Today was the third time we went to court for kiddos, the parents didn’t show, and the judge ruled in favor of moving to terminate and permanency with us – and then just as she was about to finalize it with a bang of her gavel, the parents burst into the courtroom like some kind of lifetime movie scene.
I wanted to cry.
I wanted to cry for me, who had just been told again that a baby that isn’t mine was here for keepsies.
I wanted to cry for the baby losing her mom.
I wanted to cry for the family trying hard enough to keep showing up at the last minute but not hard enough to do anything in between.
Then I wanted to cry after getting attacked by the family, which is why foster parents don’t usually go to court if they don’t have to go.
Everything is postponed another week.
In the meantime, there is a little snow baby that I plan on hugging up as squeezeable as I can until she rolls her eyes and says “ok, ok, you can let go of me already”.
I got home from work, and friends had filled out front porch with massive amounts of toilet tissue, paper towels, paper plates and cups, bath towels and washcloths, notebooks for journaling, paper for coloring, Christmas movies and popcorn, apples and oranges, peanut butter, cheese sticks, macaroni and cheese, gluten free granola, and ingredients for making the kids Christmas cookies and candies!
I cried and cried and cried, and Nathan and I got it all inside and then we prayed together to say thank you.
Oh, thank you!
I woke this morning at 4am, and I knew what it meant.
I didn’t know from an audible voice, or a physical feeling, but I knew the way I know my name or the way I can find Nathan’s hand to hold in the night. I just knew.
Maybe I did feel a voice, in that Spirit way, but in the early morning hours it is so quiet and my ears are not on and I am settled, it does not have to be so audible as during the day when direction is given.
It is so, so soft.
But I knew.
So before even my eyes could open, I asked.
What is it I can do?
That’s when I have to write things down. Sometimes it is to make a list of who to visit, who to check on, or something to do. Sometimes it is correction to journal about, like a hot morning mug of chastisement. Sometimes it is simply moments provided for intense prayer of the pouring-your-soul-out sort. Sometimes it is teaching, revelation, or the unfolding of pure knowledge in some way. Often it is a mind full of words that I must type as quickly as I can.
But whatever it is, I must get up in the early hours and do it then – right away, whatever is commanded – either write, or reschedule my day to plan for visits, or journal. I must do it right away, or else it is gone, like fog lifting in the morning sunrise, and I can’t catch it back without a great deal of effort, and sometimes not at all.
It doesn’t happen frequently, but it does happen regularly.
It doesn’t happen when I have been naughty, when I am focused on my Self instead of caring for others, or if I am not asking or trying.
It doesn’t happen when I am not going to bed on time (see D&C 88:124).
It does not happen on its own, and is always a conversational response to conversational prayer that is already ongoing.
But it happened this morning, and I knew to ask, even if I am not an adorable little temple boy prophet like Samuel.
I also knew to get up, and this morning I felt I needed to read some things I had been researching but setting aside to care for the kids. It was about Abraham, and what the Jews believe about him, and what other ancient people believed about him, and all these different stories about his life. Specifically, the area I was studying was about the things he knew about astronomy and how he taught these things to the Egyptians.
As I read these things this morning, one of the phrases that kept coming up was mow’ed. This is a Hebrew word often translated as “set time”, but contains the root word for “appointment”, and so has a deeper meaning of “appointed time”. It means not just that this was when something happened, but when it was appointed – planned by Heavenly Father and scheduled to happen at this specific time for some specific reason.
From a Hebrew language perspective, this often goes hand in hand with a “sign” that is given. The time is appointed from His side of things, and when that time comes, we witness the “sign” that the time has arrived. The author was exploring the idea about different events being recorded in scriptures as being at “set times” so that “signs” in the stars confirmed them for the people as being from God – not just as being from God, but a confirming witness that God was keeping a specific promise.
This is different from the false tradition of astrology, or the false tradition of reading the stars to tell the future.
This was about calendar cycles, and when things happened.
And about how it still happens.
Like how it was on Passover that Elijah did return, meeting Olivder Cowdery and Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple. Or how it was Sukkot when King Benjamin gave his famous speech. Or the celebration of Passover in Alma 36-42.
