Coming Back for Joey
August 2000

“Coming Back for Joey,” Ensign, Aug. 2000, 28

Coming Back for Joey

There seemed to be plenty of time to return to Church activity—until one afternoon when time became meaningless.

Joe laid the letter from his mother on the dresser where he knew his wife would see it, then stretched out on the bed to think. The letter’s contents were a familiar subject. Since he had moved his family to California a year earlier, he had received six such letters from his mother, each with a gentle reminder to return to Church activity. Both he and his wife, Millie, had been born in the Church, but neither had attended since their teens.

All that happened years ago, he thought. Besides, it’s harder here. We don’t know anyone, and I often have to work on Sundays.

A tiny wet hand on his arm pulled him away from his thoughts. “Daddy, are you going to wash for dinner?” asked three-year-old Joey. Joe looked fondly at his son, then went to wash his hands.

Later that night Joe and Millie talked about the letter from his mother. “Your mother said that if we really love Joey we would want him with us for eternity,” said Millie. “We both know that’s what we want. Think what a good influence the Church was on our own lives growing up.” She paused, but he said nothing. “Please, Joe. Let’s do this together. Let’s go back to church.”

Joe looked at his wife. “Millie, we’ll go back, I promise. But let’s take it slowly.”

“OK. Where do we start?” asked Millie.

“I think a prayer would be a good idea,” responded Joe.

To take Sunday off, Joe had to work Saturday morning. Millie planned a picnic for the afternoon. When Joe arrived home, Joey came running. “Daddy, are we going now?” His voice was high and squeaky with excitement. Joe picked him up and hugged him.

“Let me change first. Please go help your mother put things in the car,” he said. Moments later he joined them. Picking up his son, he gave him a quick hug and carried him to the car.

As the family headed for the park, they never saw the drunk driver who ran the stop sign. Joe awoke in the hospital, his head cloudy and throbbing violently. He heard Millie’s voice talking to the doctor and tried to look at her.

“Mil,” he whispered.

“Don’t move, Joe. I’m right here.”

“Stand up so I can see you.”

“I can’t, Joe. I’m in a wheelchair. I’ll be fine. Don’t worry. How do you feel?”

“My head …”

“The doctor left some pain medication.”

Joe opened his eyes and tried to reach over to Millie. She caught his hand and pressed it to her face. “Where’s Joey?” he asked. Millie said nothing. Tears coursed down her face and onto the hand still pressed against her cheek.

Pain knifed through Joe. Oh, please no, his mind shouted. He thought back to when he was seven years old and had watched his little sister die in his mother’s arms. His mother’s face had twisted in grief, and she had shouted protests to God. Later, on the day of the funeral, he had found his mother praying in her room. As he stood by the door waiting, he heard her mumble over and over, “Forgive me, forgive me.” When she finished, she saw him standing there and called to him.

“Joe, I want to tell you something, and don’t you ever forget it. The Lord is a lot smarter than we are. He knows about everything, particularly what’s right and what’s wrong. And when someone is that smart, He doesn’t make mistakes. You remember that, son.”

Joe recalled that experience. Then he looked at Millie. “I just remembered something, Millie. God knows what’s right. He’s made plans for situations like this,” he said. “We have to have faith. I promise you we’ll go back to church and I’ll marry you in the temple. Then Joey will be sealed to us as well as other children we may have.”

“Joe,” whispered Millie. “The doctor says I’ll never have another child.” Their heads bowed, and their hands gripped tighter than before.

But the doctor was wrong. In time three more children came along—to parents who had been sealed in the temple.

  • Jeanie Eck Smith, the second of the three daughters later born to Joe and Millie, is a member of the Sonora First Ward, Modesto California North Stake.

Illustrated by Sheri Lynn Boyer Doty