My Deceased Son’s Answer to What It’s All About

photo (2)Headstone still fresh on his grave, my eldest son showed up in the middle of the night with the key to the meaning of life. In this dream where Parker appeared, I was guiding my three surviving children through a city I knew well. It was evening, I was sad and wrung out and felt pressed to get to my car, to get back home.

Suddenly behind me I heard my youngest, Luc, (seven years old at the time), squealing like a newborn. Call it my Mother Bear, call it my short fuse, I swung around to snap the head off of whomever was bugging my boy.

The instant I spun, lip curled and neck tensed to snarl, instead of a “Hey! Cut it out!”, I snagged on the “ow” of “out” and gasped. There, in shorts and his favorite blue t-shirt with his trademark cropped hair was 18-year-old Parker, as unscathed as the last time I’d seen him alive, the day before he died.

He was playfully dangling his youngest brother over a trash can.

005

Luc on Parker’s shoulders.

You know that full body-and-soul whiplash that yanks you from nearly biting through someone’s jugular to buckling to your knees and kissing their feet? Melting, I lunged toward Parker, and he, (with a look that said, “Oh, Mom, you know I was just kidding around,”) handed his little brother to his sister and reached for me.

His shoulders were familiar, as was his smell. Desperate, I pled, “Tell me, honey. Tell me everything you’ve learned.”

He pulled back a bit. That mini freckle on his nose. That scar on his eyebrow. That one steely fleck in his right iris. It was my child’s face, only seasoned. Slower.

I waited for words.

Bending down, he whispered, “This is it,” and he took a small breath. He searched my eyes, then:

“Every relationship is to bring us to God.”  

I strained.

He stared.

“That’s … that’s it?” I gaped, “There’s nothing more? Nothing else?”

His soft eyes remained fixed.

And the dream closed.

023

The boys, July 2007

Every Relationship Is to Bring Us to God

Since that dream it’s been my mantra. And like most mantras, it slips out too slickly, sounds cliché, yet has more layers than the Himalayas, more depth than the trenches of the Pacific. It risks oversimplification, and yet it will take my whole life to comprehend. But here’s how I’ve broken it down up to now:

Every relationship.

Every.

This means the obvious: all my bona fide biological ties, my family. Then my family through marriage. Then my besties, my closest friends. Then all ranks of associates and regular contacts like teachers, students, classmates, work colleagues, teammates, neighbors, congregation members, parents of my children’s friends, the lady who delivers my mail on her yellow bike even in the snow and rain, the commuters who share my daily ride on the bus, the blue-haired widow who waves as she walks her Dachshund past my window evenings at eight.

All are people with whom I share different degrees of blood and intimacy, experience and history, all people with whom I share space, time, ideas, efforts. All people with whom I share myself and who share with me something of themselves.

12496216_10153817811662400_8106849432787751990_o

Syrian, Afghani, Iraqi, and Iranian German Students

Family, Friends, Strangers, Followers, Foes

Everyone.

In addition to these ^ relationships, there are interactions with those I meet sporadically or even just once. Like the guy loading my mulch on a cart at the garden store. And the lady who cut me off on the freeway exit ramp this morning. Or the infant who cried all through that transatlantic flight. And the parent who slept with his headphones on while his infant cried all through that transatlantic flight. And the crew on that flight. The passengers on every side. The pilot, whom I never saw and who never heard the infant, but whose voice we all heard and whom I trusted to take me “cruising safely at 37,000 feet.”

I interact, most of the time mindlessly, with all of them.

Then there are those I’ve never actually met, but with whom I’ve had some sort of fleeting or superficial interchange. The rabid politician in the news, the celebrity whose fifth marriage is material for a trash mag I leafed through at the doctor’s office, the musician whose song I wail along with in the car.

And the virtual relationships, the FB acquaintances, Instagram posters, Twitter commenters. Blog followers.

And the people on either end of history; my ancestors, my progeny.

Or people on either side of the globe; my countrymen, my political foes.

Relationships. Every last one.

IMG_1113

Every Relationship Brings Us To …

All this social interaction, all this mortal jumble? It’s more than learning about teamwork, or an effective way to get stuff done. And it’s also more than learning tolerance and compassion and patience with crying infants and drivers on the Autobahn.

“Every relationship is to bring us to God,” maybe, has to do with this:

Author Toni Morrison, in an interview, remembered having been the young mother who, when her kids walked into the room, scanned them up and down looking for faults. She’d be thinking, Tuck in your shirt, or Comb your hair. She felt that her critical stance meant she was caring for them, which I get only too well. It is what I was doing in my dream when I wanted to ream out the thug behind me who was, I thought, evidently hurting my youngest child. I was set for censoring.

Morrison then offered another approach. She said, “Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says ‘I’m glad to see you’. It’s just as small as that.”

There Are No Neutral Interactions

An approving glance. An encouraging smile. A forgiving shrug. A step forward. A brave nod. This is how we move ourselves and others toward the best in humanity and toward deity.

A whispered judgment. A punishing glare. A jealous glower. A turned back. A swift dismissal. A spin around to bite through a jugular. This is how we move ourselves and others away from each other, away from divinity.