There are many other ideas about “set times” in the scriptures, including information about when people lived and died and other major events.
This is what I was studying until nearly 530am, when I said a prayer of thanks, and asked my next question, which was about “set times” in my own family – specifically, in the recent deaths of my parents.
For example, there is the question – that maybe doesn’t matter, except for our awareness that it happened – of whether my mom knew, at some level, in some way, like premortal memory that can’t be pinned down exactly in mortality, that she would die in the car accident. Maybe not that car accident, and maybe not that day, but it was almost like a sign.
I mean to say, when I was in 8th grade, she was in a car accident that was almost identical to the one that killed her. A state patrolman fell asleep at the wheel, crossed the line, hit her head on, and she was crushed underneath the dashboard on the passenger side of the car (because she wasn’t wearing her seat belt then, either). They had to cut her out, couldn’t life flight her as planned because of the weather (just like the day she died), and took her by ambulance to the hospital. She broke almost the same bones, suffered internal organ damage, and her back was destroyed.
That’s why she was on the pills.
We never saw real mom after that – glimpses of her – but the pills drowned her in some ways.
That’s why I am glad all those pieces are done, her pain and pills, all of it covered by the atonement and now completely irrelevant even though during mortality it was such a nightmare she endured and that we tried to heal through.
But she was always confused about why she survived that car accident. She knew she was supposed to die. She knew the only reason to leave her alive was to finish raising me and my brother. But she was confused about why she wasn’t dead already, and it haunted her. Not just survivor guilt or being in awe at the miracle. She was really confused about why she didn’t die in that accident.
Almost like she knew she would someday.
And she did, almost a year ago.
I can’t believe it’s been a year. Almost. One more month.
So it was an almost identical accident last January 12th. Only this time she did die.
These are the things I was thinking about as I read these things about appointed times and set times and the Hebrew words and the layers in things I hadn’t realized were layers before.
So when I could finally lay back down, those were the questions I asked.
What does it all mean, specifically, for me and my life, the lives of my parents – or, rather, their deaths? How does it apply to now, temporally, besides the spiritual things I was learning about how very big Heavenly Father’s plan is and how the whole universe is incorporated into it?
That’s what I was praying when I finally went to sleep around 530 this morning.
When Nathan woke me an hour later, I was dreaming.
I was dreaming a vision as clear as anything.
I was with my parents, and we were in a class, and their parents and my family were there.
I was so glad to see my parents, and this time I remembered to thank them. I remembered to say that now I understand why they can’t hug me yet, but that I was so glad mom and I ended our last visit with the best hug ever, and that I will never forget that last hug from my dad before he died. I remembered to thank them for their help, and to tell them I am happy, and to tell them how good Nathan is to me. I told them I miss them every day, and that I am trying, and that we are getting a new house, and that I am grateful for their help.
But before that, before I knew I was waking and being pulled away like an Avatar, before that my spirit was just there and content and experiencing the class and being with them.
We were being taught by President Johnson’s father and someone related to Don Murnan. Realizing that made me snort, and I got some looks from the class who was my family. I really am an embarrassment to the family sometimes, but I am trying.
What I realized I was learning, though, was how my parents are still learning and progressing. Obviously, since they are taking classes, which is when they were happiest and dating in college. I hope they actually stay in class this time, though, instead of skipping just to play. Slackers.
We were talking about the “set times” and “appointed times”, and about birth and death and major points in world history and things that are foreordained (with agency still intact). I remembered the dream-vision I had about my mom, where I told her how she died and all we had been through funeral week and then realized she knew and was just there for me to get it out the same as she had always been the one that let me vent to process. That was the time – we were in Israel – that was the time I realized she couldn’t hug me, and I understood it was because she wasn’t resurrected yet.
It made me think of the temple. When I go through the temple, I am doing ordinance work for someone who has already passed. The progression through mortality, from one world to the next, back into Heavenly Father’s presence reminds me of our lives, like reading through the Book of Mormon and saying “mortality” every time you read “wilderness”. We progress by experiencing things, making and keeping covenants, applying the atonement to account for the discrepancy between who He says we are and who we have only been, and then returning home to our Father.
