“My Friend—Far Away and Long Ago,” Tambuli, June 1992, 32
So—we had made it after all! How impossible a trip to Spain to do genealogical research had seemed—the planning, the weeks of agonizing over finances, the prayers and tears over leaving the children, and the lists and lists of things to do.
But here we were in a small room in a Spanish church. My husband, George, was an avid genealogist. With excitement he showed me heavy volumes filled with page after page of thick parchment where priests had noted marriages, baptisms, and deaths since the 1500s. They were impressive, and I settled down to help George search them, hoping that his enthusiasm would sustain me.
Unfortunately, as the hours and days wore on, I found that what came so naturally to George didn’t come naturally to me. He could spend hour after hour poring over the pages, totally oblivious to his physical surroundings. But I noticed every uncomfortable detail. The wooden chair became unbearable to sit in after a couple of hours, the shadows from the light bulb made it hard to read, and I was so cold that my back ached from shivering.
My reactions were embarrassing and frustrating to me. George had always found genealogical research stimulating, and I had prayed that it would be just as exciting for me. But the long, cold hours seemed endless.
Finally it came time to start working on a different family line. Since we were just beginning our research on this line, George searched through the marriage book while I worked on baptisms and births. As I did so, I found myself particularly intrigued by one family in the records. I began to feel as if I knew the mother as I found the record of each of her children’s births. The spacing of her children was similar to mine, and I reminisced about my own pregnancies and the reactions of our children to each new baby. I had been away from home for two weeks by now, and the memories of children’s noises, soggy kisses, and exuberant hugs were sweet to me.
Then George suggested that I work on death records for a while. Since I was still researching the same time period, the names I found were familiar to me, and I noted the deaths of several of the older family members. But I was not expecting so many younger deaths, and tears of sympathy filled my eyes when I recognized the name of one of my “friend’s” children who had died at the age of three. When I turned the page and found, eight days later, the death record of her six-year-old, my heart ached and the tears spilled.
I thought again of my own little ones, exactly the same age—the feel of their little bodies nestled in my lap, the sound of their laughter and voices in the house. I was filled with compassion, and I continued to cry and empathize as I turned the pages.
But when I found that her husband had died six months after the deaths of her two children, I was so upset I had to stop writing, and even George noticed my sobs. “I just can’t understand why she had to go through this,” I told him. “It doesn’t seem fair.”
And then suddenly a true understanding of family history and temple work came to me, and feelings and thoughts rushed together. “Dear friend,” I thought, “that’s why I’m here. Your suffering wasn’t without purpose; there is something I can do for you. Thanks to a loving Savior and a temple of God, I can help give you back your husband and your children. They can be yours forever now, just as I have mine.”
Tears kept running down my cheeks, but they were tears of peace and joy, a humble gratitude for temples and families and a chance to do something to help.
When we returned home from Spain, going to the temple was a deeper experience for me. As I received the ordinances in behalf of my new friend, I felt respect for her and her life. She coped with physical deprivations and a closeness with death that I have never had to experience. And although I could not share with her my hot water or shampoo or the medicine I give my sick children, I could share that which means most to me—the blessings of the gospel.