What if I were to enter all my social encounters not perched to swoop in with criticism, or stiffened behind all sorts of false boundaries (like a difference in race, religion, political grouping, jealousy, shame, whatever), but poised, instead, radiating one primary thought: “I am glad to see you”?

I believe it would change me, the other person, the encounter, everything.

IMG_1763

I know.  You’re saying, “I’m glad to see you” is easy when you really are glad to see someone. And in my case in the dream I was more than glad. I was unzipped, liquefied with love and longing for my son.  Let me say the obvious: when there’s been no bad blood, and you see your absent beloved again, every minor critique you might have stockpiled during mortality vanishes in the hot flash flood of love.

But what about all the other relationships? What about most of them, the ones that exact superhuman effort from us? The ones where we’d rather say, “I’m glad to see you … go“?

That’s where Parker’s advice really gets traction. While most great mythic traditions and even modern pop spirituality claim God is found above and outside of the messiness of human interaction, maybe while sitting solo and contemplating a snowflake from atop a lone peak, I’m saying that God is found in the trenches. God is down here in the grit. God’s in the mix.

And so, too, say the experts. Harvard professor Michael Puett comments on what ancient Chinese philosophers would think about modernity’s going–it-solo attitude, and why our personal relationships are what mortality is all about:

They [Chinese ancients] saw each of us bumping up against other messy creatures all day long. This is what it means to be on this earth: our lives are composed almost entirely of the relationships we have with those around us.

 For most of us, those relationships aren’t easy. [Can I get an amen?] That’s because, as these philosophers understood well, as we endlessly bump up against each other, loving one another, trying to get along, we tend to fall into patterns of behavior. We react in the same predictable ways. Encounters with people draw out a variety of emotions and reactions from us: One sort of comment will almost invariably draw out feelings of anger, while a certain gesture from someone else might elicit a feeling of calm. Our days are spent being passively pulled in one direction or another depending on who we encounter or what situations we are in. Worse still, these passive reactions have a cascading effect. We react even to the subtlest signals from those around us. A smile or a frown on a passerby can cause a slight change in our mood in an instant. The reactive patterns we get stuck in — sometimes good, but more often, bad — ripple outward and affect others too.

In other words, there are no neutral interactions. All of our actions and reactions send vibrations into a vast webwork that either brings us and others to God (or to wholeness, light, love, healing, The Source of All Meaning, whatever you call The Best Thing You Dare Imagine), or drives us and others from the same. Every thinkable link I have to every last human being plays not just a part in how I grow and experience meaning and joy, but adds in some (major or infinitesimal) way to others’ wellbeing. And that truth is why relationships are what it’s all about, and why they are at once so infuriatingly hard while being so immeasurably valuable.

Every Relationship Brings Us to an Understanding of God

Yes, there are those few relationships that flourish without a lot of effort, and therewith offer a glimpse of what godliness might feel like. But more often relationships are plain old spiritual work. They grate on us. Leave us blistered. There are those, too –– and we’ve all had them––that don’t just pumice us. They skin us alive.

And how do those relationships bring us to God? In my experience, they bring us to an understanding of God’s nature. They let us learn of Him.

DownloadedFile

Him. Let me take license and talk specifically for a moment about the God I worship. The Being I strive to comprehend and hope to emulate responded majestically in all relationships, but particularly in the most injurious ones. Herod, Pilate, Judas, Peter, Roman centurions, mocking Sanhedrin, ungrateful lepers, and the centuries’ long saga of modern scoffers and arrogant erudites –– before them all and for them all Jesus Christ stands blameless. No figure in history, no God of any other myth possesses the dignity, selfless love and self-mastery in human relations that Christ embodies. No other being I know of has not only withstood betrayal, exploitation, usury, abandonment, cruelty and hidden agendas but has gone so far as to absorb abuse in all its forms and transform those evils into healing for all, including the abusers.

Like everyone, I’ve known a small portion of those injuries I just listed. When I have, (like recently, when a close friendship took a turn I never expected into an unmarked dead end), I had to fight to muzzle my Mother Bear, retract my claws, and swallow my snarls.

And right then, in rushed Parker’s words. They helped me breathe through what felt to me like lovelessness directed at me and my family, but just as important, they showed me how far I am from mastering The Master’s manner in response to hurt and betrayal.

What have I learned, then, from what my son taught me in a dream?

That all relationships –– including the ones we might have to step out of for everyone’s wellbeing –– are gifts that help us approach God.  By reflecting on His exquisite response to even the ugliest human tendencies (others’ and our own), we see how far we mortals are from His standard of loving-kindness and perfect compassion. In the end, then, every relationship brings us not only to God, but also to the God within each of us.

portrait

(Portrait: Courtesy of Jennifer Quinton ©)

=

What do you think? Which relationships have taught you the most? Tried you the most? Are those two kinds of relationships one and the same?

What have your best and richest relationships taught you?

Taking the definition of “relationships” a step further, what other interconnections besides those with humans “bring us to God”?

And to the basics: What does “bring us to God” mean to you?

=

© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2016. This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.

 

 

 

130 thoughts on “My Deceased Son’s Answer to What It’s All About

  1. “Bring me closer to God” for me means that I am able to see a person’s worth beyond mortality, and that my behaviors toward others are kindness and full of compassion.

