Nissa crept into her room, closing the door quietly to keep the little ones from knowing where she’d gone before collapsing to the floor next to her bed. Perhaps if she curled up tight enough her body might not shatter into a million pieces, only to be scattered by the wind.
A human heart can only take so much, she thought. And I don‘t think I can take any more. How, Father? How can you ask so much of just one person? How is it so many things can go wrong all at the same time, and I’m supposed to be able to handle it all?
Everything within her bubbled to the surface and she began to moan aloud, unable to keep everything bottled inside any more. The more she moaned she more she hurt, until the tears began to stream down her cheeks.
I can’t do this any more, Father. I just can’t. Why does all this have to be placed on my shoulders? Isn’t there someone else out there who can take any of this on?
Her chest tightened with the intensity of the emotions running through her, making it hard to breathe. She began to rock forward and back, forward and back, hitting her head against the soft mattress of her bed.
Too much, she whispered, wiping her nose and tears on her sleeve before clutching her hair in her hands. Back and forth, back and forth, as though she wished to be sitting in someone’s lap. It’s just too much. This wasn’t supposed to happen to him.
Her father was a big, burly man. No way could he now be lying in a hospital bed. Not possible for one tiny little clot to have caused him to lose the use of the left side of his body. Not her dad.
But it did, and he had, and the man she knew to be invincible may not make it out of the hospital alive.
Why! she demanded. Why him? Why me? After everything I’ve been through lately, with everything I’m dealing with, did you have to do this too? Are you mad at me? Did I do something wrong? I’ve dedicated my life to you, to this church. Am I not doing a good enough job? Why do I feel so alone? Where are you?
She continued to cry for some time, until her aching body climbed into her bed, pulling the sheets up so she might hide from the world. Eventually Nissa fell asleep, and as she slept, she dreamed.
A man dressed all in white approached from a distance. Nissa wasn’t afraid. In fact, she had the distinct feeling this was someone very familiar. The closer he got the more she recognized little things about him: the way his white hair fell across his high forehead, those long legs carrying him purposefully forward. Even the way he would occasionally clench his right hand hinted at his identity. It wasn’t until she could see his lopsided smile and brilliant, laughing eyes that Nissa finally allowed herself to believe she was, in fact, seeing someone who had died many years before.
He stopped, arms open wide, inviting her to come to him. In a moment she felt the strength of his hug, smelled his familiar scent, and heard laughter rumble through his large chest.
“Grandpa Joe,” she whispered, hoping she would not wake too soon from this dream.
“Hi there, Kitten,” he said, using the old nickname he’d given her when she was very little. He pulled back to hold her out at arms length, looking her over from head to toe. “You look good.”
Her smile faltered. “I don’t feel so good.”
He drew her close once more, squeezing the breath out of her lungs. “I know, Kitten. I know. That’s why I’m here. Let’s take a walk.”
Even though she was all grown up his hand still engulfed hers. They let their arms swing between them, delighting in one another’s presence. She found it peculiar they were walking, as the only thing she could see for miles around was white mists.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“Wherever you decide to take us,” he said.
“I don’t understand.”
“You will,” he said, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze. “Now, tell me what’s been going on lately.”
At first she hesitated, not wanting to sound as though she were whining or complaining, but once she got started it was hard for Nissa to come to a stop.
“I just feel so alone now,” she said, wiping away a tear. “I feel as though the world is on my shoulders and I have no way of getting it off. I feel…”
But she could not continue, partly due to emotion, mostly because she did not want to sound disrespectful to a Heavenly Father and Savior whom she loved with all her heart.
“You feel as if God has turned His back on you.” He did not pose this as a question, and Nissa could only nod her head as fresh tears camw. Grandpa Joe took a clean, white handkerchief and gently dabbed her cheeks before pressing it into her hand. “It’s not true, you know.”
She took a shuddering breath before nodding once more. “I know. But it doesn’t make the feelings go away.”
“I know, Kitten.” They stopped walking, allowing Nissa to calm down enough to keep the tears at bay. She blew her nose, knowing her face must be splotchy red now, something that always happened when she cried. Normally it embarrassed her, but not with Grandpa Joe.
He stood before her, arms crossed, a puzzled expression on his face. Deep in thought, she mused, recognizing the furrowed brow that told her he was figuring something out. Suddenly the brow straightened and a smile lit up his face. “How about I show you a few things,” he said. “Look.”
