When our lovely twenty-one-year-old daughter was hit by a truck, my husband and I and three of our children were in Brazil serving a mission. All the children living in the United States flew immediately to the Indiana hospital where Georgia lay fighting for her life. Those living in our home, understandably, left the house in great disarray as they rushed to find a plane. Dear neighbors spoke to one another about the situation, and the next morning, as the family was in Indiana trying to cope with Georgia’s passing, twenty-five covenant-keeping sisters gathered at our home in Salt Lake City.
They came in the front door with their cleaning supplies, buckets, and brooms. Whispering to one another, they chose different parts of our disheveled home and began the work of angels. They spoke only when necessary and even then very softly. Sometimes, as a dear neighbor said, they wept as they worked. Some weeded the front flower beds and planted fresh flowers around the doorstep. Others scrubbed the kitchen, dusted and polished furniture, cleaned floors, and shined windows. When the work was finished, they gathered, just as quietly, in our family room. This circle of friends knelt together, united their faith, and prayed for a blessing on our home and family—that we would feel peace and love as we returned to bury Georgia.
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We arrived from Indiana heartsick, knowing we had to face Georgia’s viewing and funeral. As we drove up our driveway, our house seemed to glow. We gazed wonderingly at sparkling windows and neatly edged flower beds dotted with new plants. When we opened the front door and stepped into our immaculate home, the service of these sisters encircled us in tender comfort and welcome. The house was clean from top to bottom. The refrigerator was filled with food. There lingered in the very atmosphere a goodness and loveliness bestowed upon us by sisters who knew how to comfort those who stand in need of comfort.
Converted, covenant-keeping sisters carry with them the blessings of heaven and the glory of God. They receive the spiritual power and inspiration that come when they keep their covenants. They turn their hearts to Jesus Christ and take His yoke upon themselves. And then, with healed and strengthened faith, converted sisters reach out to heal and strengthen others.
I moved numbly through the funeral and the following days and weeks, learning to function normally, albeit shakily. Much of my sorrowing was ameliorated by time spent looking into the night sky of Brazil. Our mission home’s large ninth-floor windows invited me night after night to come and be soothed. Opening our bedroom window, with no screen to divide me from the trees and sky, I stood, I prayed, and I wept, as my husband and three sons slept. Even though I felt I could say, “It will all work out,” I still had grief to work through and raw emotions to heal.
The heavy sense of loss lifted by degrees. My window place became beloved, sacred ground as I opened my heart to the Father of us all and felt the embrace of Brazil’s soft night. And then September 25, 2003, arrived.
On that one-year anniversary memories tumbled back, scenes of us receiving the phone call from the U.S. that Georgia had been hit by a truck while riding her bike, the twenty-four hours of hope as we waited to hear that she would be fine. The shock of learning that she was in critical condition, the swift and perilous taxi ride across São Paulo at rush hour to the airport, the work of angels to soften and reverse the stern refusal by an airport official to accept my passport at the gate, the desperation that filled me as we took off for the ten-hour trip to Indiana, and the merciful, unmedicated gift of deep sleep for the duration of the flight—all combined to send me directly to the throne of grace with broken prayers of gratitude and supplication, “Please keep her safe; please let her live.” Both prayers were fully answered in God’s eternal wisdom: Georgia is safe and Georgia does live. I know that.
But during the last week of September 2003, tension in me began to build as I recalled the events of her passing in the previous year. When the twenty-fifth came, I simply couldn’t, wouldn’t, go with David to zone conference. I needed to release the pressure building inside. I had to talk and I needed to move.
Restlessly I called wives of Church leaders who lived in our apartment complex. When one friend answered her phone, I blurted out that I needed help—I needed to talk to someone. Would she be willing to walk around the apartment grounds with me? Within minutes we were walking slowly through the shady, wooded parks of the apartment landscape. With tears, gulps, and scraps of feelings, I let my anguish and memories about those three days of Georgia’s accident and her passing simply gush out—details, fears, shock, all mixed together and staring me in the face a year later. My friend listened, nodded, and wept. Her warm silence was a balm to my aching as our long walk and talk eased the fearful memories from my mind.
