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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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(Portrait: Courtesy of Jennifer Quinton ©)

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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?

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© 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.

 

 

 

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

  1. Pingback: Connect | The "MAHALO 5" Space

      • 18 days ago, I found my son, my oldest – had died while I was away on vacation. I don’t know how to do this, but I know that I can’t do it without my Heavenly Father. Thank you for giving some meaning to devastation.

      • 18 days has turned to three months since your life changed in an instant. I pray that you are breathing, and that you are able to sense God’s tender presence as you seek Him. Who knowns better the lost of a beloved son than does He?

      • My son David died of leukemia at the age of 28. He struggled with his testimony during the last years of his life, but he was a wonderful, kind, moral person. Since his relationship to God was so personal, I worried about him and what the future held for him. One night he came to me in a dream. I said, “Oh, son, how happy I am to see you. I know you cannot stay with me for long, so please tell me, do you love the Savior?” He answered, “Oh, yes, Mom. with all my heart.” I asked, “Then why didn’t you show it more when you were here?” He replied, “You don’t understand, Mom. Everything is different here. I can understand things in this world I could not understand in your world.” Then he was gone. I have not been troubled since. He helped me understand that many things will not be made clear until the next world. Your sons statement about relationships is certainly one of those precious understandings.

      • Barbara-
        What an exquisite experience you were blessed to have. And I believe every detail because I have known the same. Everything is saturated in love, light and learning in the realm outside of mortality, so much so that, when we know a bit of that place, it makes our petty worldly measurements and temporal anxieties dissolve in one brisk breath. The challenge is to keep the immortal perspective when slogging through mortality. My son, like yours, helped me bring the two — immortality and mortality– together. Thank you or bringing more depth to this discussion.

      • Melissa, I loved thinking about the many possibilities in relationships in life and the part I need to play to help lead myself and others to God.

      • Thank you, dear Eileen, for your comment here but especially for your living example of caring for others, drawing outsiders in, cultivating family closeness, and giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. If someone knows the connection between mortal and immortal friendships, it would be you. Warm hug!

  2. I read a really terrible book a few years ago, except it had one passage in it that really spoke to me. It said (and I’m really paraphrasing here) that every living thing spends it’s energy on praising God. So all of the flower, plants, trees, chairs (made of wood or other “living” fabric), animals… they are all praising God while they are on the earth. I loved that part of the book and thought it was beautiful.
    I also love that your son came to you in your dream. I keep having dreams about my grandmother’s house. The night she passed away I had a dream that I was in her home and walking her out the door (of her home). I remember missing her as I shut the door after she left and wanting to go back out to get her. Love dreams like that!

    • Ktbr-

      All living things spend their energy praising God. I get that, and so did some of my favorite poets, many of them transcendentalists, like Rainer Maria Rilke in his Duino Elegies, and Gerard Manley Hopkins in “God’s Grandeur.” (You probably know Hopkins’ work, but I’ll include here anyway, just because.)

      “To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”
      ― Rainer Maria Rilke

      God’s Grandeur
      Gerard Manley Hopkins

      The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
      It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
      It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
      Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
      Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
      And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
      And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
      Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
      And for all this, nature is never spent;
      There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
      And though the last lights off the black West went
      Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
      Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
      World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

  3. My oldest son died too, and about a month after he died, visited me in a dream too. I didn’t think to ask him what he had been learning, I just told him I missed him so much, and he told me, “I know mom, but I’m right here…” I got a hug and the reassurance that he was with me! Oh how that has carried me though! Thanks for being unselfish enough to ask your son and share with us what he has learned. I do so much beleive it, now it’s just living up to it I hope for!!

    • Raeghn-

      Ah, so sad to hear that your eldest also passed away. And that he assured you he was with you is what I had learned from dreams I’d had of Parker previous to this one. In those, I said just as you said and Parker said just what your son said. They are all with us.

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  6. What came to me reading this was we need charity, the pure love of Christ. Read the Beautitudes. They spell it out too. I’ve had dreams too. Thanks for sharing this precious dream. It is a reminder we need to be kind toward all.

