Church today left me feeling tender. We are starting to develop tiny relationships with people in the ward but, being just two weeks old, the relationships are rather two dimensional and we are quite far from knowing the backgrounds and histories and personal stories that take all these names and faces and develop them into three dimensional friends.
So when our relief society lesson happened to be about temples today and not one, but two women were asked to share their testimonies about the recent tragic deaths of loved ones in their lives, I felt slightly out of place. I watched the rest of the women in the room fighting their emotions (some successfully, but most of them unsuccessfully) when the first woman, an older woman, stood up to talk. But I didn't know her story. And I didn't feel the emotion.
There was something nice, however, about being able to feel the sweet spirit of her testimony without being tainted by the powerful emotion of sorrow (not that the two can't go hand in hand, because they can). But it was obvious to me that I was missing a giant piece of the puzzle.
After she sat down, a wonderful new friend slid over into the empty seat beside me and whispered into my ear that the woman had lost her son two months ago, and that he had left behind a young family. My heart tugged as I remembered sitting next to Brian's hospital bed, fearing for my own young family.
As the next young sister stood to bear her testimony my new friend whispered that this sister had lost her husband last Christmastime from a brain tumor and had left her behind with two young children. From the diagnosis to the end was only nine weeks. You can imagine the emotion in the room as she talked about what the sealing powers of the temple meant to her.
Halfway through her testimony, as the lump in my throat swelled so large I feared it might actually do some damage, I thought to myself I can't do this. Memories of Brian's heart attack swirled through my head and found their way to mingle with memories of Jess and, for a brief moment, I just wanted to escape. I don't know these people and their stories, I thought to myself. They don't know me and mine. I didn't want to cry there in that room, even though everyone else was, because I knew that they were all crying for her, and I would have selfishly been crying for me. Plus, it just didn't seem right for me to cry about me when my husband was next door and hers wasn't.
But then I looked closer at the picture this young widow had taken to the front and placed against the small pulpit in front of her. It was a beautiful picture taken of her and what must have been her two children, maybe four and two. She and the kids were all dressed beautifully and posed comfortably on the lawn in front of the temple, the spires of the building rising up behind them towards the heavens. They were smiling in the photograph, all three of them, and one of the children held a framed picture of their dad. To the right, there was a handmade sign propped up against the mother's knee that read 'Families can be together forever'. It was a happy picture... not one meant to make you want to cry... and it touched me deeply.
It's okay, I thought. Here this strong woman is, standing up in front of all of us, telling us through her tears that it's okay.
The temple makes it okay.
And I sent a prayer of gratitude right then and there for the knowledge I have of this gospel. For these sisters who were so willing to share their hearts with me, a stranger. For my Savior who brings peace and love to even the most broken heart.
And for the power and sacredness of the temple.
*All these pictures were taken at the Ft. Lauderdale Temple Open House last
April before it was dedicated. We were able to take all four of our kids through.
It was such a beautiful experience for all of us.