Judy Eror has a distinct memory from her time as a temple ordinance worker in the Toronto Canada Temple. Her husband, who served on the same shift, had been on a business trip and would be arriving late to their shift. She hadn’t seen him until she rounded the corner ushering patrons into a session, and there stood her husband—dressed in white by the altar. And that’s when it hit her. That’s the feeling we’re all living for—the feeling of reuniting with someone we’ve loved, be it a parent, sibling, child, or spouse.
But not many years removed from that experience, Eror’s perfect ending already doesn’t look the way she imagined that day in the temple. It all changed when her husband of 42 years, and the father of her three children, left her. Suddenly, the end of her story seemed ambiguous. She struggled to get out of bed.
“I couldn’t see the end and I still can’t, but I decided that I’d just take it one day a time,” she says.
Judy Eror has lived many places in her life. She was born in Salt Lake, was raised in Denver, and graduated from high school in Minneapolis. She lived as a young mom for a brief time in Pennsylvania. But her favorite of all the places she has lived? Detroit, Michigan.
“I loved the Church culture there. I love how they became our family. I loved the diversity of the people that were around in our neighborhood. There just [was] almost nothing I did not love about Detroit,” she says. Her husband’s boss was the owner of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and the team was very good at the time, so the Erors often attended games.
She served as the Church’s Public Affairs representative in the area and with what was then LDS Family Services. It was also in Detroit that she became involved with American Mothers and was nominated by a number of evangelical women to be Michigan’s Young Mother of the Year.
In this capacity, she remembers speaking to a women’s group at a Presbyterian church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Before she spoke, the group had what they called “sharing time.” It was not the sharing time Latter-day Saints are accustomed to in Primary. Instead, she listened as one woman thanked her friends for praying for her son, who was trying to get off drugs.
“Another gave an update on her troubled marriage and thanked her friends for their prayers on behalf of her family,” Judy recalls. “And on and on it went: not at all uncomfortable but a true sharing of deepest joys, sorrows, and challenges.”
It was the people she loved most in Detroit, both those who were not Latter-day Saints and those who were.
“There was no judging in terms of what you have or who you are and what you’re doing or who your husband is. None of that. There was just genuine love for the gospel, genuine love for the Savior, and genuine love for each other,” she says.
As is true of many couples’ reasons for leaving a place they love, it was her husband’s job that brought them back to Utah, a place she has also come to love. Still, she left a part of her heart in Michigan. Then, as she settled into her new home, she faced something she never expected.
An End or a Beginning
Judy’s children suspected their father might leave the year before he actually did. They tried to tell their mother, but she insisted they were wrong. Her kids persisted, even calling a secret meeting at Christmas to discuss how they would help their mom if they were right. But in January, their father was called to the stake high council. Judy immediately called her children. “You were wrong,” she said. It was not just the call, but the Spirit she felt in the stake president’s office.
“I think that calling as I look at it now wasn’t for him. … From where I sit, it was for me and it was for my kids because that stake president stuck by me; he spent time with [my kids]…I think the Lord knew that I was going to need that kind of priesthood support,” she says.
As the situation became clear and her children’s fears were confirmed, Judy remained hopeful.
“I believe two people, if there’s remorse and humility on both parts, you can put anything together. You can make it work,” she says. But, in Judy’s case, her marriage was all but over.
After news of their separation began to spread, people in the stake asked if their stake president was really that off-base. “That stake president was absolutely inspired,” Judy says today.
As a result of that inspiration that may have seemed confusing to some at the time, all of Judy’s children’s testimonies have remained intact. Her son was recently called as a bishop.
“My challenge has anchored them more fully to the gospel, and it has made them better spouses and it’s made them better parents,” she says.
They have come to understand the gospel in a way they never understood it before.
“We think we know what it means to be sealed to somebody, but I don’t think we totally get it because the blessings that I have and that my children have as a result of my sealing to their father can’t be taken away, and those we’re entitled to are based on our worthiness, not based on what somebody else does,” Judy explains.
A New Identity
Still, Judy was left to pick up the pieces in her own life—a task that sometimes felt, and still at times feels, unbelievably daunting. For years, her biggest life decisions had been made in consideration of the team she was a part of and now everything felt different.
“You’re making all of those decisions thinking that you’re investing in another person and in that life that you’re building in the future and the eternity you’re building and then suddenly that’s gone and it’s like ‘Wait, wait, wait. Now what? How do I do this by myself?’”
One of the first choices she made was to continue to show up to Church, something that had never felt like a choice before.
“The hardest Sunday for me was the first Sunday [after separating] that I knew my husband was leaving. I knew he had moved in with someone else, and I had to go to church alone,” she says. “I thought, ‘If I don’t go today, I probably won’t go next Sunday. It will just become really easy to stay in bed with my jammies on and feel sorry for myself.’”
She knew she would have to become a new person, independent of the relationship that had made up a large part of her identity for more than four decades.
“Who I was up to that point wasn’t who I now had to be. And you have to say, ‘OK, can I make this new me a better me than I was before? Can I take this and have it be something that is genuinely a refiner’s fire?’”
Little by little, Judy began to come to herself. She went to the temple every Saturday. She moved into a home her kids had purchased years earlier as a rental property. She began attending the ward in her new neighborhood where she knew just three people—a ward she now says is the closest thing she’s found to what she experienced in Detroit.
Judy and her kids haven’t allowed someone else’s choices to erase or ruin their memories. In fact, they still gather for Pistons games with their gear on and order pizza from a Salt Lake City pizza joint that serves authentic Detroit-style pizza.
She was recently called as Relief Society president of her ward in Salt Lake City. So, when a young woman who had grown up in the neighborhood called to say she was moving back into the ward but had recently been divorced and didn’t know how she would be received, Judy’s counselor was happy to tell her, “Don’t worry. We’ve got this.” Having gone through divorce herself, Judy says she has been able to give compassion in a way she might not have otherwise.
Her prayers are different these days. When she wakes up, she prays that the Lord will use her. And He does.
Recently, her daughter called. She has a friend whose husband was having an affair. Judy’s advice for her daughter’s friend, and others going through similar circumstances, is simple:
1. “You’re not alone. You have a cheering section on both sides of the veil that believe in you—absolutely believe in you—whether you feel it today or not."
2. “It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to mourn the life that you had. It’s OK to mourn the fact that the person you were married to who is now leaving … is not the person you fell in love with.”
3. “It’s OK to have a different path—to have a different life. You don’t have to hold onto all of those things. Family traditions are so intertwined, it’s like ‘Was that my idea or was that his idea?’ You can have a new way of doing things.”
In the early days following her divorce, Judy found a sentence in 1 Nephi 17:13 to be a great comfort:
“The Lord says, ‘I will…be your light in the wilderness.’ And I just clung to that. He was going to be my light. He would light my way, and when I arrived in the promised land, I would know that He had been there for me.”
And He has.