Together Forever: A Story of Learning, Loss, Leaving, and Love

This is from a dear friend of Melodee's who wishes to remain anonymous, but wanted to share her conversion story, her wrestle with God, and how she made her way back.

Technically, I was raised as a Lutheran, but my parents taught me opposing doctrines of their own ideas about “God.” One parent believed that “God” was a word meaning “pure love energy” with zero control in the universe; The other taught about a spiteful, angry being in the sky who demanded we worship him and call him “father.” This teaching was confusing, and I grew up never thinking of God as one I would want to turn to for answers or comfort, let alone one who would bestow blessings.

I soon began my career as a new school teacher, but life wasn’t turning out the way I had envisioned. I saw my friends all get married, then start having babies, and I began to miss the comfort of having a family of my own. In connection to that, I was wondering if I should even bother because it all felt so temporary. If I was going to find someone I felt strongly enough to share my entire one-shot-at-life with, I would be heartbroken to lose them in death. Why would I put myself through that? (Those thoughts brought me back to a high school memory: I once received a Valentine’s Day balloon with the word “FOREVER” written across it. My father, trying to impart wisdom on me and prevent a future broken heart, exclaimed, “Never say forever!” I replied, “Never say never!”)

There I was, in my late 20’s, contemplating if I should just live in my little apartment with a job I loved, with my best friend and confidante, and my beloved Belgian Shepherd for the rest of my life, or begin to look for answers. This question of “forever” really bothered me, and it bothered me more as I wondered if church was the answer. I searched for a church for several months to answer my question, talking to anyone I could find. In my age group, however, I was met with bitter, angry divorcees who shared my dad’s opinion about “forever.”

I soon gave up on the idea of church again, disappointed that God really might be someone to avoid. That’s when two Mormon elder missionaries showed up at my apartment door. We ended up talking for a few hours in the doorway where they patiently answered all my questions and made brief mention of “Families are Forever.” They were much nicer and more patient than they should have been, and I believe them now when they said they were prompted to knock on my door even though they were supposed to be headed home for the evening.
Their simple message, “Families are Forever,” was literally a weight off my shoulders because I had given up on the question of “forever,” the one that bothered me most. In our conversation, they brought it up when I hadn’t even asked them. After that, I agreed to try out their church and spent the next year learning and preparing to take the steps to have my own forever family. My future husband baptized me, and we were sealed a year later.

I know God knows our hearts, knows what we need, and has perfect timing. He KNEW I would need the answer to “forever family” before embarking on my own and pushed me early on to find out.

That knowledge was challenged when we tried to start our family, but endured three early-term miscarriages. We discovered a genetic issue, but also the solution to staying pregnant. We were tentatively excited--solution in one hand and the high-risk pregnancy clinic in the other--when we got a fourth positive pregnancy test. In my prayers, I was told “this one [pregnancy] will work,” but I also had the concerning feeling that we would not bring this baby home from the hospital. I tried to dismiss the feeling as nerves from past failed pregnancies, but it grew stronger, even as our son grew bigger. This darkness continued to loom over me, even though I prayed for our baby constantly, pleading that God would protect him and take this feeling from me.

At 29 weeks of pregnancy, our little boy stopped moving, his heart stopped beating, and he was born sleeping--beautiful, pink, perfect, peaceful--after 26 hours of labor. Both families rushed the 500 miles to be at our sides, to hold and celebrate, and grieve our perfect little firstborn. We all felt his spirit. It was incredibly sacred and tender. Even the doctor commented that he had never felt that kind of spirit and knowledge that God and the baby’s spirits were present in the room.
After this loss, I did not find “families are forever” comforting in the way you might expect. I felt betrayed and hurt, anger against the God my parents had warned me about. I turned away and cursed the God who had taken our baby and had taken me for a fool. I vowed that I would never allow myself to be tricked like that again. For years, I refused to say more than curses to Him, and was happy in my decision to be out of God’s view.

In this time, I birthed our two miracle babies (in my mind) without God’s help. My husband was my rock and loved me through it all. HE kept the eternal perspective when I couldn’t, and when I would ask him how he could stay with me when I no longer believed in any of it anymore, he answered, “I love you, you’re stuck with me for eternity, and I’ll wait and support you as long as you need because we have eternity to figure it out.

This personal battle with God lasted many years, and I became inactive. It was through what I know were countless prayers, the help and guidance of an incredible and wise bishop, and God not giving up on me when I gave up on Him, that I was finally able to make peace. It took over five years for me to sort out my feelings with God and my beliefs on eternity and forever families.

It was comforting for me when I first heard there was a church that believed families could be together forever, and preached it, but at first it was still a fairytale. I didn’t KNOW it because I didn’t HAVE to—in the beginning. Losing our firstborn forced me to confront what I thought had been a solid faith. The spiritual warning I received that we wouldn’t keep our baby right now, the promise that that pregnancy would work (he got his body), feeling his sweet spirit there in the hours after his birth, of feeling him saying goodbye, of my darkest days when I know he is there hugging me, listening when I speak with him, of my husband being at peace and keeping an eternal perspective for our family, my father-in-law giving me my first father’s blessing shortly after the birth, and both my husband and I hearing the promise that we would be okay and we would have more children, were all tender mercies to let me know God is there, He does in fact love us, and He wants us ALL return back with Him in a giant eternal family.

Through all the trials, temptations, and challenges of this life, the blessing for which I am most grateful every day is that which my amazing husband and I received as we knelt at a sacred altar and made covenants binding us together for all eternity. There is no blessing more precious to me than the peace and comfort I receive from the knowledge I have that he and I and our children will all be together forever. The greatest blessing Heavenly Father has available to us is to be with Him and our family forever. It’s not a silly, adolescent idea or a cute saying on a Valentine’s Day balloon. It is real, and I am so thankful to have that knowledge.

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