Top Priority
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“Top Priority,” New Era, Sept. 1996, 10

Top Priority

There was the Savior, at the head of his bed and in the center of his life.

On October 25, 1995, Derrick Parke, of Carey, Idaho, died suddenly of a heart defect while playing racquetball with a friend. At the time of his death, he was attending his first semester at Ricks College and had just completed his mission papers. Derrick was known as an outstanding athlete in football, basketball, and track. He was an example to many for his sportsmanship, athletic ability, integrity, and kindness. The following is adapted from his father’s talk, given at his funeral.

As the bishop of the Carey First Ward, I was given the unique opportunity to interview my own son prior to filling out his mission papers. When the interview came to a close, and Derrick was about to sign his name on the line, I said, “Derrick, wait a minute. I want all the cards on top of the table. Are you worthy to go on this mission?”

He then looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Dad, I am.” And with that, he took the pen in hand and signed his mission papers.

Three days later he died.

But I don’t think that this was coincidental. Heavenly Father had a hand in this. I know that Derrick had a far greater mission to attend to, and that’s why he was taken. As I look back upon his life, there was never a better time for him to go. It was Derrick’s time to go home; he was ready. He lived his life in such a way that he was ready.

The walls of Derrick’s room are covered with laminated pictures of his success stories in sports; his trophies line the foot of his bed. But at the head of his bed is an 8-by-11-inch picture of the Savior. Derrick had his priorities in order. He knew what was first. He knew that the Lord was first, and that these other things were second.

I know that many young people would envy some of the successes that he’s had in sports. But the greatest success is to have the Savior by the head of your bed and to recognize that great blessing in your life. I know that we are an eternal family, and I know that Derrick knows that too. And Derrick knows that because he understood why he was on the earth.

It was this understanding that drove Derrick to do what is right. I know he had his personal prayers. He read the scriptures and attended seminary. The way Derrick lived his life showed that he loved the Savior.

President Boyd K. Packer once said that most people live and die, without knowing why they are here (see Ensign, Nov. 1983, p. 16). But that was not the case with Derrick. He knew why he was here. He had a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only was he desirous to be a missionary, but he was willing to pay the price to be worthy to serve a mission. And like everything else he did, he paid the price.

And because of this, he was ready to serve wherever the Lord chose to call him. It just so happened that the Lord called him home.

Illustrated by Cary Henrie