Latter-day Saint Life

Sister Nelson Shares How Losing Her Baby Brother Taught Her the Heavens Are Open


This is the second in a series of articles from Sister Wendy Watson Nelson's new book, The Heavens Are Open. Read the first part here.

How has my life been blessed by various unexpected experiences? What are some of the things I learned?

I learned about the reality of life after death when my long-awaited baby brother, David, lived only seven hours. On that first day of my fifth-grade year, September 1, I was thrilled with the Polaroid picture my dad had taken of David that morning when he was born and immediately placed in an oxygen tent. I took that photo with me to school to show all my friends. Later that day, as I walked home, I knocked on every door I passed and asked, “Would you like to see a picture of my baby brother?”

When I arrived home, I learned that David had died. I was grief-stricken. That’s when my grandmother took me into a private room where she and I could be together to talk and to cry. She told me that she had been inconsolable when her grandmother Sarah had died. Then, several months later, Sarah—now living on the other side of the veil—visited Grandma. Sarah sat right on Grandma’s bed.

She told my grandmother to stop grieving and get on with her life. Sarah was very much alive and well. From that moment on, even though I was sad—and became even sadder when I saw how sad my mother was—I knew that David was alive. He was my brother and would always be my brother.

I learned that irony truly is “the hard crust on the bread of adversity,” as Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught.1 I learned this when my mother—the woman who had taught others to open their eyes to see so many of the beauties around them—became blind!

This seemed tragically ironic, as it was my mother who would phone me from 150 miles away and say, “Run out and look at the moon!”

Mom was fascinated with nature and the solar system. A big fat yellow moon rising up from the prairie horizon stirred her soul, as did the thinnest crescent moon high in the sky. From the aurora borealis to a robin in the rain, no constellation or creature seemed to go unnoticed by my mother’s all-seeing eyes.

And now she couldn’t see! My dad helped her with her makeup and curled her hair. Friends wrote letters for her that she wished she could write, and, in order to continue to learn, she listened to books on tape. For such an independent woman, accepting help from others involved a steep learning curve for Mom.

I had the privilege of being at her bedside on the spring morning when she departed. I pictured her bolting through the veil of death so eager to see her son David and other family members and friends on the other side.

I have learned and continue to learn about courage, determination, indefatigability, and resiliency by observing how my younger sister lives her life. She has battled for the very breath of life literally all of her life.

Virginia was born with a rare congenital anomaly that resulted in a chronic lung condition. Undaunted, she studied and received two master’s degrees, worked full-time for nearly 25 years at Brigham Young University, and served as organist as well as Primary pianist in whatever stake and ward in which she has lived. She is one of my heroes. The powers of heaven have sustained her—helping her day after day to do the impossible.

I have learned how the Lord orchestrates our lives when we are seeking to do His will. When we want to fill the measure of our creation more than we want things of the world, the heavens will open.

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Read more from Sister Nelson in The Heavens Are Open.

God speaks to His prophet on the earth today. And He will speak to you, too.

That is the powerful testimony of Sister Wendy W. Nelson, wife of President Russell M. Nelson, as she shares her personal witness of truths that will increase our capacity to receive and act on revelation from the heavens. In this volume, she offers a number of ideas for things we can do—and stop doing—in order to understand the Spirit’s direction more clearly.

“All I have witnessed, all I have experienced tells me that our Father wants to communicate with each one of His children and will do so commensurate with our desire and earnest seeking,” writes Sister Nelson. This remarkable book will help readers learn how to open that door.

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