  7. I suppose that what your son “taught” in your dream was something you already knew, and something almost all of us know, but to hear it so succinctly put into words is life-changing.

    “Bring us to God?” To me that means we can be sanctified through all of our relationships as we seek the will of God and not to act on indifferent or naturally-selfish feelings and desires- Doing to others what is right in His sight will result in us understanding His great love for each of His children. In doing so we will come to know how infinitely He loves each one of His children from the least “flawed” to the most. (And surely I will understand that I am somewhere on that continuum.)
    We will also understand His kind and merciful and generous heart as we develop hearts like that in ourselves.
    We can only appreciate His sacrifice/Their sacrifice for us, when we sacrifice for others. That sacrifice includes personal pride and ego along with any other selfish and self-serving tendency.

    The scriptures teach that when He comes again we “will know Him, for (we) shall be like Him”. Every relationship brings us to God.

    Beautiful.

    • Melanie-

      You’ve added important texture to the theme of “Every Relationship…” Thank you for the fluid and graceful line of thought, and for these two lines especially:

      “We can only appreciate His sacrifice/Their sacrifice for us, when we sacrifice for others. That sacrifice includes personal pride and ego along with any other selfish and self-serving tendency.”

      In a future post, I plan on exploring the idea of “Their” sacrifice. And I’m convinced that the sacrifice of ego — the process of self-emptying — is where real confidence and wholeness are discovered.

      Have you read the works of M. Catherine Thomas, especially The God Seed? She explores these topics at length.

      Thank you for being here.

      Thanks

  8. I saw this post as a link on Facebook relating to my nephew who passed away two years ago. I love everything you mentioned but as I got looking over your profile I realized that you are accomplishing everything I ever have dreamed of. You are truly inspiring. Thank you.

  9. i have not had any dream or anything since my son died. im doing my best to carry on life and most people dont know or when they know they are amazed i have had this loss,,, but in me there is a grave lack. and at the same time there is a normal life too,
    im not able to express how the life keeps going and so do i… and yet hes not here

      • Carl–And maybe it’s the MOST important relationship of all. So how does that read? “Your relationship with yourself is to bring you to God.”

        Love thyself. Forgive thyself. Show reverence and tenderness toward thyself. Understand thyself. See the God within thyself.

        Absolutely.

    • Tina- I know many more who’ve not had dreams than those who do. And many more who feel no ongoing connection with their deceased beloveds than those who do. Or at least….they don’t share their dreams and don’t talk about a sense of lingering presence. Some don’t believe it can happen, some, who might be inclined to believe, find it too foolish to share with anyone. (They might lose credibility with others, might be made fun of, someone might think they’re crazy, etc.) And some, frankly, don’t want an ongoing connection. That’s understandable when relationships were jagged during life.

      I do hope you understand that I haven’t shared to make anyone feel guilty, frustrated, less than, or cheated. I hope you haven’t felt that way; it is torturous enough to lose a child. No one should do anything to make you feel worse. I wish you (and your son) all the very, very best.

  10. Thank you so very much for sharing this. I cried as I read for many reasons , but mostly for the truth in the words that you spoke. You and Parker have brought me and my family a little closer to Heavenly Father!!

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  13. Dear Melissa, this is Allison Russell Thaut (Wendy’s sister) and appreciate your openness so much. I too have had Brian in a dream and he has appeared to many with such special messages. I wish he would come to me more so this means the world to me. I am still in the whole denial phase and wish I could feel peace again. I loved your book so much and need to read it again. Now that the fog has been lifted and everything I originally read is more of a fog than anything, I need to get going again. Thank you for your honesty and opening with your ups and down’s. I admire you so much. We both lost so much of our hearts. That ache will never, ever go away. I pray for you as well.

