“Strength in the Gospel,” Ensign, Sept. 1999, 69
When Lee and Jolene Bearheels of the Aberdeen Ward in South Dakota joined the Church as teens, they did not know each other and could not have known then how the gospel would bring them together and fortify them as parents.
A full-blooded Lakota Sioux, Jolene was 16 when the missionaries knocked on her family’s door in Fort Yates, North Dakota. “My mother and father were very traditional Sioux,” says Jolene. “Honesty, truth, bravery, wisdom, courage, and humility” were their code of living. “I think that really prepared me for the missionaries as they taught the truth. I recognized it with a strong inner feeling.”
Jolene and her brother joined the Church, and both served missions. “Being Native American and being Mormon go hand in hand,” she says. “The Book of Mormon is in our blood. When I read it, I know it’s about my people before me.”
Lee joined the Church at 18 in Rapid City, South Dakota. “The missionaries came to Kadoka, South Dakota, and tracted out my grandparents,” says Lee. “My mother told us kids to go over to our grandparents’ home, so we did.” There, Lee learned about the Church; he was the only member of his family to be baptized.
The Bearheels are parents of two children: Kyla, 12, and Krisene, who died in 1995 at the age of 4 of hydrocephalus, a condition marked by an increase of fluid in the cranial cavity. Jolene explains that because of the pressure of the fluid on Krisene’s brain, it had not grown properly and there was only a small amount of brain tissue. Doctors thought she wouldn’t live more than a week.
The four years after her birth were filled with many moments of joy and moments of anguish. The family screeched with delight the first time Krisene, at six months, turned her head. When she was two, her parents put her in preschool speech therapy. At three, she was pulling herself up to a standing position. In her preschool class, she knew everyone’s name and something about each person. There were also times of severe headaches and convulsions and hospital trips each month for stays of several days. “Sometimes you wish you could take that pain away from your child,” Lee says.
Faith and Krisene’s words helped prepare her parents for the inevitable end. “She was very spiritual. Toward the end, it seemed she knew. The Spirit was preparing us,” says Jolene. Lee adds, “When we took her to the hospital for the last time, she said as we left the house, ‘I’m going home now.’”
Jolene shares this thought: “It must be hard for those who lose a child who don’t have this faith. We know we’ll eventually see her again.”
People meeting the Bearheels would not guess the tragedy they have had in their lives, for they have been healed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and continue to experience the peace and joy it offers.—Janet Kruckenberg, Wahpeton, North Dakota