"This life is the test" - those five words say so much. I hear them regularly. It is more of a passing statement when life doesn't go your way. But why are we really here? What is the purpose? Why is it that it seems we sometimes just hot one dead end after another? And that the days sometimes feel as if we get punched one more time, we will break.
I've spent many sleepless nights lately. They have been long and accompanied by indescribable pain. The torment of this disease has me ready to scream or quit. I do all I can to endure. I read scriotures, watch netflix, play iPad games, listen to conference talks... Anything and everything to distract myself from the pain.
Last night, as I searched for some distraction, the song, "The test" by Janice Kapp Perry began playing in my,mind. I heard the words, "Didn't He say, He sent us to be tested. Didn't He say the way would not be sure. But didn't He say we could live with Him forevermore, well and whole, if we but patiently endure. After the trial, we will be blessed. But this life. Is the test."
I was taken back to my mom being sick and paralyzed and sitting in the chair with her feet up in the mauve and dusty blue flowered ottoman. She asked me to play this song on the piano. Jake, JD and Jodi gathered around the piano with me. We sang the words. As each word came, I thought of my mom. I looked at her as I played the notes on the piano, ...."well and whole" and thought of her being able to walk a again without help. Of her being able to fully smile without her lips dropping. Her being able to make her own meals and drive a car and take care of us. My heart broke for her. Just as quickly the next words, "patiently endure" rolled off the tongues of the kids. I looked at her sitting in the chair with her arms wrapped around Jodi. She was smiling with tears rolling down her cheek. I wondered what she was thinking. How hard it must be to be in her situation. I saw her signal to keep going. Keep playing and keep singing. Then the words, "after the trial we will be blessed" bellowed out with the piano. I thought of all the good my mom continued to do while she was battling her own living hell. She was helping unite families, she was taking care of others, having me haul her to the hospital to sit with sick friends, and continuing to praise our Savior. And the words that forever stuck with me, "but this life is the test." I thought about tests in my own limited view with watching her endure so much.
My mom had bought me a picture of Christ with the quote, "I never said it would be easy, only that it would be worth it." As I sat at the piano, playing this song, my mind drifted to this picture next to my bed. Is this worth it? Does my mom think this trial will be worth the joys that lie ahead?
As I sang the second verse and additional verses and it talked of being blind, and why the healing doesn't come when the Savior could just remove the burdens. "Tell me friend. Why are you blind? Why doesn't He who worked the miracles send light into your eyes? Tell me friend, so I understand" I thought of all the good my mom had done. She was the relief society president, worked in the schools, always had extra kids over, took every underdog and struggling mom, child, puppy, and loner in and gave of the clothes off her back. She loved with a perfect Christlike love. Why? Why when she was so good and so Christlike did she have to suffer so much? Where was the justice in that.
My mom always comforted everyone around her. Her disease and paralysis didn't stop her from doing good, having faith and comforting others. She patiently and cheerfully endured. She never doubted. She hardly complained. She understood deeply that this life is the test.
As I have walked a similar journey, I have often reflected on how she handled things in relation to how I have handled them. I've tried to have a perfect faith that casteth out all fear. Somedays that perfect faith is strong and other days I too, struggle. The road of life is hard. It's taken everything I have. There hasn't been very much of this journey that has been easy. It's hard. I see why it's called "a test". It's not any test but the doozie and the final. Everything is riding on it. There are no do-overs. We have one shot.
Oh how often I feel I have failed. I've wondered if it is worth continuing with the test or if it's all in all better to throw up my hands and retreat. But I am taken back to this song.
As a youth, I had no idea why the Savior wouldn't just work miracles like He did so often when He walked this earth. I knew my mom could do so much more good if only she were well. And I needed my mom. All of us did. Weren't me and Josh, Jake, JD and Jodi worth the Savior healing my mom? I had more questions than answers.
When I now look back on those precious and tender moments of singing and playing the piano, I am grateful for he important gospel truths I learned from my mother. One- trust the Savior. Always. Two- this life is the test. That's all. Tests end. Trials end. Life ends. It's all temporary. Have a good attitude during it. Three- take care of on another. Fourth - there is no room for bitterness. Fifth- take life and find the good - there is always good.
My heart breaks for my mother. I can only imagine the thoughts going through her mind as we sang knowing that her days with us were numbered. That she must teach us so much in a shortened time.
Now, I sit in a similar situation. Each day, I try to teach Hayden all I can wondering if the opportunity for me to teach him whatever tidbits of knowledge on the subject will be my last. I identify the spirit wondering how many more times I will be able to do so. I wonder if I will be able to have one more discussion on the deadly effects of pornography or why it is critical to wait to use the procreative powers for marriage. I try to impart of all my knowledge prior to me no longer being here to do so.
I try to anticipate his questions. I tell him things like my favorite color is: turquoise. But yellow makes me happy it lifts my mood. My favorite songs are ones that invite the spirit. I love who he is becoming. I am grateful for each day on earth with him. I talk to him about his future wife and my grandchildren.
Most of all, I hope he knows how much I love him. How grateful I am that I was chosen to be his mother. What a great honor I feel in this sacred calling. How not one day has ever gone by that I have have not taken the opportunity to give thanks for him and the blessing of being his mom. I tell him all the good qualities of his dad and how he is like him. I tell him that success is being. Wonderful husband and caring father. That being a worthy priesthood holder and honoring his priesthood matter more to me than any worldly honors he could achieve. I teach him that the plan of salvation is real. There is life after death. That loved ones that have gone before continue to help us, we just no longer see them. I assure him the gentle breeze across his face will be me stroking his cheek ever so gently and kissing him lightly. I will be cheering him on. And most importantly, the Savior knows Hayden personally. Better than I know Hayden. The Savior loves Hayden infinitely more than I do even if I cannot understand it. That He is as close as a prayer. And he can never walk too far to come home again.
It's hard to guess which life lessons I need to prepare him for. I have tried to teach him how to find answers and where. Prayer. Scripture study. Temple attendance. Meditation. Bishop. Conference talks. Fasting. Listening to the spirit.
It's hard to have moments like listening. To the song, "the test " and staying strong when I'm not sure how much longer I will walk this earth with him. It breaks my heart. I wonder if it was this hard on my mom to say goodbye to all of us- to me.
My world crumbled when my mom died. I don't want Hayden and Thomas' world to shatter. For them and the love of my Savior, I keep fighting. But, in my very human moments, I'm scared and afraid that they will experience the heartache I faced.
And I am afraid I will miss them terribly. And although I understand this life is merely a test. That it is hard. That we were sent here to be stretched and tried and tested. I'm sad. I don't want to leave them. I'm willing to sty here in a body that is riddled with pain and dysfunction. That doesn't work how I want. That keeps me up all night in excrutiating pain. That struggles to walk from one room to the next. And nights like tonight when I just cannot get enough oxygen to keep me breathing, I plead for more time. More time to assur Hayden he is loved. More time to teach him of our Savior. More time to bear my testimony. More time to just be with my boys.
I'm grateful for the knowledge I have of the plan of salvation. That whatever happens I will see my mom again. Death will be sweet as I will hug her and cry in her arms. And she will teach me to navigate the spirit world just as she taught me to walk and talk, dance and sing here on earth. I pray Hayden will always stay close to his dad and our Savior. That he will remember how much his mom loved and utterly adored him. I plead with my Savior every day for these gifts. And that he will remember that it won't always be easy but it will be worth it.