  14. Melissa
    You introduced me to teenaged Parker when I saw you in Princeton. You have brought the sadness of his passing full circle with this message of enduring closeness.
    As I wonder and pray how I might be an instrument in God’s hand to advance His purposes, it hadn’t occurred to me that we do so by being kindly empathetic in all of our interractions. That seems trite compared to great acts of ministry and service but apparently has eternal consequences. It sets the tone for Him to exist in our mundane activities.
    I am grateful that this came to my attention. God will be evident within others. I will see others as He sees them.
    This stirs pleasant thoughts. Best regards.

    • What this woman expresses so perfectly is what I have believed for many years. It came as a result of feeling God’s love for me completely in spite of my weaknesses. I wanted to help others feel the same….everyone. This article is truth!

  15. Melissa,
    I came across this blog post of yours from the LDS Living Facebook page. It was a very timely read for me today. I have been struggling with a person who has openly mocked me and I have felt hurt from it. I see this person regularly as I instruct an exercise class she participates in. I have been struggling with what to do with my hurt and your son’s words have been an answer to my search to handle things in the Lord’s way. I will most likely see this person tomorrow and on a fairly regular basis for the next month and I will make every effort to make Parker’s words my mantra as well. Thank you for sharing this. It has lit up my heart with forgiveness, love and compassion.

    • Lynda,
      I’m so touched by your message. Please forgive me for being off-blog for the summer, and for not responding earlier. I’d like to hear from you how this hard relationship with this person is progressing, if it is. Admittedly, I’m not the perfect example of living out the advice my son gave me. Relationships challenge me as much as they challenge everyone else. And at times I fail. But this has become my mantra, and I continue to learn from it. Much warmth to you!

    • Lynda,

      Thank you for your loving and thoughtful message. We are all struggling at one time or another with core relationships. I still do. I always will, I think. It is keeping that perspective in mind, I think, that even the most painful interactions are to teach us something divine, is what keeps us from giving up completely. I hope to hear from you how things are progressing.

  16. I loved this, and am so happy for you that your son appeared to you in a dream. I have been wishing this since my beloved daughter, age 30 at the time, and her two daughters, my only 2 grandbabies, only 18 months and 5 years tragically passed away. Her husband and the children’s father shot them as they slept, then shot himself. They were all active members of the Church, and until that day, my son-in-law was loving, kind, and a devoted husband and father. He apparently had depression (very well contained) as well as possibly another mental illness. He had started to falter a little in his faith, but my sweet daughter remained steadfast to her covenants and was a wonderful wife and devoted, loving Mother. Every day is so hard and though I, too, am an active member of the Church, this tragedy has BROKEN me. My faith has not gone, but I will say it is fragmented. Every day is so hard to get through and I suffer from not only crippling grief, but severe PTSD, and severe depression. I pray and pray for comfort and peace but it doesn’t seem to come; I long desperately to feel my daughter and granddaughters spirits, and though I have had a few little signs, I DESPERATELY need her to appear to me in a dream and tell me she’s okay and that all is well. I try to have faith that all is well in Paradise, but I worry that she can’t feel at peace because of what her husband, whom she loved and adored so much, did to them. I’m sorry this post is so negative, but I could use some comforting words of advice right now. I’M JUST SO SHATTERED and feel like I’m drowning deeper and deeper each day. Thank you for writing this, and my deepest condolences on the loss of your son.

