“Grandma’s Notebook,” Friend, Feb. 2004, 4
“Families can be together forever through Heavenly Father’s plan,” Jessica and her cousins sang at their grandmother’s funeral. It was a sad day for Jessica because she would miss Grandma Tolley. She enjoyed the time they had spent together working in the garden, going for walks, and having weekend sleepovers. But it was also a joyous day because Jessica knew that Grandma had longed to be reunited with Grandpa, who had passed away 17 years before.
Later that day, Jessica and her mother drove to the cemetery to visit the grave site. “The roses and carnations look so beautiful,” Mom said.
“They smell terrific.” Jessica sniffed a pink rose.
“I’m sure Grandma was pleased with all the family and friends who came today. She enjoyed helping others and loved all people. The beautiful flowers show they loved her, too,” Mom said.
Jessica thought for a moment. Then she said, “At the funeral, Aunt Diane said that ‘Families Can Be Together Forever’ was Grandma’s favorite song. Why was a Primary song her favorite?”
Mom smiled. “I’m going to let Grandma answer that question for you.”
“How can Grandma answer my question when she isn’t here anymore?” Jessica asked.
“We’ll stop by her house on the way home, and I’ll show you,” Mom answered.
As Jessica walked into Grandma’s house, it was dark and quiet. Quickly she turned on a light. Everything was still in its usual place. There were pictures of Jessica and her cousins hanging on the walls. A cherished afghan was folded neatly over the back of the couch.
Mom opened a small closet door. After a bit of searching, she pulled out a pile of worn notebooks.
“What are those?” Jessica asked.
“Grandma wrote in these notebooks throughout her life. They were her journals. There is one here that will answer your question.” Mom glanced through a few of the notebooks before she located the one she wanted. She handed it to Jessica. “As you read what Grandma wrote, you’ll find out why ‘Families Can Be Together Forever’ was her favorite song.”
The next day was Saturday, and Jessica got right to work doing her chores and practicing her piano lessons. She even skipped watching cartoons so she could have more time for Grandma’s journal. Opening to the first page, she began to read.
March 14, 1941
It was a beautiful spring day as James and I drove to the county courthouse to be married. Many of our family and friends were there to witness this joyous occasion. James looked so handsome in his new suit. I am lucky to have married him. He is a hard worker and will be a good husband and father. The judge gave us many useful words of wisdom and counsel.
I always thought my wedding day would be the happiest day of my life—but I was wrong. As the judge finished the ceremony, he said, “I now pronounce you husband and wife until death do you part.” That statement will be etched in my heart until I am sealed to James in the holy temple of the Lord. I pray for the day when we will know we can be together forever.
Jessica was surprised. She had always thought her grandma and grandpa had been married in the temple. For as long as Jessica could remember, Grandma Tolley had done temple work each week with her friends. Temple work had been very important to her, and she had talked about it often.
All afternoon, Jessica continued to read. She was amazed at how hard Grandma had worked each day. She hung the laundry out on the line to dry. She carried buckets of coal down to the basement to burn in the furnace. She sewed clothes, planted and cared for a large garden, made her own bread, spent time with her daughters, and still did things to help other people. Jessica also enjoyed learning about what her mother was like as a little girl.
June 7, 1955
This afternoon I watched the girls play outside. They were having so much fun making necklaces out of dandelions. They laughed and giggled at the silly things each would say and do. As I quietly watched, Elizabeth noticed me and ran over to give me a big, yellow dandelion. “I love you, Mom,” she said.
In my heart I thanked Heavenly Father for such precious children. They are like the sunshine that lights my day. I continue to pray and work toward the blessing of being sealed as a family in the temple. Until that day arrives, I will put my trust and faith in the Lord.
Jessica was so absorbed in the journal that she didn’t hear her mother come into the room. “Looks like you’ve been doing some reading.”
“Yes, I have,” Jessica said. “I didn’t know that Grandma wasn’t married in the temple. I think it would be hard to know that after this life you would no longer be together as a family.”
“It was hard for Grandma,” Mom said.
“But that doesn’t explain why ‘Families Can Be Together Forever’ was her favorite song,” Jessica said.
“Keep reading.” Mom smiled as she left the room.
Jessica read until late in the afternoon. As she neared the end of the notebook, she was a little discouraged at not finding the answer she had been looking for. When she was about to stop for the day, Jessica decided to read one more entry.
April 29, 1957
Today I knelt across from James in the Lord’s holy temple. I have prayed for this moment for many years. I am thankful to know that we can be eternal companions. Words cannot express even the smallest portion of the joy and love I felt from Heavenly Father.
When they brought in our daughters all dressed in white, tears fell freely from my eyes. Kneeling together and being sealed as a family was the most important moment of my life. I am grateful for the knowledge that if I live the teachings of the gospel, I can have these precious daughters throughout eternity.
“Have you discovered the answer?” Mom asked that evening at dinner.
“I think so,” Jessica replied. “Grandma loved her family very much. But because she was not married in the temple, her family wouldn’t always be together. Grandma prayed and worked toward the day they could go to the temple. The song must have reminded her of the day she was sealed to her family.”
“Did you sing that song when you were in Primary?” Jessica asked.
“No, ‘Families Can Be Together Forever’ hadn’t been written yet when I was in Primary. Several years after Grandpa passed away, Grandma heard the Primary children sing it in sacrament meeting. She felt the Spirit so strongly that she was sure Heavenly Father was speaking right to her. Grandma loved the words because they gave her comfort in knowing that her family could be together forever.”
That night as Jessica knelt in prayer, she thanked Heavenly Father for a wonderful grandma. She also promised to live worthily to go to the temple. She wanted the blessing of an eternal family and the opportunity to be with Grandma Tolley again someday.
“The only way families can be together forever is to accept and keep sacred covenants offered in the temples of God on this earth.”
Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “A Voice of Warning,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 33.