Do you remember what your New Year’s resolution was back in 2000? I do. I remember exactly what it was because it ended up affecting one of the biggest turning points of my life.
In late 1999 I was a 20 year old sophomore in college, attending the University of Washington in Seattle. I was living in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with my boyfriend and another couple. I’ve always been one to set resolutions, but this wasn’t just any year. It was a new year, a new decade, and new century and a new MILLENIUM! I need a goal that was BIG.
So I decided my resolution would be to go back to Church. You see, about 5 years earlier I had stopped attending church because I started dating a boy. And dating a boy at the age of 14 was against the standards of my church. And my grandparents (who I attended church with) made it very clear they did not approve. Instead of talking to them or facing my guilt, I just quit church. But every week I knew I should be there, and really- I wanted to be there. I just couldn’t get myself to face the judgement from my grandparents.
In the fall of 2000, as I was re-strengthening my faith, I had a conversation with my mom. Although she didn’t marry my dad, they were going through what would have been a divorce. She was worried and stressed about the custody situation and desperately wanted to do the right thing, but my dad was vindictive and mean, making is a tough situation. I remember being on that call with her and not knowing what I should say. So I told her, “Mom, I’m sorry you are going through this. I don’t know what to say other than Heavenly Father will make sure that whatever needs to happen will happen.” I said goodbye to her.
As those words fell out of my mouth, even I was surprised because I never talked to my mom about my faith or my experiences at church. She wasn’t a member of the Church, though she had always been supportive in me attending with my grandparents. It was awkward, but I didn’t think too much about it.
A week later, my boyfriend and I were on a road trip to visit his family in the Bay Area. We were staying with his aunt and uncle when I was woken in the middle of the night with a phone shoved into my face.
In my half-awake stupor I answered the phone:
“Is this Denita?”
“This is the chaplain from Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington. Your mother has been in an accident and she is in critical condition. I need you to get here as soon as possible.”
Never in my life had a lost anyone that I even KNEW much less someone so close to me until a month earlier when a high school friend had passed away. Now my mom was in the hospital in critical condition?
My boyfriend’s aunt and uncle were amazing. They booked us flights and drove the 2 hours to the San Francisco airport. I arrived at the hospital later that day, noticing a dark cloud over the city as I drove in from the airport. I felt like that dark cloud already.
Because my mom was never married, my 18 year old sister and I were her next of kin and therefore the medical decision makers. We asked a set of missionaries to come give her a blessing. In the blessing they blessed her that she would recover. But as the week went on, it became evident that she wouldn’t.
There was a moment, in those sterile halls of the hospital, that my sister came up to me and told me that she didn’t know if she could believe in the Gospel anymore. The blessing wasn’t true. She didn’t know what she believed. My sister, who had been so active and faithful as a teenager, was now doubting. And me, who had decided not to attend church as a teenager, met my sister on her path.
I imagined myself standing on the precipice of a tall mountain. I realized that I had a choice to make: I could turn to doubt, or I could move forward with faith.
I heard my own words to my mother only a week before: “Heavenly Father will make sure that whatever needs to happen will happen.”
That path up the mountain of doubt I had recently climbed to get to my faith was too long and treacherous to re-live now.
I chose faith.
And every moment of grief, every difficult thing I had to do in the following weeks and years were colored with that decision. When my uncle told me that he believed the car accident should be considered murder, when my mother’s jewelry was all stolen, when my father later went to prison and my little sister went into foster care… I chose faith.
My faith sustained me. It kept me putting one foot in front of the other when I just wanted to shut out the world and drown in my tears. I heard those words over and over again. Heavenly Father will make sure whatever needs to happen will happen.
A couple months later when the accident report was released, my faith was confirmed to me. It was dark, but the road was dry and the point of impact into the bank was only 25 miles an hour. I took that as a sign that it was just her time.
That one decision has shaped my life in ways that I am sure even I don’t understand. While I wouldn’t want to relive my mother’s death, I wouldn’t ever take back the experiences it has gifted me. I am the strong, faithful person I am today because of them.