“One of Those Small Miracles,” Ensign, Feb. 1985, 62–63
“What a blessing to have the Washington Temple so near,” my mother wrote in a recent letter. “A day up and one to return home is all it takes for us to enjoy a temple session.” Her words stirred my memory of that time long ago when we made our first trip to the temple.
It was 1950, and the postwar prosperity had finally reached our family—that must have been what enabled Dad to trade off the ’38 Pontiac for the ’50 Nash. Things had never seemed very prosperous on our South Carolina farm, and we’d heard Mom and Dad talk many times about how much they wanted to have the family sealed to them in the temple, but how far off Salt Lake City was and how fearful they were that the Pontiac would never make it. But when Dad showed up one day with the new Nash, we knew he’d bought it so we could go to the temple. Why, the seats even folded down into a double bed, which meant we could save on motel expenses by letting the “big boys” sleep in the car.
So plans were made. We’d go in the fall, when all the crops were in. Of course, we would have to have a good harvest to be able to afford the trip. Even with the postwar boom, Dad’s job at the mill, and the produce from the farm, it all seemed barely enough to provide the necessities for our growing family. But always when a snag would appear, Mom’s faith and optimism would push us along.
“Callis,” she’d say, “if you don’t take me to the temple and something should happen to you, I’ll find someone who will.”
We suspected that she really wouldn’t have, but it was her way of letting it be known that she planned to get to the temple that fall. Mom and Dad and all the older children knew how close Dad had come to being killed only four years before. He’d been terribly hurt in a motorcycle accident, so when she told him “if anything happens to you” we all knew what she was talking about.
As fall approached there was much activity around our home. Arrangements had to be made for taking us out of school for a couple of weeks; someone had to make sure the animals were fed and watered; and the crops all had to be gathered in. There was an air of excitement as September turned into October—then finally the day of departure arrived. We’d planned to leave between 10:00 P.M. and midnight; that way we’d get in a day and a half of driving before we had to stop for a motel. But as last-minute chores were being done, a cry cut through the stillness of the autumn afternoon: “The pump house is on fire!”
The family came running from nine different directions, and in moments the source of the billowing smoke was found and extinguished. Some days before, one of us had set a gallon jug of gasoline in the pump house, and behind the jug, just under the pump motor, were some burlap bags. The rays of the afternoon sun had magnified through the jug onto the bags, creating a smoldering heat which burned out the pump motor.
It couldn’t have happened at a worse time! It would take days to find and install a replacement motor. Our travel time had to coincide with Dad’s vacation, and our schedule was already tight for what we thought of as our once-in-a-lifetime trip.
I can never forget the scene that followed. After surveying the damage, Dad slowly turned and with drooping head moved toward the house some thirty yards distant. Raising both hands and dropping them several times, shaking his head slowly back and forth, he spoke only half aloud: “How can I leave with no water for the animals? There’s no way we can go.”
Never, before or since, have I seen such great discouragement. Excitement over the anticipated trip suddenly turned to gloom for all of us. We weren’t going after all.
Just then, without our looking for it, came one of those small miracles that happen in our lives in such a matter-of-fact way that we sometimes fail to recognize that they are miracles. Down our driveway came my Uncle Heber.
Heber was Dad’s brother and had taken his family to the temple some ten years earlier. Like all of our relatives there in the Hartsville Ward, he knew of the hopes and aspirations of my parents concerning this trip. The family was close that way. Heber took in the whole situation in a single glance, and for what he did next we’ll all be forever grateful.
“Callis,” he said, “get your family in the car and go. I’ll have water here by nightfall tomorrow.” And we knew he would.
Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since that time. Uncle Heber is dead now, all the children have grown up and married, and the time needed for my folks to travel to a temple has been reduced from two weeks to two days. But I reflect with a grateful heart on that first trip. So many things conspired to keep us away, but always it seemed that when an obstacle appeared, the way was prepared. I suppose the only obstacle the Lord might not have helped us overcome would have been our own lack of desire. I’m convinced that he wanted our family sealed to each other, and the blessings we received on that first trip to the temple will be with us for generations to come.