    • Mary Jane-

      Oh, horrific. I am speechless, wordless, struck paralyzed by the horror you have had to bear. Forgive me if I flounder here for a moment.
      Of COURSE this tragedy has broken you, Of COURSE. I would disbelieve any other response. It must be like having a mountain range fall on your chest, then all of the oxygen sucked out of the universe, then the earth open up beneath your feet and swallow up…everything.
      It is bigger than language your tragedy. And yes, you are BROKEN. Beyond broken. Crushed trampled. Only God could comprehend this darkness.
      OF COURSE you have crippling grief. Rib-crushing anxiety. Nerve-fraying PSTD. OF course. I wouldn’t not expect anything else. You have been forced to stare into the face of evil and destruction. And it must be horrifying. It could take you under, kill you, too. It seems you will have to fight hard not to be unraveled permanently by this. Do not give up. Refuse to give in completely to despair. Maybe it is all you can feel, but whenever there is a moment when you feel a lightening or a glimmer of energy, I hope you go with it. I hope you follow every inclination to let yourself feel joy and even, at some distant point way off, even real cheer.
      But I hope no one encourages you to fake it.
      To me, you do not need to fake anything. And you needn’t apologize for being honest. Honesty is the way through this dark, underground tunnel system called traumatic, violent loss. Honesty and nothing else but honesty will help you move forward.
      If I were close to you geographically, I would come and sit and listen to all you are experiencing and learning. I would also suggest you sleep as much as you can, eat as well as possible, and walk in nature every single day. May you find solace and strength in doing that!
      And know that the atonement of Christ and God’s mercy are bigger and deeper than all loss.
      Your daughter and grand granddaughters, whether you see or feel or hear from them at all, are closer than you can imagine, They are with you right now ad always. Covenants make that certain.

  17. This has been a fascinating read. Truly. I want to remember this always. Christ did call a spade, a spade. “Oh ye generation of Vipers” and let us not forget that he called Herrod the “Fox”. Truth and knowing the people around you is an important part of the journey. How much we learn when we know who someone truly is. Once, when I was going through a terrible ordeal with someone, I got a blessing and in it they told me that one of the reasons I had been allowed to endure this “relationship” was that I would, in turn, develop (in a small way) empathy for the betrayal the Lord had suffered. Some relationships bring us closer to God by breaking us open and letting us walk ever so slightly in the paths that he walked, letting us know him in the way we could have never known him otherwise. Break down, break through.

    • Laurel,
      I’m happy to hear from you and grateful for those who befriended Parker (although he usually was the one befriending everyone else, right?) in that last mortal moment. You are an adult now, and I hope you’ve carried Parker’s story into a life filled with love, learning and service.

  18. Melissa,

    Lovely piece both in writing and in the Peaceable approach that we express to others and to our God. Life is tough but the gifts of adversity bless us with so much more if we will stand back and listen and learn and become closer to our father in Heaven.
    So remember, you love God only as much as the person you love the least.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely peace and blessings to all.

    • Zell-
      Yes, we love God only as much as the person we love the least. I’ve thought much about this over the last few months, and have realized I am still in full learning mode regarding what my son taught me. A mortality won’t be enough to fully understand the implications.

  19. Great message, maybe what I needed to hear, but hard to understand the disparities of life and family relationships. You seem to have a perfect family life – even your son’s death, although tragic, incredibly heroic and a beautiful story to share even in his death – by trying to save the life of another. How do I explain my parents’ divorce in my twenties, my longing to have a family of my own – spouse and husband, but hasn’t worked out (I’ve made a commitment to marry someone temple worthy), and now I’m well into my thirties, with no hope of family on the horizon. It is hard on some level to read stories like this – – in Christ, even your son’s death holds no sting in an eternal perspective through the resurrection, but my parents’ divorce – they both remarried and were sealed to their new spouse. It’s great you have such a beautiful, wonderful family, but sometimes it’s painful to hear and wonder why God wanted life so unfair through the fall, etc. Which we believe we wanted to happen. Trying to make sense of it all…, maybe you can address in a future post? Great to see beautiful families and have something to aspire to, but also very painful to realize the spousal/ family relationships many of us don’t have, and may never have in this life….. beautiful article and definitely don’t mean to rain on the parade, but do try to raise awareness of singles and our struggles, particularly for those who most likely have never had any exposure to this type of pain or family dysfunction.