    I teach high school, and I can attest to how true your words are. The students who I grow close to bring me closer to God by virtue of the immense joy I get from watching them learn and develop and from what they teach me. The students who test me bring me closer to God by forcing me to see past their words and behaviors as I attempt to understand them.

    Side note–I loved your first book. Your writing is profound and moving and beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your writing gift.

    • Jl– Isn’t this ability what makes your job extraordinary? To really see your students, not see past them or see them as a means to an end or just see them get through a system. I have such respect for teachers. God bless you for being a good one.

      And thank you for your kind comments about my writing. For readers like you I keep at it!

    • Very thought provoking. Makes me look at relationships with those I come in contact with all the more important.

  2. This is lovely and thought provoking. I believe you are right (Parker is right). Every relationship, enjoyable or not, gives us the opportunity to become like Jesus.

    If you haven’t heard or read it, I highly recommend the BYU devotional talk by C. Terry Warner, “Honest, Simple, Solid, True.” He also wrote a book, Bonds That Make Us Free, that further expounds the principles you’re exploring.

    • Amy,

      I’m indebted to you. THIS ADDRESS is Exquisite. I’ve bookmarked in my file of “Landmark Speeches.” (Here’s the link for other readers):

      https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/c-terry-warner_honest-simple-solid-true/

      This:

      “No one else could have withstood such pressure to react in our typical, oh-so-human ways. He had infinitely more reason than anyone has ever had to focus on His own self-protection and self-improvement and let the foolish and vicious devour each other. But He did none of these. Instead, He suffered without taking any offense whatsoever, without becoming mistrustful, without retaliating or withdrawing or concentrating on Himself.”

      And this:

      “We are members one of another, connected to each other, and especially to God, by spiritual sensitivities and obligations profound as eternity. And just for that reason, we become most ourselves when we are most true to God and to one another. We become most right with ourselves when we are most right with them. Jesus’ example demonstrates this.”

      And…
      “How then shall we come unto Christ so that everything will be different from what it could possibly be otherwise? By sacrificing all taking of offense. By giving up criticism, impatience, and contempt, for they accuse the sisters and brothers for whom Christ died. By forswearing vulgarity and pornography, which diminish both the user and the used. By putting aside, in short, every practice that bears the image of murder, obliteration of souls, discord, and death. By giving these practices their true name, violence, and abhorring even their first appearance. By renouncing war in every form and proclaiming peace.”

      I could go on. Thank you for giving me this treasure.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this article, Amy. And thank you to Melissa–I found you through your blog referenced on LDS Living. I needed both of these. You are earthly angels sent to help others. Know that and feel of my gratitude.

      • Gayle-

        I’m warmed by your message! But trust me, I’m a mess and full of struggles just like everyone in the world. There’s a reason I received this teaching through a dream: I needed it! But from my heart I thank you for expressing how this has impacted you.

  3. Oh. This is so exquisite. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I have received kindness from you as one of the “followers”. You don’t know me but your kindness towards me has meant something. I often wonder how to forgive a detached father (now deceased), a sister (or 2) who has made little effort to know me or my family and how to react in my heart to those pains that I pretend to ignore. Or how to relate to in-laws I struggle to respect due to life choices. I want to follow Christ’s admonition to love as He did but I struggle to see application. This phrase gives me hope I can find God in the exchanges if it means just my reaction to them despite pain or discomfort.

  4. What a beautiful, thoughtful, provoking post. Thank you for the time you spend on the hard work of writing which produces these pieces that touch and inspire me again and again.

    I have long loved a quote by President Spencer Kimball which speaks to this same theme: “We must remember that those mortals we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that portion of mankind God has given us to love and to serve. It will do us little good to speak of the general brotherhood of mankind if we cannot regard those who are all around us as our brothers and sisters.”

    What a transcendent gift that dream was, for you, specifically, and now for all of us who have been blessed to learn from it. I think the message is exactly what Christ would tell each of us if he could sit down one on one with us. It’s all about love and relationships and coming to Him.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • AD-

      That statement from Spencer W. Kimball mirrors and drills into C.S. Lewis’ famous statement:

      “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

      For me it is the greatest challenge in mortality. I sometimes envy monks and nuns, I crave hermitage, I would do well, I think, working out my salvation in a closet. 🙂 But obviously one can’t, and the cosmos doesn’t work like that. “Every relationship is to bring us to God” means that there is no way to God but by our human interconnectedness. It is the ONLY way. Hearts must be turned, not just vertically from forefathers to grandchildren and grandchildren to forefathers, but horizontally, too, from left to right, from East to West, from my spot in the webwork to the edges, everywhere.

      Love to you, AD. 🙂

  5. Your son Parker spoke (my first grandson is five and shares that name so for me there was an instant sense of connection right there), and you truly heard. Thank you for writing so beautifully such that the rest of us to want to always choose to hear better. I will be quoting your son to myself and to my loved ones. Often.

  6. Loreen,

    It’s a kind thing to come here and post a response. Even this relationship — between strangers on a screen — brings us something. You’ve brought me courage and deeper love for my son and for God. Thank you.

