“For His Wife and Children,” Ensign, June 1986, 46–47
For His Wife and Children
My father died when I was ten years old. I don’t remember him going to church or praying with us—except at mealtimes, when he always asked someone else to say the blessing on the food. He never presided over a family home evening. But I do remember the many happy hours we spent playing with him.
I never heard my father bear his testimony, but I do remember the many different, fanciful stories he told about why he had two toes missing from each foot. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned from my mother that his toes had been amputated after being frozen as he trudged along icy roads on his mission. And as I grew older, I learned that my father truly knew the meaning of love and sacrifice—of which he taught me the supreme lesson.
Each summer, my father left his trucking business and our family moved to a summer resort near Salt Lake City, where my father worked as a manager. My brother and I delighted in the merry-go-rounds, giant racers, whirligigs, and carnival sights and sounds that will always be associated in my mind with my young, handsome, fun-loving father.
It was here that on one hot August evening a cloudburst sent a forty-foot wall of water roaring down a nearby canyon displacing boulders bigger than houses, as well as everything else in its path. At the mouth of the canyon, the wall of water turned the little creek behind our cabin into a murderous, rushing torrent. Both my father and my brother were at the resort at the time; my mother, my little sister, and I were at home.
The flood hit our small cabin, situated on lower ground near the creek. Hearing the roar of the storm, my mother opened the door. When she saw the rushing, rapidly rising water, she picked up my 18-month-old baby sister, grabbed me by the hand, and headed for higher ground. Before she had gone a few yards she was knocked to her knees by the water, so she tried to go back to the cabin. But the cabin collapsed, and we were swept downstream with it. The floor of the cabin wedged between two trees, and we were pinned against one of the trees by it. My little sister was knocked out of my mother’s arms and was swept away. I remember my mother saying, “Beth, pray!”
As we prayed, lightning struck the other tree, and it burned brightly. My father had been told of the flood, and he came rushing to save his family. The light from the burning tree helped him locate us in the dense blackness.
With no concern for his own safety, he plunged into the maelstrom and with a superhuman effort tore away the floorboards of the cabin. His fingernails were torn off as he clawed at them, but he freed my mother and me.
By that time other rescuers had come. Someone carried me to higher ground. My father and several others followed with my mother, who was seriously wounded.
When we were safe, my father turned back to try to find my baby sister, but before he could find her he collapsed and died. An autopsy showed that he had died of over-exertion. The chambers of his heart had burst with the extreme effort of tearing away the floorboards against the overpowering force of the current.
I am grateful for my father, who unhesitatingly gave his life that my mother and I might live. As we are told in the scriptures, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13.)