Often, when our family is gathered close – everyone piled in the living room watching a show, reading books, etc. – Jesse comments contentedly, “I really like our family being all together”.
Regularly he mentions how happy he is that I didn’t make various bad choices that might have precluded me from being his mother.
“I’m glad you didn’t drink a lot of beer and alcohol and stuff so you couldn’t be my mom,” he’ll tell me as he’s eating his lunch.
“I’m glad you didn’t do bad things so you wouldn’t get to have me,” he’ll comment as I’m buckling him in his car seat.
He says these things offhandedly, and they often make me chuckle (as he details the ways I might have gone astray), but, sometimes, they strike a chord – causing me to catch and pause. Occasionally they feel . . . like his spirit remembering something that his mind has temporarily forgotten. Namely: that we’ve already endured a spell of separation; that poor life choices on my part might have altered things – might have lost me the privilege of raising him. Worries he may have actually already felt. Peace and relief in having things as he’d hoped.
The veil – that “border between mortality and eternity” (as Neal A. Maxwell calls it) does a pretty darn good job of covering our memories and shrouding us in forgetfulness. And, of course, that’s absolutely necessary. Without the veil we could never truly learn to walk by faith; we could never experience the full power of our agency.
Still, I often feel my spirit aching and longing to remember – I feel it reaching out, grasping ahold of the things that feel the most familiar. At times, I think it almost does remember; that it recognizes truths when it hears them, that it recalls who I am now and then, that it tells my heart and mind things that, for no earthly reason, they should be able to know.
These close brushes with the veil inevitably seem to produce feelings of peace and certainty. In fact, Neal Maxwell commented that the “inner serenity” that comes from those brushes is “cousin to certitude”.
I love that. “Cousin to certitude”. More and more of late, I’ve felt that. I’ve felt things that started as a small spark in my soul, grow and expand until . . . if they are not certainty itself, they are certainly its cousin.
Five years ago -- shortly after giving birth to my fifth child (and, while I was out for a run) -- I began to offer a prayer regarding my little family – what size it should be, how many more children I should have. That question has never been simple for me. It has never just been a question thrown into a void. Always, it has been a question with a real individual tied to the end of it. Still, friends and family were wrapping up their little families and, I wondered. . . .
But, before the question got far, and, at an exact spot about a half mile from here that I remember well, I felt an obvious, “You already know you can’t be done yet. You still have your little Summer out there.” Summer had been a name I’d considered briefly as we welcomed our other girls, but it wasn’t until that moment that I felt quite clearly that she already existed, that our “Summer” was yet to come. Only, it didn’t feel like new knowledge. It felt like . . . “Oh yah. Silly me. Why would I have even wondered if I was done.”
I didn’t feel strongly that she would be our next (and she wasn’t), and not necessarily that she would be our last, just a little . . . reminder . . . a little flicker of something not yet done, of hopes and promises not yet fulfilled.
I’ve had various other experiences (before and since) – both in regards to her and my other children that have reminded me of that Neal A. Maxwell quote I’ve shared before, “Whereas the bird is at home in the air, we are clearly not at home in time – because we belong to eternity!” – Experiences that have made me more certain that, while our mortal minds may have forgotten things, our spirits maybe never fully have; that ties and connections and feelings are too eternally a part of their makeup to be forgotten.
More and more I feel an anxiousness – almost like those last few minutes at the airport – waiting for one of my siblings returning from a mission – for Summer to be here. More and more I feel an awareness of . . . my separation from her: a desire for that separation to end. It’s as if knowledge of her coming has created a small hole that memories – no, not memories, but feelings, keep slipping through. I seem to recognizes that we’ve been apart. I have an abnormal amount of anxiety about this reunion being cut short. Almost as if, now that we are finally being reunited, I simply can’t bear another separation – such as the temporary one associated with death – for a long long time.
When I called my sister Shannon to tell her the news about Summer, the first thing I said when she answered was, “Guess who’s coming!” The feelings that I had were: excitement, yes. Anticipation, yes. But, mostly, an overwhelming relief. That word is the best I can use to describe how I’ve continued to feel. Relief that I have somehow – stumbling along, seeing things through a shroud – managed to make it to this point; that I have somehow managed to reconnect myself with the people I had to part from when I came here. And, through the sealing power available in the temple, that I’ve been able to make our connection one that is more secure, certain, and eternal than it ever was before.
I don’t know how it all works. I absolutely believe that we fully own our agency here. And, if so; if we have choice and make decisions, and follow our own paths – and others are free to as well, then painting life as some series of fated events bringing everyone and everything together in some predestined fashion is utterly false
But I also believe that coming to this earth was the bravest, hardest, scariest and most faith-filled thing we ever chose to do. And, I believe that our Heavenly Father who loves us perfectly, would certainly do everything in his power to help us carve paths that would lead us to the things we most hoped for – the things we most wanted. And what things could have been higher on that list than being bound here to those we loved and cared for the most already?
There is a quote from Thoreau that I love. What he calls “Nature”, I would argue is the Light of Christ, and, further, the whispering guidance of the Holy Ghost, but our ideas mesh. He says, “I believe there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we yield to . . . will direct us aright. It is not indifferent to us which way we walk. There is a right way. . . .”
Often we don’t take that right way. Often, I’m sure, we choose wrong paths and have to wind our way back around through twists and turns and obstacles to right ones. We grasp onto the atonement and secure ourselves to its power as we try again and again. We may lose some opportunities along the way, but, I am certain a loving Father constantly provides us with new and, wherever possible, equally wonderful ones.
I still don’t understand things perfectly, but, until I do, I am going to keep noting the (as Maxwell says) “poignant and frequent reminders of the veil” that add to my sense of being “close but still outside”.