  7. It is only two days ago that this was posted…12 thoughts on “My Deceased Son’s Answer to What It’s All About”…I am not familiar as to how blogs work…and am grateful that I accidentally stumbled unto your blog. What a blessing to stumble into a treasure trove of wisdom and like minded travelers. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights. I hope to be able to return soon, sincerely , Rose

  8. Thank you for sharing so very much of yourself and your son. Parker’s words are a comfort and an exhortation to my conscience. A reminder to seek God’s heart in every interaction.

  9. Wow. I clicked here hoping for something that would bring a bit more meaning to my life, and I’m glad to say I found it. Thank you for sharing what your son taught you so eloquently. It feels like for so long I’ve been focused on trying to help the greater good while still allowing jealousy, annoyance, and anger to cloud my interactions and/or relationships with those I come across every day. Thank you for reminding me what it’s truly all about.

    • Laura-

      How great you’ve stopped in here. Thank you for commenting.

      You know, I’m sure you’re not the only one who needs a reminder. I do. Which is why that dream affected me so powerfully, and why for years I’ve thought I should share it in print.

      I’m so grateful I did, and so humbled it serves you in a meaningful way. I’ll thank Parker somehow.

  10. Melissa:
    I don’t read many blogs, but am thankful that yours turned up through a friend’s Facebook post. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s likely not coincidental that I just received a message from a friend complaining about one of my FB friends who usually finds the need to”personalize” her political disagreements with my conservative friends and me. He asked me why I keep her as a “friend”. I haven’t answered him yet, but the answer is in your message, which is the very next thing I read after his query. Your post is causing some deep reflection and introspection in me, and I thank you for that…much as I am thankful for my friend with glaringly different views and opinions than me. She allows me the opportunity (though often missed) to keep my mind and heart open.

    Thank you again!

    • JGM-

      These friends of ours with “glaringly different views and opinions than” us remind me of Abraham Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals”, his deliberately diverse selection of political consultants and confidants, who offered him a kaleidoscopic, not a monochromatic, gallery of strengths. Every relationship, especially those of contrasting color, can heighten what we know, understand, see, feel, and are.

      Very glad you stopped in here and added such depth to the conversation!

  11. Beautiful message. As I read it, my heart swelled as I thought of my brother and mother who have both passed on. I can only wonder what message they would give me. Your words ring true. While I am saddened by your loss, I am overjoyed with this special blessing you received and grateful for your sharing it with us.

    • Bryan-

      Thank you for your warm message. And I am sorry to hear that you have seen both your mother and brother go before you. Those are boulders to bear.

      I’m really relieved that this piece held meaning for you. Sharing such delicate personal learnings is a risk. But I have felt for a long time that this one was necessary to get down and put out there, regardless of the chance that it might not be received as I’d hope it would be.

      You’ve received it with as I’d hoped. Thank you.

      • RELATIONSHIPS ARE ETERNAL
        The first and great commandment is to love God. The second is to love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). The savior connected these two commandments by stating: “. . Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40) King Benjamin reworded it by saying: “. . . when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17)
        We knew God very personally in our pre-mortal existence. But in this mortal existence, God has purposely veiled our minds so that we get another opportunity to develop a new relationship with him in mortality. How do we do that? By developing relationships with His other children. Our relationship with God in this existence is almost always a triangular relationship involving someone else. As we love and serve the other person, we get closer to God. And the opposite is true. If something is pushing us apart, our relationship with God is also estranged.
        Prior to his crucifixion, Christ prayed earnestly in the Garden of Gethsemane that we may become one with Him as He was one with the Father (John 17:11). He describes the process we must follow in John 17:3: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” The word “know” in the original Greek is not “gnosis” which means abstract knowledge by studying. But it is “Epignosis”, which means knowledge by experience and relationship.
        We get to know and understand God by getting to know and understanding His children through love expressed in acts of service. God is love (1 John 4:8). When this mortal life is over, we take with us only that which is eternal—the knowledge and relationships we have developed. And I believe that after this life in the spiritual world we will continue to do post graduate work to complete our knowledge of God and further develop our eternal relationships with others.

      • Triangular relationships : God + Thou + I. Yes, that divine triad. And my next post will elaborate on this idea you’ve shared: “When this mortal life is over, we take with us only that which is eternal—the knowledge and relationships we have developed.” Thank you for being here!

      • As always M, your words have moved and inspired me. Made me ponder how I can personally adjust my relationships with others in my life. That is exactly the internal question I’ve been struggling with for months now. And this post has answered it for me. I can’t express my gratitude adequately enough to you for following the spirit and sharing such a profound personal experience with sweet Parker.
        And to think our instinctual reaction to such heavenly advice is far too often…”that’s it.” Why is it we mortals expect the grandiose? When we struggle so to make sense of the plain and simple truths.

  12. Melissa, thank you so much for sharing. I am struggling with so many of these things in my own life and your words brought me comfort and peace. My daughter sent me the link to this post and I am so blessed that she did. I love the book the Bonds that make us free, as well as the book the Infinite Atonement. Both have been blessings to me in my life as I struggle to love those who have hurt me and my family. What wise words your son shared with you and therefore with us. I believe that everything has the power to lead us back to God, or away from Him. Every choice, every person, every place. We are here to learn to become more like Him and I believe He teaches us through each other. The past couple of years, the lessons have been almost more than I could bear, but I am learning. I am becoming, I am so very loved.

