It was a year ago that I flew out to Houston to introduce my sweet new baby Owen to my mom.
It was the weekend before Thanksgiving. She was still recovering from her surgery and learning to endure chemotherapy. Her hair had just all fallen out and she was using her wig for the first time.
I sat at home with her on Saturday evening and watched the Saturday evening session of Stake Conference. (Stake conference is a church meeting that happens twice a year where all the congregations meet together). Because she was "home bound" she had been provided a link to view the services online.
What a difference a year makes.
This year on the weekend before Thanksgiving, my dad spoke at Stake Conference. It has been 5 months since my mom passed away. Just like then, I was able to watch the proceedings via an online link. I even recorded it. Unfortunately, there was a technical glitch and all of us lost the feed at 6 min 26 seconds.
Let me just say how much I love my dad. He is such a source of strength to all of us. In his remarks he speaks about one of the main tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which is that families are eternal. It is probably one of the most beautiful doctrines. The belief that if we create a beautiful marriage and family here with us in this life that we will also have those same relationships in the life to come. For me it is the most beautiful thing to hope for. That belief alone guides my daily actions more than any other.
Here is the written transcript of his remarks
Lessons from Candy
Thirty-seven years ago this week I went to SouthernUtah to be with Candy’s family for Thanksgiving. We had been dating for morethan a year and had been engaged to be married for 2 months. We were in loveand it seemed that my every thought was centered on Candy. BesidesThanksgiving, our task was addressing wedding invitations. On December 28, 1974we were married in the Oakland Temple for time and for eternity. On June 29thof this year, following a 10 month battle with ovarian cancer that includedthree surgeries, two sets of chemotherapy and qualification for and thendisqualification for two different clinical trials, Candy completed her work inthis life and the earthly time portion of our marriage ended. Those last 10months with Candy and the nearly 5 months since she went home have been a timeof incredibly accelerated learning. While there are lots of things that I donot understand, I have come to understand many things differently. Most relate to the ability to love and thesignificance of the marriage covenant we entered into. I have been asked tospeak about some of these lessons. When asked to do so, I thought it would beOK, but have realized that this will be no easy task. I hope I can convey toyou some of the many thoughts and feelings that I have experienced in a waythat help you understand and feel.
I think I best begin with perhaps the greatest lesson.That is, we have an incredibly kind, patient and loving Father in Heaven, whowith His Son help us at every step of mortality – and I mean at every step. Iwill come back to this, but want you to know that our faith and gratitude inour Father in Heaven deepened so much. It results in a realization that thereis more that can be obtained.
Now, some thoughts about marriage and the marriagecovenant itself. We knew that marriage for time and for eternity was what ourFather in Heaven wanted for us. What a great experience it was to be married inthe temple and begin our lives together. The marriage covenant is a mostsingular covenant. Prior covenants that I had made in baptism, confirmation,the priesthood and endowment were individual and between me and our Father inHeaven. The marriage covenant, however, involves two individuals and our Fatherin Heaven. I think the basis formarriage is best described in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave hisfather and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be oneflesh”. Within the bonds and bounds of marriage, we can experience the full expressionof love as we strive to become one. It is a process that we began those manyyears ago. We were rookies then. I don’t know that we fully achieved becomingone, but we came so much closer to it having our hearts “knit together inlove”. It will be in the eternity portion of our marriage that we will completethis process of becoming one.
We learned that marriage is a protected and intimaterelationship. We experienced things and felt things that may not be unique tous, but the context and setting for them was unique. Because of the sacred andintimate nature of this relationship there are many things that we areobligated to protect. Like most personal experiences with the Spirit, there aremany experiences that simply are not appropriate to share. You can rest assuredthat we experienced them and I am confident that you do also, but they aremeant to kept within the protected confines of marriage. I will try to openslightly a window on our relationship within these strictures.
The last 10months with Candy encompassed the most wonderful time of our entire marriage. Whata choice time it was. We came to understand how fully we could love each other.We came to understand that the purest learning and growth came from feeling. Wecommunicated differently and often without speaking. Yes, we knew some of thisbefore, but to experience it was amazing. One morning about 4 in the morning,Candy was unable to sleep and so was I. We went into the family room andwatched Mary Poppins. I don’t know how to explain it but we were drawntogether.
