For many years as we knelt for family prayers we would all wait for someone else to arrive and kneel down. After a few minutes someone would say, “who’s not here?” We would count, four kids, two parents, we were all there. But, the feeling was always very strong that someone was missing. The kids would talk about the phantom child, and finally one of them suggested their mother get busy. Her reply was firm. She was done having children.
From that day on the missing child never visited our evening prayer circle, and we never felt him or her again.
This was during a time when the “D” word was spoken softly. For years I knew that our marriage could not last. These were tough times, and the phantom child was just one of many losses that quietly came and went in a harsh procession of unhappy events.
I have previously alluded to an extraordinary experience I had in 1993. At the end of this all-night experience, I saw two visions. No time seemed to have elapsed during the visions. It was as if they occurred between heartbeats, but the information was very real.
In the first one I saw myself walking into the Celestial Room of a temple. Before me were four women facing each another. The one on my left was my older sister. The other three were complete strangers to me. The women whose back was toward me had blond hair beneath her veil. When they perceived that I was approaching my sister turned and smiled. The woman with the blond hair turned toward me, walked up to me, wrapped her arms around me, and whispered in my left ear, “I love you.”
The vision instantly ended, but the experience was very tactile. I felt her embrace, felt my hand on her back, felt her breath on my ear and smelled her perfume. Those who know me well know I paint portraits as a hobby. I remember faces well, and this woman’s face seared into my visual memory like a genetic memory. She was beautiful to me, and almost my height. I had no idea who she was.
As soon as the vision ended I heard a voice telling me that she was “you friend, your companion, your love, and your wife.” This was startling to me, because I was married at the time to someone else, even though it was increasingly more obvious that the expiration date on that marriage was fast approaching.
As the years trudged onward I occasionally thought about this vision, and wondered what it meant. At one point I concluded that it was speaking of the next life. I had no reason to believe I would ever be as happy as I felt at that moment in that vision. At times I would ask in prayer things such as, “when will I meet her?” The Spirit would reply something like “soon enough.”
Maybe a year later, I asked, “If I meet her in this life, how will I find her?” The Spirit answered, “you won’t find her, she will find you.” This went on for a period of seven years, until I had asked and received many answers about this mysterious blond woman. Finally, it occurred to me that she probably had children, and asked that question one evening. The Spirit responded, “She has the Missing Child. She’s two years old.”
This was stunning to me, because for the first time I realized there really was a missing child – who was a girl, two years old, and no longer missing. All I had to do was to let the child’s mother find me. It all seemed very distant and unobtainable at the time.
In time the “D” became a reality, and I found myself trying to adjust to single life. I’m sure many of you know and hate the single scene. I certainly did. I was not – I mean NOT in the mood for another adventure into relationships.
During this time my youngest son was called on his mission. I made arrangements to take him to the MTC, and also accepted an invitation to speak at a fireside in Provo, Utah. I usually took advantage of trips to the “lower 48” to speak at firesides, and this was nothing unusual. The day before I returned to Alaska I arrived at the address I had been given in an email to find a small home near the hillside in Provo. The door opened after a moment and the face I had seen seven years earlier appeared in the doorway. I had trouble catching my breath. The door opened wider and a beautiful little two-year-old girl pushed into view. I knew in an instant that I was looking at my little missing child.
It was the hardest, most disjointed fireside I believe I’ve ever given. My mind was spinning in too many directions at the same time.
When I left I shook her hand and walked out the door. I said nothing of what I was feeling. In all several years passed before we again met, fell in love and eventually married. The missing child is a very real part of my life now, as is her gloriously beautiful and righteous mother.
These things are deeply personal to me, and I have questioned many times if I wanted to Un-Blog them. But, there is a deep and precious principle hidden in this story, which is that this child actively chose her family, and when that pathway became impossible, she somehow, I suspect by driving Heavenly Father nuts, got herself born into our family another way. As a mortal, my little missing child is every bit that determined and persistent.
Years ago I paved a parking lot that had a few tufts of grass growing in it. I thought the burning asphalt, the darkness and lack of any nutrients would just kill the grass. Next spring the grass pushed through. I sprayed it, plucked it, pounded it back down, drove cars over it, and as many years as I owned that lot, the grass would not be denied – kind of like my missing child.
What this tells me is that the placement and construction of families is not random, and that we are informed and active in establishing, and apparently, in defending, those relationships. It also suggests that we loved and were loved, and those relationships were vital to our continuing journey in mortality. It also tells me that God knew all this many years before it happened, because I saw it very clearly seven years earlier in a split-second vision, late one night while struggling to keep a marriage afloat that was destined to step aside, in part, to make way for the missing child.