I looked around the chapel in the temple and noticed that everyone was there with someone except for me. As I continued my observation, it seemed like everyone was in a couple. I felt acute sadness and loneliness. I had lived in Utah for less than a year and was still growing accustomed to not having to take a whole day to travel to a temple. In Arkansas, you always went to the temple with others since you had to travel to another state. Being in the temple alone emphasized how much was changing in my life as I was separated from my husband and beginning divorce proceedings.
As I continued to serve in the temple that evening, my loneliness increased and I felt fearful about my future and the difficulties I would face as a divorced mother. My support system as I saw it was limited to my one sister living in Utah who had plenty of her own struggles with a new baby and 2 year old. I felt like I was already a burden on her and her growing family as my daughter and I were staying with them while I sorted out my life. I felt overwhelmingly and undoubtedly that I was a failure.
As I silently wept in the temple, I unexpectedly felt the presence of my Grandma DeVaux. She had died a few weeks before I turned 4 years old, but I still had memories of her. Many of my memories were of getting in trouble from refusing to finish my dinner or running through the garden.
My most distinct memory was of going to the mall with my family and grandparents. I had to have been only three years old. As we walked by the toy store, I stopped to look at the toys not realizing everyone had kept walking. When I looked up, I was alone and terrified that there were no familiar faces and no idea which way to go to find my family. I started to cry. Soon a mall worker approached me who knew me from church and stayed with me assuring me someone would return after missing me. It was my Grandma DeVaux who came back and found me.
Again, my Grandma DeVaux had found me at a time when I felt lost, lonely, and scared. She could not take my hand now, but I felt a deep love and concern from her and what felt like a warm spiritual hug. I felt that not only she, but many others who had lived and would yet live were actively invested in me and my daughter. Despite all physical appearances, I was not alone. I was not a failure. I was not a burden. I was angelically loved and watched over.
Several years later, my aunt made a comment on a Facebook post of mine about how much I reminded her of my grandma. I really didn’t know much about her other than she had been a nurse and her marriage to my grandfather was not her first. I privately emailed my aunt thanking her and sharing the experience and another where I felt the presence of my grandma (her mother). She wrote back sharing more, that not only had my grandma been divorced, but had also been married to a very abusive man and would understand much of what I felt and experienced.
Her presence and care was infused with even greater meaning and connection as I thought back to that evening in the temple. I did not consider my grandmother a failure. Her own divorce and abusive marriage put her on a path to meet and marry my grandfather. I have no doubt she had moments of feeling lost and lonely as a divorced woman in the 1940’s. She didn’t become a mother to my dad and aunt until she was in her forties. My parents had six children including me and my aunt had three children. Grandma DeVaux now has thirty great-grand children that I’m sure she couldn’t imagine coming from her during her own times of loneliness and sorrow.
Learning about my grandma and her life helped me to view my life with more compassion and hope. When I’m struggling and facing trials and hardships, I so often feel alone. I feel ashamed that I’m struggling. I feel terrified by my perceptions of failure. But like my grandmother, I keep trying. I start over. I move forward amidst pain and uncertainty. I keep writing my story, unexpected as it’s often been. I am building on a foundation built upon by my grandmother and many others in my family.
“Therefore, let [her] contend earnestly…and when [s]he falls [s]he shall rise again, for [her] sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than [her] increase, saith the Lord.”D&C 117:13
Grandma DeVaux did not know how her sorrow-filled experiences, sacrifices, and rising again would connect her with an unformed granddaughter. God knows we will sometimes fail. He also knows we can each rise again and consecrate our effort and sacrifice for good no matter the results. I hope my granddaughters-yet-to-be do not face some of the trials I have experienced, though I know they will face challenges. I am more hopeful for my daughter and those yet born knowing they can also be strengthened and buoyed by not only me and my story, but by many of our grandmothers and their unique stories of rising again.
How have you felt the influence of the women who came before you?