“Mom, have you heard about the ice bucket challenge?” It was my daughter, Christie, calling from the Gila Valley. I told her I hadn’t, and she filled me in. “Someone challenges someone else to dump a bucket of ice and water over their heads or make a donation to the ALS Society. Some people are both dumping and donating; and it’s raising awareness of ALS, as well as money.”
I don’t need an ice bucket challenge to raise my awareness. I have an intimate understanding of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), as do my daughters. In 1998, my husband, Gary, began to experience some barely perceptible weakness in his legs. His speech became somewhat slurred. Then came the cavalcade of doctors. Diagnosis takes time. Everything else must be ruled out before any doctor will give a definitive diagnosis of ALS. That diagnosis came on May 20, 1999.
My journal entry from that day sums up my feelings:
“I can’t explain my feelings right now. I am full of questions that have no answers. I think I’m a little numb with shock. I don’t think any of us will be able to imagine the path ahead until we have walked it. I’m not sure how we are going to get through this trial. It’s especially hard to face it, knowing what the final outcome will be. If we are typical, we have two to five years of mortality together. But we will get through it. We must. Our only choice is how. The only way I know is to gather all the faith and hope and strength from the Gospel that we can and take one step at a time. We will pray for a miracle and try to accept the answers. We know we will experience many miracles and blessings along the way.”
And so we did. Gary was the strong one—not physically as he had been all his life—but mentally and spiritually. We laughed, we cried, we prayed, we lived. We received countless hours of service from ward priesthood holders and their families. With the help of loving home teachers to strap him in and push his wheelchair the three blocks to our building, Gary attended 8:00 a.m. sacrament meeting every week, in spite of being completely paralyzed and literally speechless. Staying home was not an option. To even begin to describe the hours and kinds of service we received would take pages. He served others; they, in turn, reciprocated a thousand times over. The month before Gary died, two years after his diagnosis, he sat in his bishop’s and then his stake president’s office and received a current temple recommend.
Everyone faces adversity in life—everyone! Life is hard and can be devastating at times. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is easy and can bring great joy out of deepest sorrow. The Savior has promised and granted us so many blessings. His atoning sacrifice makes all things bearable. Alma 36:3 states: “…whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.”
In D&C 121 we read, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…”
Gary endured well. I have no doubt that he will be lifted up at the last day and exalted on high. It is for us to remember that because of our temple covenants, if we work hard and remain faithful, we can be embraced by our Savior and join our husband and father in receiving the blessings of exaltation. And that will be worth everything.