Every once in a while, like many of you, I have an unsolicited, unexpected, and spontaneous wonderful experience. It is usually something very simple, but at the same time very profound. I had such an experience the Sunday of General Conference.
Still trying to get over a nagging pressure sore I was lying in bed watching and listening to both sessions of Conference on my laptop computer. I had a scheduled patriarchal blessing to give a half-hour after the afternoon session. As soon as the session was over Jo Anne and my son in law Nathan, got me into my wheelchair and I rolled into my office to prepare to give a blessing to a wonderful 16-year-old young lady. Giving her a Patriarchal blessing was a sweet experience- the capstone, I thought, to a perfectly beautiful Sabbath day.
Our two youngest daughters, Rachel and Jackie, and their husbands Matt, and Nathan and our three youngest granddaughters, ages 4, 2, and 14 months had been with us during the day watching conference. They all went out for a walk while I gave the blessing. You never know what the noise level might be with unpredictable and emotional preschoolers.
We eventually all sat down around the dining room table to enjoy a beautiful Sunday dinner together. Not to give a false impression of an idyllic setting, I must report that after the family prayer the 14-month-old, in trying to climb up a stool fell off, bumped her head, and her mother, Jackie spent much of the dinnertime getting her calmed down. You know how that goes.
And then the unexpected experience came to me. As I was looking at my two youngest daughters and their husbands, married in the temple and with these three beautiful little granddaughters, I had a flashback of memories. It is said that when people are about to die in a traumatic way that their entire life flashes through their minds. I have had a number of near-death experiences and this has never happened to me -- just sheer panic. However, at the dinner table that Sunday afternoon I did enjoy a vivid, warp speed recall of my life with Rachel and Jackie over the years. The memories were sweet.
When I had my accident over 19 years ago now, Rachel was nine and Jackie turned four just days after losing my the battle with the ocean. At the time I thought "Why would the Lord send these two little girls to us to take care of and raise, knowing with his infinite foreknowledge what was going to happen to me?" It took but a short while to realize that, in fact, these were two angels the Lord knew that Jo Anne and I needed to get through the coming challenging years. Without going into great detail, these little girls were my arms and legs and assisted Jo Anne with my care day in and day out for years. They still pitch in and help, along with their husbands now, whenever they are around.
The only dad Jackie can remember is one in a wheelchair. We have a unique relationship because of it. She once said to her mom, "Wouldn't life be boring if dad were normal like everybody else?" Come to think of it though, maybe some of your kids have said the same thing about you. How many drinks of water, nose wipes, suctionings, channel changes, fixing computer problems, helping their mother get me dressed and into the wheelchair, etc. have they done for me over the years? The memories were vivid but the overwhelming feeling was one of gratitude to have lived long enough to see these little girls married and with sweet little babies of their own. It was sort of a payday experience for me, and I felt that if the Lord saw fit to call me home at that moment, I was at peace with myself and that life had not been so bad.
Memories are wonderful things. President Monson often quotes the poet John Barrie who wrote that "God gave us memories that we might have June roses in the December of our lives." Hopefully we will live in such a way that our memories as we grow older will be "June roses" and not regrettable noxious weeds.
For the last several years I have had a project of trying to read out of each of the standard works every day. I am afraid I am a bit like Marjorie Hinckley, who had a similar goal and reported in a talk she gave that after having set the goal she was already three weeks behind. But she also went on to say she wasn't discouraged and would keep plugging away at it having received great benefits from the days she accomplished her goal. It reminded me of the words of Robert Browning who said, "If a man's reach does not exceed his grasp than what is a heaven for?"
As I read the Scriptures in this manner I am reminded of the important truths that I constantly need to remember every day of my life. To me, all of the Scriptures are simply a book of remembrance of the most important truths ever revealed to mankind.
The word "remember," or a derivative of it, is used 240 times in the Book of Mormon alone. My life is extremely blessed as I remember through searching the Scriptures each day that which is worth remembering the most. And of course the most important thing to remember was taught by Helaman to his son's Nephi and Lehi: "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." [Helaman 5:12]