    • Patty,
      How interesting you would mention those two books. A dear sister-friend gave me a pocket-sized, green leather copy of “The Infinite Atonement” in that first year after Parker passed away. I carried it absolutely everywhere, read it at bus stops, traffic lights, while waiting to pick up children from music lessons, while brushing my teeth. If you saw it today you’d see I marked it up like a road map. In those earliest months and years of bone-crushing grief, nothing helped me more than studying the atonement. I am sorry that the last couple of years have been so severe for you, but I also know from what you’ve written that you are in a steep learning curve. And you are learning all about love.

  13. Melissa,
    Such beautiful words.
    I guess we have both home through different trials since we were going kids hanging out in the old Springville neighborhood.

  14. Thank you for not only sharing the tender dream of your son, but the deep thinking you have put into his simple yet profound message. This is something that has been on my mind and in my heart or years. I was a teacher and sometimes found myself with a student, a parent, a colleague, that was difficult for me to “deal with”. Going to my knees night after night , until I could feel God’s love for them enter my heart. I must say, some of those students actually became some of my all time favorites. When I am being a difficult person to “deal with”, I am astonished to realize God loves my anyway! I keep wondering how I will ever get there, to that loving anyone/everyone, no matter how “stinkerish” they are being. I am so glad I have Eternity to work on it!:)

  15. This makes perfect sense to me and I was so happy to read this article. Recently a friend from high school called me up after many years. I prayed to Heavenly Father and asked if I should form a friendship or just be casual. I got the sweet confirmation that I should move ahead and form a friendship. I realized that we never know the impact we may make on some else’s life and we never know who is going through a hard time and needs a friend. But Heavenly Father knows and he conscious and mindful of all his children.

  16. Lovely dream. Simple message. We tend to complicate things. How refreshing to read the comments and find them full of support and love!

    • Susan,
      Absolutely agree that comments that are full of support and love also send a palpable life-giving and light-bearing vibration through our human webwork. There is tremendous power in words, spoken, written, thought…

      I’m happy you came here. Come again!

  17. I am sure words have not been adequate to express what truly transpired in your soul as your dream unfolded. While pondering your thoughts and feelings I reflected on the worth of each soul. And that we are often placed in positions to be a willing, selfless sacrifice in order to help another. Sacrificing time, talents, personal wants and possessions. In these moments we are approaching Christ – like behavior and in some small way are bearing personal testimony of Him, utimately embracing His humble example, “Thy will be done.” How we view and treat others is the real test of life. Everything else seems to be eye catching distractions to pull us off the main objective. Indeed, the closer we draw unto God the clearer are our views–of ourselves and others.

    • You’ve said it: “How we view and treat others is the real test of life.” Those eye-catching distractions pull at us all, while the core is “Have I loved the being I see right in front of me, behind me, beside me, even the being [or Being] I cannot see?” Simple, yet excruciatingly challenging.

  18. You have “Wh- what…” I gaped, instead of gasped near the beginning.
    I love these types of real life event stories. I’m new to you. Do you have a book out? Would love to read it. Sorry, I automatically edit as I read like a sloth.
    Love, Light, and Hugs

  19. Thank you Melissa. You write with great spiritual insight whilst keeping it simple. I love that. Thank you for reminding us that the most important things in life are the relationships we have with other human beings, our brothers and sisters, and that through these we come to God. Thank you for sharing.

      • Melissa, I hadn’t connected the relational dots when I made my first post. However, on reading your backstory I realise now that your son Dalton is well known to us and well beloved by us as Elder Bradford in the England London South Mission where I serve as a Counsellor in the Mission Presidency. He has been in our home on many occasions and, as it now draws to a close, I have watched his progress in the mission with great interest. What a lovely young man he is! Such a credit to his parents. Thank you for raising him to learn to love as The Master loves and letting him go, which is never easy for any parent, to range throughout the world to help others begin to learn the same lessons.

        Thank you.

  20. Thank you for sharing this message. Your words, and the talk referenced in the comments, are an answer to a question I have been pondering and praying over for some time. I now feel a little closer and a little more enlightened, so thank you.

  21. Such amazing insight, thanks for sharing. It’s wonderful to know people are out there who get what life is all about.

    • Jennifer,

      Well, I’m learning, just like everyone else, and admit I have a long, long way to go! But this personal experience branded my heart and I feel its warm mark coaxing me toward improvement every day.

  22. Pingback: My Deceased Son’s Answer to What It’s All About | Grandparenting

  23. I stumbled upon your blog this morning. Two hours later, I’ve read several more blogs, and searched you and the books you’ve written. I have never written to an author about the words they have penned, but I can’t stop myself. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your talent with us, for putting into words the feelings and thoughts that so many if us have, but don’t know how to express. I have read the comments left by readers and I must echo some of them…I feel like I’ve found a friend.

    • Patricia-
      I’ll be candid: It is a frightening and sometimes demoralizing (or very, very occasionally a crushing) undertaking to put your life (and your family’s life) out there for public consumption. The possibilities for the audience misunderstanding what I’m about are more numerous as the sentences I line up on a page. 🙂 So I’ve had to gain an entirely new level of confidence in what I’m doing and why I must do it. Luckily, too, I have my little turbo team of supporters, so that helps! (Thank you for being among them and for offering your friendship. I’m so profoundly blessed by my readers!)