It made me think of our couple study. We have been in Ether, and talking about how things of faith become things of knowledge. Knowledge is greater than faith, but faith must come first. A testimony is the beginning of knowledge. But after one knows, you can’t go back to not-knowing. You either exponentially progress because more knowledge is poured out as fast as you can receive it, or you are held accountable for what you know but do not live.
It is knowledge that thins the veil.
Not fact knowledge, but the worked-out-through-faith-and-obedience kind of knowledge.
That’s what thins the veils.
That’s how I know that just because you die doesn’t mean the veil is removed.
You have to keep learning, and acting in faith, and through obedience-knowledge, the veil continues to be thinned.
At some point, later, it will be removed from all of us.
But for now, it is there, whether we are alive or not.
So I know that just because my parents died, they don’t remember everything from pre-mortality.
But they do remember mortality, and still get that starting place, and the veil thins as they progress from faith to testimony to knowledge.
It makes me remember being at the temple. I know how I move through the temple, both physically and in experience. I never pull a Lot’s wife and decide to go backwards just as I came in. If I go back to the beginning, it is a new session for a new person and a different experience that still progresses forward. I don’t ever go backwards.
So my parents, too, on the other side of the veil, don’t just come back. Not today. Not to relive this life.
They have already gone through the wilderness, and have arrived – even if not entirely finished.
But you know who does enter random temple rooms at “appointed times” instead of moving from one to the next?
I thought about when I work at the temple, and how I move so quickly all day long from one assignment to the next.
I had this vision of angels, of people ministering, with different assignments to help different people in different places, like Jacob’s ladder with the angels going back and forth with messages.
Side note: You know our temple shows the Jacob’s ladder, and that the ladder starts in the parking lot, right? There is the giant circle between the temple and the ward building across from it, representing Earth. From the circle to the front door is the ladder, and we climb it every time we go in, and we come down the ladder every time we leave. Most people see it in the doors and windows, which is also true. But it’s in the pavement, in the sidewalk. We literally walk up the ladder and back down. Do you see it?
Anyway, so I thought about my parents, and the help from them I have received since they have died. I know they have ministered to me, and blessings have talked about how they can do more for me now than they ever could while they were alive.
I know that my mother will be more available and more empowered to minister to me after we do her ordinance work, but I also remembered how I was called on my mission before my endowments after converting. That doesn’t happen very often. I was able to start my training a full six weeks before I went through the temple for the first time. I knew my mom was on the advanced plan, naturally, and that she was already in training even though she was waiting her “set time” to start helping more directly.
I know she wants to help. I feel it often.
And then, in the middle of trying to put all these things into words to share with Nathan, it hit me. I know why I was visiting my mother and father and my mother’s family in this class.
It is because it isn’t just about doing her work.
It’s not even just about me finally being sealed to my parents.
It’s about mom getting sealed to hers. It’s about her wanting it, and being ready, and actively preparing. This made me cry.
There were so many layers, and so much of it so hard to write down into words before it all fades from my mind.
Nathan was amazing, getting the kids ready for school while I typed so that I could get it recorded before losing what I had seen and felt.
It was amazing, and that was the best part, feeling and seeing and hearing my mom again, and hearing and feeling and seeing her ready and wanting us sealed together as a family, to be sealed with her family.
All of mom’s mormon jokes aside, nothing was more important to her than her family.
Well, us and her best friend Jo and the horses they encountered.
But this is what I saw:
I saw my mother and my father, and my mother’s family, and their teachers who seemed to be fathers or grandfathers of my father-friends.
I saw my parents smile.
I saw my mother’s family together, and their eager faces learning.
I saw the brightness of their teachers.
I saw the stars, and the temple, and the times.
This is what I heard:
I heard the words of the teachers.
I heard the singing of the stars, which I had only previously imagined.
I heard the voice of the Lord teaching Abraham, and Abraham talking, the same way I “hear” the voices of the prophets when I read the discourses or scriptures.