As my nemesis date drew near in 2004, I prepared myself by calling another dear neighbor. She and I walked the same paths, and I shared the same memories. A yoke of goodness, peace, and love settled on our shoulders as we walked side by side through my wounds. Perhaps it was our sisterhood, perhaps it was time’s healing or my friend’s steady faith, or maybe I was beginning to allow the Holy Ghost to be part of that fearsome day, for I felt that a bit of growth, perhaps begun the previous year, was happening.
Once home from our mission, I wondered, as the date drew near in 2005, how I could cope without the familiar woods, paths, and pattern of a comforting companion. But the Lord provides. A wonderfully sensitive neighbor, Janene, pulled into the driveway on September 25, 2005, in her sporty convertible, top down. She opened the door of my house and said with a big smile, “Are you ready? It’s a gorgeous fall day, and I want to take you on a ride up the canyon!” She got me in the car, handed me a scarf, and off we roared through the gold of fall leaves, past tumbling canyon streams. I started by saying, “Oh, today is . . .” and my voice trailed off. Janene answered softly, “I know, Neill. I know.” Some sad tears did trickle, but no poison entered my heart that day, only acceptance and peace.
Each of my September twenty-fifths, past and future, is stitched together throughout the year by threads of regular scripture study, prayers, and temple worship with David. This spiritual sewing keeps me bound to an abiding trust in the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection. Through the years I have learned, by the privileges of the restored gospel, that despite tragedy and opposition of mortal life, joy can still grow. Things will work out.
As we make covenants with the Lord, we will be empowered—and indeed, we of covenant Israel are now empowered—to have the spirit of truth direct our paths in this sometimes confusing and wicked world. I have steady confidence that all will be safely gathered in by this, the Father’s plan of happiness, and Georgia will be back among us . . . or more correctly stated, we will all be with her in a glorious place of lasting joy and fulfillment in the celestial kingdom of our Heavenly Parents. Faith in our Redeemer and His Resurrection, faith in His priesthood power, and faith in eternal sealings let us state our motto with conviction. . . .
I still fight my weaknesses, but I trust in the divine help of my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Seeking relief and answers, I have often entered the holy temple burdened and left knowing I had an all-powerful and all-loving Savior. I have become lighter and more joyful because I have received His light and accepted His plan for me, even though he allowed my particular challenge to remain.
Ten years after Georgia’s death, I was settled on the couch one Sunday morning listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing during their weekly broadcast when the choir began to sing these lyrics:
O love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
The haunting melody, the long-lost memories of singing this Methodist hymn as a youth, the simple yearning within the lyrics awoke deep-seated feelings. Then, with the third stanza, I felt a current of spiritual joy as the tears began to flow, my heart welling up in gratitude for the promise of Christ’s sacrifice for me, for Georgia, for all of us on earth.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
(“O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,”
George Matheson, 1882)
All that I know, all that I am holds to the promise, the power, the mercy and love of the Savior, Jesus Christ and His Atonement. His love will not let us go. He is the promise that truly our ultimate morn will dawn, tearless forever.
When we offer our broken heart to Jesus Christ, He accepts our offering. He takes us back. No matter what losses, wounds, and rejection we have suffered, His grace and healing are mightier than all. Truly yoked to the Savior, we can say with confidence, “It will all work out.”
Lead image from Mormon Newsroom
In Seek This Jesus, Sister Neill Marriott shares highlights of her personal story as she testifies of Jesus Christ and offers a unique and intimate invitation for readers to seek Him. With topics including searching for the Savior, bringing the influence of the Lord into our families, and feeling God's grace in difficult times, Sister Marriott encourages readers with her warm, personable style and Southern charm.