  24. Yes to our visitors beyond the veil My best friend past away 6 years ago and she came to me telling me I was to give her memorial service, I was heartbroken, yet wrote down what she wanted me to say. Her message was simple yet profound “forgiveness”. This lifetime I have gone to my core to know God inside me. This message your son gave you about love is at the core of our being. Profound unconditional love. This is truly what we came to BE.
    I see you my friend through our hearts and so happy I found your blog. Heart to Heart Robyn

  25. I so enjoyed reading your story. I, too, lost a son in the physical sense, in 2012. He was a sweet, loving, kind, righteous son. In March, 2013, he came to my husband, who, too, has since passed, and told him, “Remember Dad, The gospel is true, and families are forever.”

    • Wanda Jo-

      Thank you for coming by and leaving a comment. You and I know that 2012, in grief time, is only a blink ago. And I understand you’ve lost your husband since…This seems like too much, yet here you are, writing and engaging. You must have a steady spirit.

  26. Melissa (great name by the way! it’s my wife’s, too :))… thank you for sharing such a personal experience. I have had several dreams where I have communicated with my dad (who passed away in 1996) and one with my brother (who passed away in 2004).

    I’ll share one briefly with you, as it dramatically strengthened my testimony that families are (or can be) eternal.

    My dad asked me, “So, guess who I saw ‘when I got here’?” I said, “Who? Heavenly Father?” He said, “No.” I anxiously continued, “The Savior?”. Again, he said, “No.” I said, “Who Dad? Who?” He said, “I saw my Dad.”

    I write this in tears as the memory of that dream confirms to me on a continual basis that families are eternal.

    Thanks again for sharing…

  27. Thank you for sharing, this is so very beautiful and helpful.
    I admire someone like you……so much to learn from your experiences and talents. Though I’m happy to be me: a content woman, wife and mother, with a small sphere of influence and experiences!!!

    • Janet,
      And I admire someone like you, a content woman, wife, and mother who seems (from your message) to be without guile. I believe the greatest lives are spent going deep, not necessarily wide. By that I mean that wherever we are, whatever our circle, we can learn to love better, more deeply, even if we spend our days in one square block with just a handful for people. Thank you for being here!

  28. Thank you so much for posting this.It is exactly what I needed at this moment. Can I have permission to quote from this post for a class that I am teaching in 2 weeks to some young men? Thank you again.

    • Anne,
      I’m truly touched you’d want to share something from this piece. Please do so with my blessing. There’s a great deal young men could learn from the complete story of our son’s untimely passing. I’ll continue to share in that spirit. Thank you for your kind comments.

  29. Gorgeous piece. Gorgeous writing talent. Gorgeous experience. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for raising an amazing son who God NEEDED on that side of the veil to help with the fight. Thank you!

  30. I lost my beautiful son a year ago, and have learned the same things. And, that we are not to judge ourselves because only God knows the whole story. So, instead of judging, we need to ask the Holy Spirit for the truth.

    • Daryl,
      Oh, I am so saddened to hear about your gorgeous boy. So, so sorry. Who has words for this? They don’t exist. You need a whole new vocabulary, don’t you? All the pain, the disorientation, the struggle for breath…and then the intense learning, as you mention. And yes, we are not to judge ourselves. We are experiencing only snap shots of who we and others) are in an eternal context. We might be more loving with others if we are first more loving, (and forgiving and nonjudgmental) with ourselves. I appreciate your comments.

  31. What an excellent story — it made me think not only do we have relationships with people, but also with places and things. I have a relationship with the temple I visit, with mountain meadows, forests, or coastlines. I have a relationship with my home. If we can keep the perspective that all relationships lead us closer to God, then our handling of the things of this world will be more correct, enriching, and serving of others.

    • Ukitect-

      you’ve said it so well! Yes, we have relationships with all things, and those relationships are sacred because all things are sacred. This worldview –– that we are one with a vast ecosystem –– is Eastern, and I think the West is gradually (but slowly) catching on. Consider how many modern ills would we eradicated if we fully comprehended and lived a life of spiritual interconnectedness…

  32. Thank you for speaking about something we don’t always talk about. I thought I had a certain gift in that area and, also, thought that I was crazy.

    I often awoke to my mother (who passed just a week before the birth of my fifth son) who whispered to me for almost a year before she moved one.

    I have heard from my daughter, killed at 23. She was my only girl out of seven children and, also, my only loss. She has given me many of my insights into heaven (from which I now believe we are so close to all those spirits at different points in our lives).

    Maybe some of us are given this gift. I am grateful for it. I love to hear the breath of their voices in my life.

    I will, also, state that I thought maybe I was just a dreamer or imagining things until one day in the Temple, I saw my husband abruptly look across at me with a strange expression on his face. I had just heard my daughter laugh (she had a unique laugh). When we talked after our session, he asked me, did you hear something?

    I was delighted beyond measure. If I was crazy, then so was he. He, too, heard her unique laugh as we gazed at the beautiful temple mirrors.

