Many years ago, when my oldest son, Mike, was about four or five years old, I came home from work late one afternoon to find Joanne, almost in tears. Mike was sick and the doctor had given her some pills for him to take to make him feel better. She said, "Jack, he just won't swallow the pill." I responded, "He won't will he – well, we shall see about that!" With that, I told him he had to take the pill and that he could and would swallow it with no trouble. However, you could see in his eyes that he didn't believe me and that he was not about to cave in. One thing led to another and I hate to report the outcome, but I finally was sitting on the chest of this five-year-old, holding his nose, shoving the pill in his mouth, and then pouring in the water. Today I'm sure I would have been jailed for child abuse. He gagged and I knew I had won the battle, but as I looked at him in shocked disbelief, with a little smirky smile on his face, he spit the pill out. Joanne and I and Mike began to laugh – he never did take that pill, but he is still alive today, so I guess it was okay. That was our introduction to a boy, a young man, and a man, who has what I call an indomitable spirit which has served him well as a Deputy Dist. Atty. and now as a judge.
Victor Frankl, in his book "Man's Search for Meaning," called this trait that many human beings you all have known or read about seem to possess, "… the defiant power of the human spirit," [page 171]
I have known a number of individuals who are my heroes, because they possess in rich abundance this "defiant power" to not let life's circumstances limit or control their behavior, and keep them from striving to achieve their true potential as sons and daughters of God.
A number of years ago now, I met through the Internet, a young married woman by the name of Jenny Lynn. She lives in Texas and somehow received one of my observations, I think from a friend. She responded to it, and periodically over the years, we have written back and forth.
Jenny Lynn and her husband are the parents of four beautiful children. One night while asleep, she suffered a massive stroke that made it impossible for her to move more than just one finger, and yet, although paralyzed, she has severe pain in one side of her body. While attending BYU, she was part of the dance program – I believe it was the folk dancers, but Jenny will forgive me if I am wrong. I have seen a picture of her, her husband and her children taken prior to the stroke and they are a picture perfect, wholesome, and happy family.
I am sure the last thing they ever could have contemplated is what happened to Jenny. I know when I had my body surfing accident at Laguna Beach, my oldest daughter, Jolene, said to her mother, "Mom, if somebody had told us that something like this would happen to daddy, we never could have imagined it or believed it." I am sure Jenny and her family, undoubtedly felt the same way.
A month or so ago, or maybe longer, I sent out an observation about Job. Some of us who have very visible afflictions to deal with at times, are compared to Job. We who are in these situations would hasten to say that we are not even in the same league with him, because of one important reason that the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith: "Thy friends do stand by thee… Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee…" [Doctrine & Covenants 121:9-10].
Jenny received this observation and it struck a chord with her. I would like to share with you her e-mail response as it came to me.
"HOW FUNNY! I WAS JUST THINKING (EVER SINCE SUNDAY) EXACTLY ABOUT WHAT U SAID ABOUT JOB, BUT DIDN'T READ YOUR EMAIL UNTIL TODAY!
I CAN'T TELL U HOW WEIRD IT WAS 2 READ YOUR EMAIL! I'M AN AVID JOURNALLER, & SUNDAY I HAD A FLOOD OF THINGS COME INTO MY MIND, & THEY WERE ALL "JOURNAL WORTHY." THE THOUGHT CAME 2 ME, HOW THIS MUST BE PART OF A "MEAN GAME", BECAUSE I TYPE WITH 1 FINGER, & CAN'T SPEAK, SO THERE'S ABSOLUTELY NO WAY I CAN WRITE DOWN ALL THAT THE SPIRIT TEACHES ME! I BRIEFLY WAS FRUSTRATED, WONDERING WHY I LEARNED ALL THESE THINGS THAT I CAN'T SHARE, & THEN MY THOUGHTS TURNED 2 JOB.
I'M OFTEN COMPARED 2 JOB, BUT I THINK THE ONLY SIMILARITY WE HAVE IS: WHEN I HAD MY STROKE, I ACTUALLY FEEL THAT SATAN PLAYED THAT SAME "GAME" WITH GOD, TAKING THINGS AWAY (MAKING MY LEFT SIDE FEEL, BUT BE PARALYZED, GIVING ME DOUBLE VISION, GIVING ME PBA/MY "EMOTIONAL INCONTINANCE", MAKING MY EYES LIGHT SENSITIVE, TAKING AWAY MY SPEECH & MOBILITY, ETC.), BUT THAT'S AS FAR AS OUR SIMILARITIES GO! & I, TOO, FEEL THAT I'M NOT IN THE SAME LEAGUE--NOTHING CAN BE WORSE THAN THE LOSS OF FRIENDS & FAMILY! & WHATEVER I'VE REGAINED IS BECUZ OF HIM! (ISN'T IT INTERESTING THAT I'VE REGAINED JUST ENOUGH SO I CAN TAKE THE SACRAMENT, & ATTEND THE TEMPLE?) I FEEL LIKE WE ALL HAVE OUR OWN UNIQUE MISSIONS, & GOD MAKES THEM POSSIBLE, EACH IN UNIQUE WAYS.
THERE IS NO WAY I CAN WRITE ALL THAT, OR BE AS ELOQUENT AS U WERE! IT'S AS THOUGH U SAID ALL I THOUGHT IN THAT EMAIL (I WAS EVEN SUPPOSED 2 DIE, & I BELIEVE I'M ONLY HERE 4 THE SAME REASONS AS U), SO WOULD U MIND IF I CUT & PASTE YOUR EMAIL, ALONG WITH MY RESPONSE, IN MY JOURNAL?
Jenny then concluded by writing, "Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow".
- Mary Anne Radmacher
I was touched by what Jenny had to say. I am always very humbled when I compare my situation to hers, and am reminded of the great truth I learned 23 years ago now in a rehabilitation hospital by observing my two young roommates who I felt were much worse off than me. That truth – "No matter how bad you think your life is, there is always someone who has it worse than you, and because of that, we should count our many blessings and be content with our lot in life, whatever it may be.
However, I do disagree with Jenny about me being more eloquent than her. I personally have never read anything more eloquent than what she has written, and I'm sure you all would agree.
Thank you, Jenny, for your COURAGE, and your great example of reminding all of us of the "defiant power of the human spirit!"