I heard the softness of the Spirit, which reminds me of getting my cochlear implants tested for a mapping, when I can’t tell if I am hearing a sound or feeling a sound. It felt like that, and sounded like that, where I knew what was happening and what the sound was and who was making it, but not where it was coming from exactly or whether it was a sound or a feeling.
I heard my parents, and their voices, and their words for me.
I hear the tenderness of Nathan waking me, even though I couldn’t really hear because of course my cochlear implant processors were not on, and also I was sleeping. But it felt like I heard him.
Here is what I felt:
I felt peace. I felt comfort. I felt hope.
I felt understanding pour into my brain faster than I could soak it in, like a bucket overflowing a mop. I am a very small mop. I felt a curtain lifted from my eyes, so that I could see what has always been in front of me but never seen before, like the world suddenly in color after having thought it was all along. I felt at-one. I felt in-tune. I felt safe. I felt warm. I felt cared for and listened to and loved.
I felt at home.
There are many more things that I felt and experienced and dreamed and saw that I just wrote in my journal. This was enough crazy talk, but I felt to share this much of those things.
I am thrilled with a visit with my parents, and know it is a great gift for which I did kneel down and thank my Father-God.
I know now, that while I will always miss my mom until I see her again, and some things will always be hard (I am avoiding the Christmas tree, and have six kids waiting on me to get over it). But I also know that the year of grieving is finally coming to an end, and that it is no longer about the mourning, and that it is true that “the divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave” (see Family Proclamation).
I know that my mother is happy and well, with her family and helping me, free from pain and pills.
I know that she desires – wants with all her heart – for us to be sealed together as a family, to be sealed to her own parents, and that she is crazy excited about it.
I know that she knew I needed to know.
I know that the more knowledge she gains, the thinner the veil gets, and the more she progresses, and the more access to us she has.
I know that we have to work together, like never before.
I know that D&C 128 is true:
the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children… It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time…
19 Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth! As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!
22 Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free.
23 Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!
24 … Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.
25 Brethren, I have many things to say to you on the subject; but shall now close for the present, and continue the subject another time. I am, as ever, your humble servant and never deviating friend…
Almost every Monday, I get a veggie lunch from Subway before going into my other office in Tulsa.
Today the guy behind the counter remembered that he remembered me.
I think because I didn’t have time for his lame jokes that slow down his service, so I went on the offensive and ordered a veggie without bacon.
So he laughed and started my usual, but then couldn’t remember which stories go with me. I mean, some people gossip with their hairdressers, but I chat up the people at subway. He remembered me and my food, but not my stories.
I know this because his small talk, for the third week in a row, began with “So, how’s your mom?”
So I, for the third week in a row, quickly replied with “She’s dead, thanks.”
This was followed by the expected awkward silence, but also was successful in making him hurry.
Do I just look like someone who goes around telling people about her mom, enough that it has to be the starting place for conversation?
So then I felt guilty, and tried to apologize via testifying while he wrapped up my sandwich that I made him take off the bread but not chop like a salad.
I told him not to worry, that mom is progressing well, very happy, and learning lots.
I told him how she missed out on carmel covered cheetoes.
I told him how she smiled at me yesterday.
I told him how we will meet her in the temple next month.
He just stared at me.
So I reminded him I needed to pay for my sandwich, and he told me $2.26, and I gave him exact change.
He said, “you are the most intriguing and hilarious person I have ever met.”
I told him I would be back next Monday for my sandwich.
He said he would try to remember that my mom is still dead.
But only temporarily, I said, as the door dinged on my way out.
This is our new baby monitor, especially for Deaf people like me who like to work outside in the yard or sleep without wearing her cochlear implants.
It can go in my pillow or on my belt loop, and vibrates like crazy when the baby cries.
It also lights up, so I can see it while I get ready in the mornings or for added excitement at night.
We have been needing one since the baby came, and my old alarm broke, and I blew up the backup one in Israel two trips ago, but we finally got the new one last week since Nathan will be gone to New York this week and next.
If there is anything more fun than waking in the night with a screaming baby, it’s being jolted awake by a screaming baby who now has the power to shake you out of your bed.