    My very first experience was when I was sealed to my husband and I heard a voice I recognized, but was alone in the temple room at the time. It was my Grandmother and she said “Busy, busy, busy.” That was her life’s mantra. I recognized it.

    I, also, “met” my husband’s deceased father.
    The Lord is marvelous and wonderful. These are blessings I hold dearly and know that they are bestowed with an understanding that they not be treated lightly, which is why I mention them briefly and without most of the context.
    I am thankful to know that their being gone does NOT mean that we, here on Earth are forgotten. Just as I assume that I will be cheering my children on when I pass, I believe they cheer us on after they have passed. And what a wonderful blessing that is to everyone, even if you are not one that hears their voices, they are there.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • And Katherine, thanks for your rare gifts and your willingness to share them. We are all connected; “here and there”, “then and now” are all here and now. (There are some quantum physics in there I don’t yet quite grasp in detail, but I have experienced enough to know it’s true.)

  33. Thank you for this beautiful enlargement of my conviction that ‘the entire purpose of our life here is to teach us to love as did (and does) Christ.’ I have so very far to go but I am on my way and your article opens up other paths and widens my view. Again, Thank you!

    • Jacqui-

      We all have far to go. And I’m the first to admit I’m straggling. But having our vision widened a bit gives us hope and energy to keep investing in what is the hardest and most rewarding challenge of life: our relationships.

  34. Perhaps is was something my Father taught me before he passed away. But he said it in a different way, “It’a ALL ABOUT how we treat people…” So simple, so profound. Thank you for this wonderful story.

  35. I loved this article! Thank you!!! I agree with it whole heartedly! I got a divorce last year and as I have spent days on my knees and getting myself closer to God I can see his had in everything! Every scripture I read or every song I hear has a message to me! Every relationship I have HAS drawn me closer to God and I see his hand in bringing people into my life! I know that I have Angels who are soo in tune they come when I need them to comfort advise, lift.. and I’ve realized through Christ that there is growth and blessings within me even from my X that we have both grown and been strengthened because of our trials and become soo much closer to God and both of us count every trial and pain as a strengthening power to draw us closer to God! I’m soo grateful for that relationship now because of my growth from it! I have become Empowered to stand up for myself as a beautiful daughter of God! I can’t ever go back.. but I have been able to find the good, heal from the bad, and count my blessings through it all!!!
    So YES….every relationship does bring you closer to God…if you’ll desire it and let in work in you!….Jesus stands at the door and knocks. We are the ones that need to open up the door to our hearts…as we do..we are filled with more of his love for ourself and for everyone we come in contact with!

    • Jaylene-
      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been through a divorce. For my many friends (and some family members) who’ve born the same pain, divorce is a death on many unseen levels. It’s good to hear strength and hope in your written voice. I appreciate that you can “count every trial and pain as a strengthening power to draw … closer to God” and hinges on desires and choices. I’ve learned something similar.

  36. Pingback: My Deceased Son's Answer to What it's All About | Meridian Magazine

  37. That was absoulety beautiful. Thank you for that. The relationships that blister me are the ones that I’m around all the time. Where I have to be brave to stand for the right even when I don’t feel like it.

    • Eliza,
      And that’s the way it is for many of us. Those chafing, lightly abrasive, unrelentingly off-putting, odd-fitting, stiff-edged interactions…They blister. It takes bravery, yes, and also a willingness to be vulnerable (honest and exposed) in order to stand one’s ground, mark one’s boundaries, and speak unpopular words. I know how that feels.

      • It really does. I have had several occasions where I have seen the ones i love be bruised, cut, and scarred but they come out with the most beautiful, tear-jerking, and strongest testimony you have ever witnessed. Again, thank you:)

  38. This article is so inspiring and will be one of my favorites. It has definitely given me better perspective on what’s important in life and relationships. Thank you so much.

  39. This is a beautiful challenge Parker gave and thoughtful insights you gave us. Thank you for sharing this dream. It brought to mind a quote by Henry Drummond. The whole quote is:

    In the Book of Matthew, where the Judgment Day is depicted for us in the imagery of One seated upon a throne and dividing the sheep from the goats, the test of a man then is not, “How have I believed?” but “How have I loved?” The test of religion, the final test of religion, is not religiousness, but Love. I say the final test of religion at that great Day is not religiousness, but Love; not what I have done, not what I have believed, not what I have achieved, but how I have discharged the common charities of life. Sins of commission in that awful indictment are not even referred to. By what we have not done, by sins of omission, we are judged. It could not be otherwise. For the withholding of love is the negation of the spirit of Christ, the proof that we never knew Him, that for us He lived in vain. It means that He suggested nothing in all our thoughts, that He inspired nothing in all our lives, that we were not once near enough to Him, to be seized with the spell of His compassion for the world. It means that—
    “I lived for myself, I thought for myself,
    For myself, and none beside—
    Just as if Jesus had never lived,
    As if He had never died.”
    (http://www.elcristianismoprimitivo.com/english/greatest-thing.htm)

    There have been times I have paused and changed my course with the thought “The withholding of love is a negation of the spirit of Christ…” Now I will add Parker’s principle–Every relationship is meant to bring us closer to God– to the words that keep me on course. Thank you! The world would be a better place if we learned this truth.