She looked where he pointed. There in the mist a picture began to form, one she immediately recognized as the day she found out her daughter was failing English. The interview in the counselor’s office, the awkward drive home, and the silence as both of them disappeared into their rooms played as though in fast forward. She watched as they both went directly to their beds, knelt down, and began to pray, and the picture slowed.
Nissa remembered kneeling down in prayer. She had no idea her daughter had as well. “Now watch,” whispered her grandpa, and it was as though a veil was swept away from her eyes. In both of their rooms stood women in white. These women looked lovingly down at the mortals in need, whispering in their ears, patting them on their backs, and emanating great love.
The moment Nissa and her daughter came together to talk the women in the room gathered around them, lending support to both.
“I had no idea,” said Nissa.
“People rarely do,” said Grandpa, taking her hand and directing her to another picture forming a little ways off. “Look.”
Nissa looked and saw her son’s pediatrician walking through the office door to meet her, her husband and their son. She watched as he broke the news of her son’s condition, tried to explain the form of autism he had, and their options. She distinctly remembered the despair she bit back so as not to frighten her son. Her only emotion showed through the hand clenched in that of her husband‘s. “Now watch.”
Once more the veil was removed and there on each side of her son stood tall, burly looking men, also dressed in white. One she recognized as the man standing right next to her. “You were there?”
“I was. I’m with you more than you may know,” he said. “Many others are there with you. Can you see?”
Sure enough, as she looked harder she beheld angels at her side and that of her husband as well. Indeed they were not alone. These heavenly beings remained with the family as they began to work through this new challenge.
“Is it always like this?” she asked, looking back at her grandpa. “Are there always angels and family and friends around though we can’t see or feel them?”
Again he took her hand and led her a ways away. “So long as you’re living the way you should, and you are Kitten, you will always have the help of the Lord. Now, once more, look.”
She looked where he pointed and there she saw her own form, curled into a tight ball, hiding under the covers on the bed, crying as though her world were ending. Nissa knew she was seeing herself as she had been right before falling asleep. Right before having this dream. She remembered her words, harsh in some places, pleading in others.
“Don’t despair,” said Grandpa Joe. “So many others have felt exactly as you have, and with even less reason to do so. Now, one more time, watch and see.”
Again the veil was taken away, and in awe she beheld three different women, each sitting on the bed, surrounding her on all sides. They each placed a hand on her and prayed in her behalf. She could hear individual voices pleading for peace, for love, and for strength. As they prayed Nissa had calmed enough to fall asleep.
She turned to her grandpa, who stood watching the scene until it had disappeared entirely. “Is this real?” she asked. “Or am I dreaming?”
He brushed a strand of hair back from her face, cradling her cheek in his warm, strong hand. “Perhaps a little bit of both,” he said.
“So what happens now?”
“I have no idea,” he said, laughing as she looked at him in surprise. “We take things as they come, Kitten. Just like you. Only now, well, now you know you’re never alone. Our Savior has an entire army to help His brothers and sisters make it through this life. Just remember that, especially when you’re having a day as hard as today.”
“I’ll try,” she promised.
“Just in case you don’t, I have a scripture for you. I’ll help you find it when you wake up.”
“Do I have to wake up?” Even as she spoke the words and before Grandpa Joe nodded his head, Nissa knew she wouldn’t be staying.
“You still have many things to accomplish, Kitten. Time to go back.” He gripped her in huge bear hug. “Love you Kitten.”
Those words echoed in her mind as she felt someone sit on the bed next to her. She opened her eyes to find her husband looking on with concern. “You okay?” he asked. “We’re all pretty worried.”
Nissa sat up, trying hard to remember the dream she’d been having, though the details kept slipping through her fingers like water.
“I think so,” she said. “Sleeping helped. I was having a really good dream, but now I can’t remember it.”
“That’s too bad. Good dreams are always worth remembering. Any news on your dad?”
She shook her head. “Not yet.”
“Well listen. I was downstairs doing scripture reading with the kids when we came across a particular verse. For some reason all of us had a feeling you needed it. Would you like me to read it to you?”
She nodded, her heart beating faster. Something told her this was important.
“We were in D&C 84:88. ‘I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.’ Does that make sense to you?”
Angels round about me, she thought. Angels round about me. Look, said a familiar voice. She looked, and sitting around her on the bed were three women in white, each of them smiling.
She blinked, and they were gone, but as she reached forward to give her husband a grateful hug, she felt more than one set of arms go around her.
The Impressions We Leave Behind - This weekend, being the LDS Church's annual General Conference, is one of the busiest for my husband. He helps to cook the food for all the Church leaders ...
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