We also sawclearly Our Father in Heaven’s will unfold. It was given a little bit at atime. He carefully led us and strengthened us. The Bible Dictionary definesprayer as “the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the childare brought into correspondence with each other.” We came to know that it was,in fact, His will that Candy return home sooner than we would have chosen. Iwant to be careful with this concept of what we would have chosen. With our earthlyeyes and understanding, we would not have chosen this. However, we agreed longbefore we came to this life that we would welcome the opportunity formortality. We understood then and understand better now that there are noexemptions from mortality, but that is because Our Father in Heaven’s entirework is “to bring to pass” our immortality and eternal life. He has customizeda plan for each of us. In Alma 40:12 we learn that “the spirits of those thatare righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise,a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all theirtroubles and from all care, and sorrow.” I think this state is achieved, inpart, because of the very understanding we are talking about. We will all somedayhave the opportunity to gather before the bar of God. I do not think the thinkthe topic of discussion will be why we were given the experiences that we were.I think that we will simply be filled with gratitude at the realization thatour set of individually customized experiences coupled with the atonement ofour Savior provided the greatest opportunity possible for returning to be withour Father in Heaven and with our families forever. It is for this reason thatI think that even if it were possible for us to “renegotiate” the terms of ourmortal existence during this time, that we would quickly come to the conclusionthat there could not possibly be a better way.
To claim the blessing of the marriage covenant;namely, having our family together forever, requires our living up to certain obligations.One of these is that we serve. Candy andI have tried to do so. For 15 years, I served in the stake and after 3 shortyears as a scoutmaster and Sunday School teacher I have served at Bishop forthe last 4 and one half years. During this time, Candy served as Relief SocietyPresident, in the Stake Relief Society Presidency, as primary president and soon. Some of you may have been in the Saturday evening session of stakeconference 15 years ago when President Rasmussen announced that Candy and Iwere going to become parents again. At the time, this was not widely known. AsTyler came and grew and developed he learned to talk. There was a period wherenearly every time I left the house for a meeting, he would cry and ask “Daddy,do you have to go?” I would respond that “yes, I had to go” and that he neededme to go so that I could be a better father. I am not sure I fully realized thetruth of that statement then. I do now.
There was an accumulation of experience and understandingof the gospel from the service that was of inestimable value in helping us dealwith the challenges that came. We had a reservoir to draw on and we drew on itmost deeply. I am grateful for the opportunities to serve. There is somethingabout faithfulness in simply coming to church and working on fulfilling ourcallings. I will have to confess that in the last year I did not like coming toChurch without Candy. While we had often not been in the same building forChurch over the years, we were always there and knew that. Leaving her at homewas difficult. I had all the excuses that one could ever have, but it wasconfirmed over and over again that we simply needed to keep coming. In thoselast weeks, I asked Candy if she wanted me to stay home with her. I knew theanswer before she gave it. No, you need to be in Church and to take care ofthings. Somehow, this simple act of obedience, learned over many years, wasextremely helpful to both of us and to our family.
Let us return to prayeragain. We learned of the many, many individuals, families and groups thatprayed on our behalf and many continue to do so. There were prayers from familyand friends and from many that we do not even know. They came from across theworld so that there were probably few times where petitions were not going tothe Father on our behalf. They came from those with strong faith and thosewhose faith had lain dormant for a period of time, they came from those whowere members of the Church and those who were Catholic and Baptist, andMethodist and Jewish and those who may not have known even how to pray. Many inthis congregation prayed on our behalf. We express our gratitude to all. Candydid not die because there were not enough prayers offered or because there wasnot enough faith exercised. I do not think, however, that we would have made itwithout these prayers. I testify to you that these prayers, each and every one,were and are heard and answered. Somehow, we each need to understand this. Weprayed and continue to do so that all who were exercising faith and praying onour behalf would know this. It is especially important that this be taught toour children.
