The only thing that satisfies the yearnings of the human spirit is the perpetuation of family love.
Family has meant everything to me. My greatest joys and, yes, deepest worries and sorrows, have come from my family. My late wife, Dantzel, and I were blessed with nine daughters and then, finally, a son. Our home was basically a girls’ dormitory until Russ Jr. came along! Our daughters showered him with so much love that I’m not sure he knew who his actual mother was for the first several years.
I loved watching our children grow and took pride in their accomplishments. I have welcomed grandchildren and great-grandchildren and now even a great-great-grandson into the world. I have relished every minute we have together in what has become a very large group of people who love being together.
I taught my children to ride bicycles, ski on both snow and water, and drive a car. During the twenty-plus years that we had only daughters in the family, I taught my girls how to mow the lawn and shovel the snow. When Russ Jr. started asking questions about the heart, I took him to the hospital and showed him how to read an angiogram. During the years that Dantzel sang with the Tabernacle Choir, I learned to do the girls’ hair on Sunday mornings.
When my schedule at the hospital was particularly intense, Dantzel would load the kids into the station wagon and bring them to the hospital to have dinner with me. I still remember hearing one of my daughters tell a friend that it was “so cool to eat hospital food with Daddy”! Dantzel was the fountain from whom the nourishing love in our family flowed. I worked hard to spend time with our children, but she was the glue that held us together.
My love for my family members is deep and unwavering. With the miracle of each new baby, more love comes into the family. A newborn baby is completely helpless. When a colt or calf or elephant is born, each can walk on feeble legs. But an infant cannot do much except cry. That dependency upon father and mother requires a husband and wife to work together to serve their baby. This galvanizes their love for each other and their newborn. Family is simply one of the supreme blessings of life!
The sorrows that accompany family life are also very real. In addition to losing two daughters to cancer, I have seen two daughters suffer through divorce. But I have also been grateful for the fine men they later married, once again completing our family circle.
After fifty-nine years of marriage, Dantzel died of a sudden rhythm shift of her heart. Ironically, I had done extensive research on the very malady that claimed her life, yet I could not resuscitate her. I have experienced a widower’s silent loneliness.
I also know what it is to be blessed to marry a second time, also to a woman of compassion, intelligence, and generosity of spirit. Wendy has enriched my life beyond measure and filled it with joy.
Nothing compares with the happy companionship between a husband and wife. And nothing provides the joy and growth that come from happy children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who make a family circle rich, interesting, and challenging. Among the titles I cherish most are husband, father, and grandfather.
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