“Wear Your Working Shoes,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 28–29
Jim, my husband, died very suddenly two years ago. His death came as a shock to all who knew and loved him. He was a gentle man, highly respected by his professional peers and deeply loved by his patients in this community as “our doctor.” He held his family on the highest level of his priorities. He was proud of the Church and spoke freely of his deep faith. Although we had been members of the Church for only three years when he died, he had contributed much to members as well as nonmembers through the sincerity of his testimony. His love and example gave my faith a depth of strength that I shall cherish forever.
I had the privilege of being alone with Jim when he died. As I watched the expression on his face, I knew he had a calling from our Heavenly Father. I knew that I had nothing to fear as I felt a mighty power assuring me that Jim and I would be together for eternity—a feeling that has been with me constantly ever since. As I turned from Jim’s bedside, someone put his arm around me, saying, “Let me take you home now. You shouldn’t go home alone.” I can remember how quickly my reply came. “I can manage. I am not alone.”
Driving home from the hospital in the dark of that night, I relived the beautiful experience that Jim and I had shared as we knelt hand in hand across the richly upholstered altar in the sealing room in the Salt Lake Temple only two years before. Our sealing for time and eternity had been followed by the marriage of our beautiful daughter to her fine husband across that same altar. The following year in the Provo Temple we had the privilege of completing the temple ordinances for our parents and being sealed to them. What great blessings we have shared in the house of the Lord! As I reflected upon these blessings, “foreverness” came to me as a reality, giving me a determination to carry on and hold fast to my faith so that I would be worthy of the great blessings bestowed on me in the temple.
As I sat in the car for a while, preparing myself to tell our children that their father had gone, I found that my thoughts concentrated on the difference between the parting we had just experienced and the parting we lived through thirty-one years ago when Jim left me in the Washington railroad station, heading overseas. His parting words as the train started to move are still clear in my mind: “Remember that I love you always. This separation may be for a week, may be for a month, may be for a year, may be for. …” That last word was lost in the noise of the accelerating engine, but I knew what it was. Those three years and two months as he served with the U.S. Army in Iran were cruel years for both of us, a time of angry questioning. But now, as death temporarily separated us, what a difference! The appointed time had come for Jim and forever has such a different meaning. There are no doubts in my mind. I know that the gospel is true; I know that there is a God who is our Heavenly Father; and I know that forever means being together.
The compassion of others at this time of decisions and adjustments seemed to insulate me from reality. My children, my brothers, the entire Church, our friends from everywhere demonstrated a sustaining love that I shall never forget. But I soon began to recognize that this protective power of love could only be temporary.
Through prayer, I received a burning desire to move ahead. LeGrand Richards once said, “If you are going to leave footprints in the sands of time, you must wear your working shoes.” Keeping busy and involved is the key that keeps the door of self-pity locked. With so much to do to prepare to meet our Father in heaven, there is no time in our day of probation for self-pity. I know that I must not only keep on wearing those working shoes, but also have several pairs that can be changed frequently to broaden my sphere of knowledge.
One pair of working shoes, my calling in the Church as secretary of our ward Relief Society, is a tremendous blessing, getting me to all the meetings as well as teaching me the importance of Church records. The many programs of the Church are geared to better prepare us for the tests that lie ahead. I feel a great desire and urgency to avail myself of any learning experience I can find within the Church.
A full-time job as assistant director of nursing in our local hospital is most rewarding. I feel that I have a very special mission in helping families bereaved by the loss of a loved one to understand that all is not lost. Being on the board of directors of the New Hampshire Nurses Association also keeps those working shoes moving!
After my husband’s death I felt I should break up the big, old home with its joyous memories and move into a smaller, more manageable home. It was hard to sort the many years of memories, but I was slowly able to make the move. I have a very strong feeling that Jim is sharing in these decisions. The transition has been much less painful than I had anticipated. Home is now in its new setting and the important memories have come right along with me.
I want to share a very beautiful experience that I had in the Salt Lake Temple not too many months ago when “Our Elder,” the fine young man who baptized Jim, was married. Elder Paul H. Dunn of the First Council of the Seventy, who served as the New England mission president when we joined the Church, was officiating at the marriage. After warmly greeting me, he held my hand and turned me toward those majestic mirrors that reflect infinity. I was filled with a great warmth. As I looked up I could see this great man of God on one side of me, and on the other side, dressed all in white, with a soft smile on his face, was Jim. Through my tears of humility I heard the gentle words of Elder Dunn: “Sister Jessup, that is what this occasion is all about.”