including a brain tumor.
I don't like to share my story very much. I get some very sad faces starring back at me, and sometimes it sounds too crazy to be real even to me. I have been asked how I get through all of this, and it makes me wonder myself sometimes. I figured it out one day: I just run faster than the hurt. When I start to get comfortable, I feel it catching up with me, so I just start running again. One day it will catch me, but I hope by that point the Savior will have returned, and the sting won’t hurt so much.
What I really want to share with you are some of my feelings as I climbed my mountain. I know I have not reached the top yet--I still have a long way to go. I am very clumsy and sometimes a slow learner, so it is going to take me a long time.
But I have learned that emotions are part of the journey, so here are some I have felt. I have had some moments of complete darkness where I felt I could not stand up, and I would pray for the strength to move forward. There have been times when I have wished that the prophet would just happen to show up and bless my child and cure them of this disease that strips their life away.
I have had anger as I watched my child hurt and couldn't make the pain stop, and anger at my loss. I have felt very alone, knowing no person could feel the exact same way as me at that moment, and nothing could make it go away. I have felt the struggles of being a single mom and hoping I was not going to mess up my children too much. I have felt the loneliness and wondered when I would feel whole again.
I have also felt my testimony of faith grow as I prayed with my children. I hope you will forgive me as a share a few stories.
When my little daughter Alexis was going through chemo, the light would sometimes give her headaches, so she spent a lot of time in my room with the curtains shut. She loved Shirley Temple movies, and one day on a trip to the library to see if there were any more of her movies that we hadn’t seen yet, Alexis started to cry, telling that me her head hurt.
We packed up quickly to get her home into a dark room. By the time we returned home, she had been crying for a half hour. I tried everything I could think of to help her, and still she cried with the pain. I kneeled down by my bed and was rubbing her head and started praying out loud to our Heavenly Father that he would make her headache go away. By the time I finished the prayer, Lexie was asleep. She had perfect faith, and our prayer was answered.
We are daughters of God. We are here in this life to learn and to become strong and remember our Heavenly Father.
I have felt the arms of others holding me when I could not stand on my own. When I separated from my first husband, the children and I moved out of our home. I had asked the ward for some help to move, and in the morning I woke up to a cul-de-sac full of trucks and men.
After loading up the trucks, we started driving away from my home. I was terrified to be leaving behind a phase in my life to start over on my own. I remember looking in my rear-view mirror as we drove away. Behind me I saw a line of trucks and people who were following me, and I suddenly felt Heaven's love through the service of others. Along with the trials come great blessings.
What I want to share the most with you is that we are not alone. I have a mother who has taught me from birth that I have a Father in Heaven that is aware of me, and I have been comforted many times when I knew He was that only one who truly understands my emotions and knows my heart.
When praying to know what I could possible share with you here, this is what came into my thoughts:
We are daughters of God. We are here in this life to learn and to become strong and remember our Heavenly Father. How can we remember him if we do not acknowledge him in our lives and do things to draw us near to him? We have been asked to love and serve one another.
I remember after losing my daughter, someone did something very kind for me one day, and it lifted my heart. I remember thinking at that moment, "If only we could all remember that everyone here in this life has trials. Some are things that others can see, and some are within ourselves. To someone else it may appear as a small hill, but to the one climbing it, it is the hardest thing they have ever had to do. When we fall, as we all do when climbing, someone is there to help us up." We are not here to judge one another; we are here to help each other and to love. Look at this journey as a chance to serve each other.
I have been very humbled by the opportunity to speak at women's conference. When I heard the theme of the conference, I felt very inadequate to be speaking to all of you. Who am I but one single daughter of God in this journey of life who has had a few mountains to climb? But I have been blessed with many who have carried my pack as I make my way. I have not done this alone.
I know that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me. I know that He hears and answers prayers, not always in the way that I have asked, but in the ways that are best for me, however hard that is to accept. I know that we have been blessed with the gospel of Jesus Christ so that we may return into his presence.
I know that Joseph Smith was inspired to restore the church with the help of the Lord. I know that we have a living prophet today, President Monson. I know that we are not alone, that we have angels around us daily to pick us up when we fall and give us strength when we are weak.
I want to leave you with a scripture found in 2 Nephi 4:26-30:
26 O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?
28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.
29 Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.
30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.