    • Oh dear Tara-
      I am so pained to hear of your father’s and mother’s decisions, failed marriage, the anguish you have hd to carry and how it has affected your life. So, so incredibly hard and dang it all, not of your doing! Though you must bear the fallout. That has to be suffocating and deeply, constantly painful.
      I will certainly address the painful family situations many (most) live in, and the heartbreak that accompanies singleness, childlessness, all those margins outside of The Perfect Family Portrait our culture tends to promote. (and maybe I am part of that problem.)
      But I must add that we must not be deceive my appearances. Behind any airbrushed, color coordinated portrait is some degree of pain, loss and struggle. (I wrote “many” in the above line and the Spirit said, “No. ANY.” And that is truth.)
      My own family of origin has known profound sorrow and estrangement, though my parents have not been divorced. The pains and deceptions and injuries are so deep, they cannot be addressed publicly. And I have known more families than I can count who have similar stories, but who, rom all appearances look cohesive and “perfect.” The ubiquity of hidden illnesses physical or mental, betrayals, financial struggles, faith loss, and issues one cannot even begin to address, especially in public, is the greater reality. No one escapes sorrow and loss. No one. While sorrow and loss are not meted out equally (I, for instance, have friends who have lost multiple children, and in gruesome, decidedly non-heroic ways; I have lost but one), they are the very GRIST of mortality. They are what bind us, connect us, make us all equally vulnerable and broken, so that we need each other and, above all, God.

      “Sorrow that the eye can’t see.” That, my sister Tara, is a line I can hardly ever sing without choking on tears. And because of your own loss, you have a gift to see others’ losses that I perhaps cannot. In that sense, you are rich in compassion and wisdom. I honor that in you.

  20. Thanks for the reminder, Melissa! I completely understand Parker’s message and have felt my own confirmation regarding it. Staying on task and constantly in tune to recognize it in our daily human interactions remains the challenge! Thank you for being such an example and doing so much good.

    • Sweet Maja-
      You understand better than most, maybe even more intimately and completely than all. And you are right: The challenge is in remembering and applying, every single day. I find it very hard. You make it look so easy. ❤

  21. Thank you for sharing your experiences! It was wonderful to read this! We have had two of our sons pass. One as a toddler in 1981 and one in 2015 . . . a 37 year old man. How precious it is to see them in our dreams! Glad you were able to hear Parker’s words!

  22. Thank you for sharing this intimate and special message. This reaffirms my thoughts on our relationships with others. I have always believed that we learn something from everyone. The “good” relationships are easier to pull a lesson from: charity, love, respect, etc. The difficult relationships, especially those that have hurt us, teach us how not to treat others, how to stand up for ourselves, what we should expect from a good relationship, and helping us see how very grateful we should be for those connections that lift us and bring us closer to Heavenly Father. Thank you, agian, for spreading this beautiful message and helping us see that every person and every interaction matters.

    • Chantel-
      And every relationship can, if we are mindful, draw our minds to the Savior and our hearts to His atonement. When relationships fail utterly, we can hope through Christ that somewhere, some-magical-how, Christ’s atonement will compensate and clean our wounds.

  23. Thank you Melissa for sharing your powerful experience and insights, this is exactly what I needed at this time. Now if I can only become more like the Savior in those relationships. Love and hugs to you and your family!

    • Christi-
      if only I could master what I’ve been told! If only I had more patience, more forgiveness, if only I were less prideful, more honest, less fearful, more simple in my interactions. What helps me, too, is to remember that there are no perfect relationships, (as there are no perfect individuals), and Christ lovingly extends His inspiration to us as we sincerely try to learn from Him.

  24. Beautiful! So, true! It is a great reminder to remember to share your love with your family every day! Also to strive to always share kindness to others by smiling, sharing warmth and friendliness.

  25. This is wonderful.l, and a beautiful reminder of things that I knew. Thank you so much for sharing this experience and your thoughts.

  26. The relationship with my mother has taught me so much. I’ve become more patient, less anger-driven, and better able to be a good teammate and friend. But the relationship has never felt trying, we’ve never had a major “falling out ” or anything, so I think they can be different.

  27. Since I read the article (three times), I could not stop thinking and meditate in your dream. Dreams are real, and I believe in that. In 1982 my mother died in a pedestrian car accident. She was a very special woman, and she always told me that she wanted all her eleven children with her for all eternity. I did not know nothing about that. After a week of her death, she came in dreams crying, and telling me to find the church of Jesus Christ. She was showing me a beautiful garden of lilac flowers. That dream came for several months. One day two men stopped at the place I used to work, and they asked me why I was sad. I explained to them what happened. They told me about The Church of Jesus Christ of L.D.S., and the Plan of Salvation. I was very happy, and sent them to my house to tell that to my three children. Two weeks later two young Missionaries came to my house I taught us The Gospel Principles. We were very astonished, about the dream, and of course The Plan of Salvation. We started to attend all meetings in an old house, A new chapel was under construction, and when it was dedicated we were baptized. After the baptism we attended for the first time The Meeting House. When we entered to the chapel the first thing that we saw in both sides of the stage were two bouquets of lilac flowers. We hugged, we cried, we embraced each other. All ordinances were made for my mother, and for my father, and I was sealed to them. I know that the faith of my mother, and her love for our Heavenly father made that possible. Thank you!

    • Maria-
      What a sacred treasure and landmark that series of dreams has been for you. That must be one of your spiritual gifts, because not all people can claim such remarkable guidance from the spirit world. How proud your mother must be of your decision to follow promptings and make covenants. They are the source of real power and light, and will bless generations. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  28. My brother died while delivering a bay (the baby is fine). Since he was in the hospital he was eventually resuscitated but not until he spent a good amount of time on the other side. He came back with the same message with one small caveat. We are bound together as families because we will work harder to maintain those relationships rather than walking away when it suits us.

    • We are bound together in ways our mortal minds cannot grasp. Covenants provide true power, which we often need to maintain and deepen relationships that are demanding or even dying. (And I hurt to hear of your brother. What a blow that must have been, one that still marks you, I’m sure.)

  29. Melissa, thank you! A few minutes ago, I learned that my 34 yr old son has cancer and hep c. I opened up the meridian magazine article that sent me to your blog.

    Your words were very comforting and much needed tonight….completely proving your point!!

    I appreciate every word you shared. I can do this…and learn how heavenly father wants me to handle this very hard thing.

    We just celebrated his 14th month of sobriety from heroine and cocaine. Now, this….hot on the heels of the celebration.

    • Nan-
      Warrior mothers never run out of battles, I think. I pray for you, your son, and for your relationship with him and with God to drive down deep so that you can stand through the raging hardships ahead. You don’t need to be strong, but strengthened by unseen powers. Best to you. ❤

  30. thanks for sharing,my oldest son passed away may 12th 2017,n I feel I have lost my faith,reading your story has helped me regain some of that, I have always believed in God,n when my son died everything I’ve ever believed in has changed,just wanted to say my condolences on your loss as well,this is something we have to live with the rest of our lives,n I’m thankful I have other children that need me or I don’t know if I would even be here,6 months later and the pain is still as fresh as the day I found out,Daniel was 27 when he died,n I wish I could of been the one and not him.

    • Gina-
      Bless your tortured mother soul. Of course, of course you with you could have been the one to die and not him. I know that feeling very well. Take me, take me, I thought. (Or take anyone else who doesn’t love life and isn’t appreciating it at al, abusing that gift, misusing the sacred privilege that is life. Oh, yes, I battled with that feeling for so long.)
      And have you found that grief gets worse, usually, before it gets lighter? The first few months are lighter than what hits a eight, ten, twelve months… I had no idea how much one could hurt without actually dying. But now I have felt it in my bones.
      My heart reaches out to you. You are not alone it he wrestle. You are not crazy, weak, or wrong.

      You are just a mother who loves your child. And this is really how love feels.

      You are stronger than you think and I am sure your beautiful, gorgeous son is watching every day and night. Hi first responsibility is you. He loves you more now than he was =ever able to show as a mortal. I pray you will feel the truth of that as you read these words.

      God’s blessings on you, and your son’s big arms around your shoulders, his warm hand on your back, always and forever.

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