    • Exactly like the dream I had. Charity, the pure love of Christ is essential. Still have to have faith in Christ. Only He made it possible for us to return home. Read the Beatitudes for more Christ like attributes. Trying on my WordPress account. Sue Strong on Facebook.

    • Gaye,
      These lines will stick with me: “How I have discharged the common charities of life.” “the withholding of love is the negation of the spirit of Christ” and “that we were not once near enough to Him, to be seized with the spell of His compassion for the world.”

      True greatness is demonstrated in the desire and capacity to give and receive love.

      (I didn’t learn that in a dream, but I am convinced it’s an eternal truth.)

  40. Your beautiful words have left me in deep contemplation.When I read your article, it was like a remembering for me. I’m not as eloquent with words as you, but I have felt a stirring within me because of what you (and your son) have shared. I have been searching for an understanding of what my mission in life is, and at 4:30 am I awoke this morning and could not go to sleep. I got up and came to my computer to look through & respond to some emails & fb messages. My mom had posted your article last night & I passed over it. This morning it popped up first on my screen, and as I started to scroll past it I felt I needed to stop & read it. Oh how grateful I listened! I now know that as I search & find what my specific mission is, that this message must be at the core of it. It brings light & truth into my mind, my spirit has been awakened to better understand my purpose this morning, and for that I thank you! I am so grateful for this relationship that has brought me already in 15 minutes, closer to God and my relationship with him and others. God bless you for your courage & wisdom in sharing this beautiful life changing story with me & others. Your son is continuing his mission even now through you, I’m grateful to him for this simple yet profound understanding! God bless you as you continue to bless others lives!!

  41. I needed to read this this a.m., not only for this day but for the next little while as my little Presbyterian fellowship goes through the throes of deciding whether or not to stay with the historical denomination. My life has been instance after instance of the church leaving me, and I fear it will happen again as my little group splits apart over the issues of sexuality. Thanks for reminding me that with Jesus Christ, it is first those relationships that are the bedrock of the his church, his kingdom. All the religious crap that builds up over time doesn’t really matter.

    • Dear Keeb-

      My goodness, your fellowship upheavals sound thorny. To your point: I understood, when Parker spoke to me, that his words were the the essence of everything. Not just one of several great ideas, but The Idea from which everything else in heaven’s teaching radiates outward.

      I love that the word “religion” derives from the same root as does “ligament”, and implies re-binding, attaching things together again. True religion has, at its core, the power to bind us and bond us — human to human, human to God, God to human, all humans to all creation, all creation to God. That, in my humble view, is the source of joy and the purpose of our existence.

  42. This is why YOU’RE a writer instead of me. Way to pull it all together (with a little help through the veil)! This gestalt has been rattling around in my head like crazy for the past few months as I’ve tried to make sense of my life. We’ll said, and may we all better live it and grow in it. There is hope everywhere.

  43. Thank you for sharing that! So much to be learned from that experience…for all of us…truth always softly rests on me, like sunlight, and it tastes good…and this one is delicious to me.

    Your thoughts reminded me of an experience I had recently in a meeting where we were discussing our need to love more and judge less, to look for the good in everyone and everything, even when – and especially when – it’s not easy…A man shared an experience he had at a daddy-daughter activity many many years ago. All of the girls would stand up and say something fun about their dad, perhaps a talent he had, or a hobby he loved. Finally one woman stood up to speak about her dad, who happened to be the patriarch, and said, “I’ve never in my whole life heard my dad say something bad about someone else” She sat down. My friend said it impacted him greatly. It impacted me when I heard it. My kids won’t be able to say that about their dad. But I can start now, I can do better..and using your son’s statement, I can start to look for not only the good in others, but the “why”, and maybe the “how” – and together we can do better to help each other back home. The curriculum certainly is perfect!

    • Ryan-
      I have known only so few people in my life that meet that father’s standard. I know I don’t. But I think this lesson from Parker has helped train me to catch my judgements in the root — my thoughts — before they escape my mouth and poison others. It’s so easy to destroy with our words, and then to justify our cruelty. Innuendo, gossip, character-defamation, rumor-mongering — all of them come from a place that speaks more about the gossiper’s insecurities, fears, and lack of understanding than the comments themselves say about the gossiper’s target. I’ve thought of Christ, who, could have turned His huge following against Judas, Pilate, Herod, even on Peter, exposing and humiliating them in one concise sermon. But He didn’t. He let truth drill its piercing light into their wrong-doing, and that was enough. He was so graceful, so utterly self-contained, so spiritually mature that He never stooped to tit-for-tatting, getting even, having the last word. Indeed, His last word was a submissive exchange with His Father. And then silence.

      Who cannot be moved by this self-mastery and love?

      Thank you for your thoughtful words–Melissa

  44. I enjoy your article. I re-read some passages several times to know what it meant. I appreciate your sharing that helps me understand God’s purpose for me. THANK YOU!

  45. This was touching to hear what your sweet son said to you. I appreciate you sharing this special message.
    I will need to read it again and again. Thank you so much! Joan

  46. What a precious blessing to have this dream – a testimony of your sons current state of mind & being! Thanks for sharing his message. It will deffinately make me more aware of my actions & reactions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s