“The Temple Slippers I Didn’t Wear,” Ensign, Oct. 1980, 53
One evening as I sat in the Logan Temple waiting for the endowment ceremony to begin, an elderly, silver-haired woman sat down beside me. I noticed her shoes almost immediately. They shone with years of polishing; deep creases lined the foot where the polish was cracking. A lump came to my throat as a November night years earlier came into mind.
My wedding was two weeks away. Everything seemed exciting to me as I planned and replanned. Thoughts of gold satin, white orchids, dress fittings, showers, parties, invitations—and my fiancé—filled my mind.
One afternoon my grandmother called and asked that my fiancé and I come to her home to visit her. She said she had a surprise for me. As we drove the twenty miles to her home, we both wondered what it was that prompted “Grammy” to call us to her side.
I remember that night well. The sun had set, leaving orange trace-lines in the sky. The November air was crisp but deliciously fresh as we drove.
Grandmother greeted us at the door. I smiled as I walked in; I loved the smell of her home, of bacon drippings and homemade bread. She greeted us warmly and asked us to sit down beside her on the sofa. She was eighty years old and always dressed as if she were on the way to church. Her hair was neat, pulled up on top of her head in dozens of small grey curls. She never wore makeup and had deep smile lines around her mouth and eyes.
“Kathy,” she said, “because you have decided to be married in the temple, I have something special for you.” She got up, walked slowly into the next room, and came out carrying a white overnight bag in her hand.
She set it beside her on the sofa and lifted up the lid. There, beautifully folded, were my soft-white temple clothes—she had had them made for me as a special gift. I slid my fingertips inside one of the soft nylon pleats and ran them slowly down the smooth-cool material. The clothing was exquisite, heavenly.
She told me that I was to take very good care of these clothes as they were to last me all my earthly life.
“All you need, Kathy, is to get a pair of white slippers and your outfit will be complete. You will be ready to go to the temple.”
She paused for a moment; a sparkle came to her eyes. “Come with me,” she said. I followed her into her bedroom at the back of her small brick house. She walked over to her worn cedar chest and opened it carefully. As she raised the lid, she revealed a large plastic bag filled with cut-out quilt blocks, balls of unused crochet thread, a black family album, and a stack of yellowed papers bound tightly with brown twine. She lifted the stack of papers and pulled out an old shoe box.
She laid the shoe box on the bed, took off the lid, and took out a white shoe.
“Kathy,” she said, “these are my temple shoes that I have worn to the Logan Temple many times over the years. Even though they are worn and cracked in places, perhaps you could get some use from them.” She smiled. “Your temple outfit would then be complete.”
“Oh,” I thought to myself, “I just couldn’t wear those old shoes with my soft new temple clothes!”
“Why don’t you try them on, Kathy, to see if they fit?” She handed one to me.
My heart sank as I slid off my new red shoes. I hoped they would not fit. I wiggled my foot into the worn shoe. It seemed to fit perfectly.
“How are they, Kathy?” Grammy asked.
“I think they are a little bit snug,” I said without looking into her face, “but I thank you for thinking of me. Maybe they will fit one of your other granddaughters.” I still smiled as I handed her the shoe.
My grandmother said nothing as she carefully packed away her worn temple shoes.
That November night of long ago was vivid in my mind as I sat in the temple. I moved my fingertips across the soft nylon folds of the temple robe and looked at the old shoes the sister next to me was wearing. I sat thoughtful for a moment. Then I looked down at my own white slippers, not a crease in them, and over again to the sister sitting next to me. How much her shoes looked like my grandmother’s shoes. Grandmother—who had now passed on.
Tears filled my eyes as I realized that I could be wearing the same shoes that had carried my grandmother through the precious endowment ceremony many, many times. Shoes that had seen difficult times I knew nothing about. Shoes that perhaps many sweet sisters beyond the veil were thankful for. In my inexperience and limited perspective, I had looked on those shoes as shabby, as not worthy of a new bride. They now seemed to me objects of great beauty.