“Finding Blessings in Tragedy,” Liahona, April 2021
For some time, my former college roommates had been trying to get everyone together for a reunion. I kept telling them I was too busy. I had seven children and a husband deployed in Afghanistan.
The reunion was rescheduled several times until, in November 2018, my mom and mother-in-law convinced me to go and said they would watch the children. My former roommates and I rented a condo, ate snacks, stayed up late, and had a great time visiting.
The next morning, my mom called and said two army officers had come to my home and needed to talk to me face-to-face. I tried not to panic. Later that day, I met the officers at the same National Guard headquarters where my husband, Brent, had enlisted when we were a newly engaged couple. That’s where the officers told me he had been killed.
In that moment, I knew that every detail of my life had changed. I immediately felt lost and anxious about the future. The world felt like a foreign place, especially during the first few hours after I heard the news. I had no idea what to do. For 15 years, my whole world was being Brent’s wife. Now that world had been stripped away.
I met Brent during a blind date while we attended Brigham Young University. From the beginning of our relationship, we talked a lot about our shared patriotism. He enlisted in June 2003, three days after proposing to me.
Three months after we were married on September 18, 2003, Brent left for basic training. Once he returned the following November, we started having children. By the time we were expecting our second baby, he was preparing for his first deployment. He did two consecutive tours from 2007 to 2008 in Iraq.
In 2009, Brent got involved in politics. He ran for the city council in North Ogden, Utah, and won. Halfway through that four-year council seat, he was again deployed to Afghanistan for a year.
After Brent returned, he ran for, and was elected, mayor. As he was running for reelection four years later, we learned that he was being deployed yet again. At the time, I was pregnant with our seventh child. Despite the difficulty of leaving his family and office behind, Brent answered the call. He left in January 2018 for another yearlong deployment.
The day after I learned that Brent had been killed, one of my former bishops gave me a blessing that changed my perspective. In his blessing, he said that my purpose as a wife, mother, and daughter of God had not changed. Then he promised that Brent’s purpose as my husband and our children’s father had not changed either.
After the blessing, I remember chanting in my mind: “My purpose has not changed. My purpose has not changed.”
The next morning, as I repeated those words to myself, a phrase came into my mind: “Only the details have changed.” And as I tried to accept the fact that the details of my life had changed from what I thought they would be, another impression came: “God is in the details.”
The Lord was giving me line-upon-line revelation. When He does this, it’s not because He is keeping secrets from us. It’s because He is going at our pace.
In the months after Brent died, I was anxious about what would come next. But I knew that I could take one step forward at a time and that I could trust that the Lord would give me one line of revelation at a time. It might not be the line I thought He was going to give me, so I had to keep making a conscious choice to trust Him with the details of my life.
While on my mission, I served in a ward that needed a bishop. Stake leaders were looking for someone who held the Melchizedek Priesthood, paid his tithing, and had a supportive wife. Leaders considered one worthy priesthood holder, but his wife did not say yes to the calling.
Because of that experience, I promised the Lord that I would never get in the way of what He needed my future husband to do. I promised to always support him in his calling. I’m grateful I didn’t know the future. I don’t know what I would have done if––when I was making that promise––the Lord had said, “That’s a great promise to make because I need your husband to die for his country.”
I thought I was going to be a bishop’s wife. Instead, I became the wife of a worthy priesthood holder who answered the call to serve and sacrifice in a way I had not imagined.
The Lord has made it clear that the priesthood power of my temple sealing to Brent is still available to me. I have felt the power of our marriage covenant sustain me physically. I miss him so much, but I know that with him on the other side of the veil, I can move forward.
Brent is still supporting me. I feel that I’ve inherited many of his strengths. I’m no longer just me, and I’m certainly not him. Rather, I feel that I am both of us. To me, this is a testament of our marriage covenant.
When the world feels in chaos, we have to remember that our covenants are our constant.
I have learned from this experience that there is a beautiful power in letting people help us. It can be a humbling experience, but it blesses both those serving and those being served. We need to let others help us.
“When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God,” King Benjamin taught (Mosiah 2:17). This scripture is also true in reverse. When you are served by your fellow beings, you are being served by the Lord.
Sometimes we worry too much about what we can do or say to help someone. After Brent died, people who just showed up were the most helpful. They weren’t pushy, they paid attention, and they saw a need.
If you feel prompted to serve, don’t overthink it. Show up. Drop off a quick note. Don’t worry that your efforts aren’t perfect. Help anyway. Even if you say or do the wrong thing, those you serve will know that you meant, “I love you.”
We can all do better at letting people serve us imperfectly.
Faith starts as a choice. Sometimes we might not see or feel the Lord in difficult times. In those moments when I don’t feel Him, I make a conscious choice. I choose to trust Him. I choose to be happy. I choose to let people help. I choose to ask for help. I choose to let the peace of the gospel guide me. It’s hard, but we have to make these choices. The Lord encourages us to make them, but He never forces us to.
It’s difficult to say that this tragedy has been a blessing. I hate being blessed by tragedy, but I have been. We might say we want the blessings and no trials, but that’s not how mortality works. “For after much tribulation come the blessings” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:4). For me, the Lord has taken this horrible tragedy and turned it into something beautiful.
I had less time with Brent than I thought I would have, but I know that the Lord is not going to shortchange us eternally in any way. I don’t know how, because I don’t have His knowledge and wisdom, but I know that His promises are sure.