One of the greatest lessonswe learned was just how kind and helpful people are. We learned that so many ofour friends and acquaintances are filled with faith, that they say theirprayers and that they are willing to do help in any way. We learned thatHeavenly Father answers prayers often through those around us. There remainsome tough days. I am amazed that those days are just the ones where a kindnote will be sent or someone will call or tell us that they are thinking of usand praying for us.
A reasonable question is,“Why did Sister Hanis have to die at this time?” Most do not have thisexperience at this age. Few husbands and fathers are given this experience. Ithink the answer lies in that fact that we were often praying for healing whileour Father in Heaven was working on making Candy whole. Given the choice ofbeing healed or being made whole, we choose “whole”. I watched Candy becomewhole. It was the most beautiful experience I have ever witnessed. She was themost whole person I have ever known. As the cancer worked its purpose of endingCandy’s mortal experience here, she became ever more beautiful. Our home becameever more special. Doubt fled. Peace came. As did innumerable acts of kindnessand service on our behalf. Gratitude swept over us.
Understanding came of what it really meant to be “sealed” to one another. It was no longer a theoreticalconcept. Last night, I reread a note that she had written me reiterating thesethings and reminding me to live so as to claim the promised blessing. She alsopromised that she would do so from where she was. I am confident that she is.
In the last few months, Ihave come to understand differently that distinctly Mormon phrase, “Born in theCovenant”. My children are listed on our family group sheet as being “Born inCovenant”. What covenant? They have been born into the covenant that Candy andI made nearly 37 years ago as we were married in the Oakland Temple. Itprovides for them great blessings. It provides for us as parents greatobligations. It seems that a father and mother are barely enough to raisechildren. They require an inordinate amount of work. I am learning just howmuch work Candy put into our children. I have the opportunity to pick up the pacea bit in what I do. One of the things that has surprised me is how much Ilearned from simply being around Candy and watching her, often unconsciously. Iwant to simply tell you that I love being a father. I love taking care ofTyler.
Jamie, Shad and Amber haveleft father and mother and they have entered into the same covenant that CandyI made. While each of our children remain engulfed and protected in thecovenant that Candy and I made, their children – 12 of them now – are each borninto the covenants that thy have made. We look forward to and pray daily forthe day that Carrie will make the same covenant and then later when Tyler doesso. One thing is for sure, Heavenly Father will not withhold any blessing. Wealso see that how these covenants bind us from generation to generation.
Now a few practical tips toyou husbands. Sisters, you may want to nudge him and make sure he is payingattention. I may get away with saying some things to them that you could notget away with. Brethren, be nice! There is no act of kindness or concern for mywife that has not been returned several fold. Likewise, the things that I didfor Candy over the years to make her life easier or happier have returned manyfold. Everything I did to help her with the children and be a full partner isnow returning as I continue. Do not carry baggage. You are not in charge. You“preside”, but that is vastly different from being in charge. Listen to yourwives. I have repeated many times that the Holy Ghost sounds a lot like mywife. Even now, I can ask questions and know how Candy would respond. Brethren,make sure that you pray in your families. The time that Candy and I knelttogether in prayer over the last 37 years is not measured in hours, but hasaccumulated to be the equivalent to weeks and months. Can you imagine theimpact of simply kneeling together with your covenant companion for months? Itworks miracles on us. It is best to do this in twice daily doses as opposed togoing home and kneeling together for all of the next few months. Brethren, donot give your wives your leftovers. Be true and faithful to your marriagecovenants. I can assure you that I am not perfect and have much more to learn,but I have tasted of what is possible and it is the choicest experience to behad in this life or the life to come.
In closing, I expressgratitude to my Father in Heaven. He is kind and patient and loving andhelpful. As I said, children require an inordinate amount of work. I can hear Himagreeing with that and saying that you have no idea. I am grateful that heallowed me to enter into the marriage covenant with Candy. I am grateful thatthis covenant has not ended. I look forward to being with her again and beingan eternal family. Just as 37 years ago it seemed that my every thought wascentered on Candy, so too does it seem today. I am grateful that bounds of the marriagecovenant set by Him are achievable. I testify that this is all real. Iunderstand that differently today. I don’t know if there was any other way forme and Candy to have learned these lessons. My learning here is not over nor isCandy’s there. To these things I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen