Losing my older brother has made me realize how precious time with family really is in this life. Yes, we have eternity, but we will only be in this mortal life once on this earth, right now. There are things I wish I had done more with my brother while he was here, and things that I am so glad that I got to spend time with him doing. It is amazing how you remember someone with more fondness after they are gone. I can clearly remember all the times Nate was an amazing brother and kind and fun to be around. Less clear, now that he has passed, are the times that he acted like the typical older brother and gave my sister and I charlie horses, teased us about something or other and didn’t want to join into the play with us at times because it involved dolls, dress up and playing house. I think we retain the better memories because those are the ones we cherish the most. The times when we felt so close to each other and strengthened that bond you knew would never fade. It is those moments that help you realize how eternal the bonds of the family really can be and I appreciate the gospel knowledge of the eternal nature of families so much more now.
So my dose of joy this week was to make Sunday, the Sabbath day, more of a delight. The ultimate goal of that effort would be to strengthen both our family bonds and to also build more of a foundation in the gospel. For a long time Phil and I have been working on making Sundays more of a conscience choice, rather than a day to just get through. Yes, our kids don’t go play with friends, we don’t get on computer games, we don’t go out and work or shop on Sunday, but quite often we would take naps all afternoon after church. Or turn on movies (while good family movies) that would just pass the time away so we could get to the next day when we could do all those other things. I pretended that was quality time with family, but yesterday (June 2nd) we finally achieved a no electronics, fully focused Sunday where our kids were excited to sit in discussion with us. They were asking Phil and I questions about a certain gospel principle that had confused them and we could take the time and dive into the scriptures with them. We were ready for Church an hour before it began and actually arrived to Sacrament early. Phil and I read books we had been meaning to pick up for a while while the kids played together, laughing and enjoying the family ties we have. We played board games together and watched our 5 year old light up when she won. I made a large dinner and dessert so we could sit around and actually talk about what we wanted to learn from the scriptures that week. We studied the scriptures, Harrison played hymns on the piano, we went on a family walk in the beautiful weather, we spent time not just as a family, but as a family choosing to do things that brought us closer to the Lord and to each other. At the end of the day, when the kids went to bed (amazingly without complaint, though I know that will not be every Sunday), Phil and I sat in the living room exclaiming it felt like a Sabbath day. It felt spiritually rejuvenating and I was ready to face the week ahead when we had to come back to reality the next day with everything we have to do in our busy lives.
I write this not to brag by any means because there have been a million Sundays where we have failed spectacularly to get to this one perfect Sunday and I know there will be many Sundays where we will fail again. That is the beauty of the gospel. You can try, try, try, try, try, try again and even when you need to, try again. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Twelve Apostles said in his conference address, Tomorrow the Lord will do Wonders Among You, “Even if you don’t always succeed, we get credit for trying… Remember that the Lord blesses those that want to improve.”
The greatest joys and blessings in my life have come when I have strived to live closer to the Lord and the gospel, sometimes falling way short of where I need to be, but I see with a clarity now that I hope will not fade and I am just beginning to understand more fully the Lord’s plan. I miss Nate a lot, but I know he is not far. So I can cry at times thinking about missed opportunities with him and dreaming about what I will say to him when we will be joyfully reunited in the next life. I can also look at my family: my stalwart, amazing husband and my beautiful, wonderful children and thank the Lord that I get to raise them and try every morning to make each day just a little bit better and focused on the eternal ties that matter.