“Our Secret Angels,” Ensign, Sept. 2004, 66–68
For a couple of weeks I had been noticing a small tremor in my right hand. I persuaded myself it was only stress. Raising seven children can be a challenge, but when five of those children have multiple disabilities, life can be overwhelming at times. My schedule was filled with doctors’ appointments, therapies, daily medication routines, and the constant challenge of helping children struggle with seizures, mental retardation, bipolar disorder, and congenital heart disease.
My husband, Ron, had recently been called as bishop of our ward. We were grateful for his opportunity to serve and prayed daily that he would be able to bless the lives of those in our ward. Little did I realize that we would be the ones receiving the blessings.
Finally, I could ignore the tremor no more and sought medical help. As I left the doctor’s office that day, my life had changed forever. Parkinson’s disease was the diagnosis. Questions and fears flooded my mind. How would the disease progress? How would I care for my family? How would I continue to support Ron in his new calling? I longed for answers and desperately needed peace and comfort. The Savior’s words came to my mind: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Over the years I had become comfortable with the idea that the Lord had given me my quota of trials; I thought my life would be spent caring for my children with their special needs. I did not resent this idea and even felt great peace and joy as I looked to my future. We had accepted the challenges and disabilities of both our sons, along with raising our two beautiful daughters. We even felt the strong desire to add to our family by adopting three more children with special needs. Each time we entered the adoption process, we experienced miracles as we were guided through each step of the way. There have been tremendous challenges but also tremendous blessings.
In the weeks following my diagnosis I often found myself on my knees, pleading with the Lord. I learned that Parkinson’s is a progressive disease and that I would continue to lose control of my muscles. The more I read, the more frightened I became. I spent many sleepless nights. I also felt an impression from the first words of the diagnosis that there would be no miracles to remove this trial from me and that I needed to learn something from this experience. I felt so alone and wondered if the Lord was displeased with me, if He still loved me.
Then one night, as Ron was getting ready to go to Mutual, there was a knock at our door. We opened the door and found a delicious meal left anonymously on our front porch. A loving note stated that every week on this night a dinner would arrive. As I tasted the goodness of this delicious meal, not only was my body fed, but my spirit also. I realized I am not alone and the Lord does love me. I tasted again of the sweet peace He has promised us. I was grateful for these dear secret angels who honored their baptismal covenants “to mourn with those that mourn” and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9). I knew that through the ministering of these “earthly angels” I would find the strength to make it through each day.
It has now been more than three years since we found that first dinner. Every Mutual night since then we have received a wonderful meal, always left anonymously on our front porch. Ward boundaries have changed, and people have moved in and out of our ward. But the meals continue to come. Often I have struggled with a particularly difficult day, forgetting it is our “Secret Angels Day.” And then the doorbell rings, and I find another delicious gift of love.
My disease continues to progress, and there are still many unanswered questions. But I know I am not alone. I have felt the peace that comes from trusting the Lord and accepting His will. I know that many of the trials we encounter in this life are for our good and help turn our weaknesses into strengths. I also know that we do not have to bear our trials alone. The Lord always answers our prayers, but often the answers come through those who are willing to serve and be His “secret angels.”