Once I made myself stop crying long enough to breathe, I said one of the most heartfelt prayers of my life. It was not elegant. It was not thought out. It was a prayer of desperation.
I knew that my own strength was wavering. I was broken, so I asked for help. Like the man in the poem Footprints in the sand, I needed to be carried. I asked Heavenly Father if He could please comfort me. I told Him that I didn't know what could be done, or how to be comforted. I just knew He knew me and He could help. I begged for comfort.
Before I even said "amen" I had a strong and warm feeling. I felt as though someone said to me, "They are near you". I stopped crying and held onto that answer to give me the strength to get out of the shower and then again to get dressed. The thought of that answer made me sure I would receive the comfort I asked for somehow. It was enough to make me want to be more aware of the angels around me.
Though I have tried this to some degree before, on this day I needed it more than ever- so I listened. I sat on the couch in our quiet apartment, closed my eyes, and I tried to listen. At first, I did what was easiest and I listened with my ears. I heard neighbors driving in and out of the parking lot. I fought my impulse to get frustrated that I didn't hear the words "We're here, Mom" from the spirits of my children. I was trying so hard to feel a connection with them, but as seconds passed I thought maybe I couldn't.
But then I started listening with my heart.
And though it seemed completely unrelated to the pain I was feeling, my mind was filled with thoughts of a memory. Not a good memory. A memory of something I have been thinking about constantly for nearly a month, a memory of a time when I made a foolish decision as a kid. It was a mistake and I have been ashamed of it in private for over a decade. At first I got frustrated with myself, and told myself to stop thinking of other random guilt and focus on getting comforted. How could that memory have anything to do with my plea to hurt less right now?
As I should have expected, when I tried to force the thought away, it seemed to only grow stronger. I felt guilty and ashamed. Instantly I knew I had to make it right. This is something that has weighed on my mind since I was young and suddenly, for the first time since it happened I had courage to apologize.
Before I lost courage I made myself write an email apology for my childish mistake. It felt strange and embarrassing. It was odd to be writing about this unrelated and long past event. Weird to currently be apologizing for something that has no connection to my babies. But at the time, as I tried to listen to the Holy Ghost, that is all I could think about. And while I was asking the Lord for help, I could not ignore the fact that I have never had the courage to correct this mistake until right now as I handed myself to Him. So I wrote and wrote.
Before I had time to send the email, however, I got a knock on the door. Quickly I set the computer down and answered the door. A neighbor brought me a little something to show she was thinking of us. We talked for a few minutes and hugged. When she left, I was touched by her kindness and turned to flip through the book she brought me and I glanced at the open computer on the counter.
My courage was gone.
I picked up the computer and reread the email I had written.I still wanted to send it, but as the moment passed when my friend came to the door- I lost my ability to go through with it.
Although this email may seem a small task, it was huge for me. I was digging up something that I had buried under years and years of new memories. However, I always knew it was there- hiding. I knew that I had been given the courage and help I needed to write the email to admit my mistake and apologize. But now, once it was written, I felt alone again.
I guess I needed to send it on my own. I needed to decide on my own that I was going to go through with it- that I REALLY wanted to be clean and closer in my relationship with the Lord. I needed to show the Lord how much I love Him. I needed to thank Him for all He sacrificed. I needed to show my gratitude for Christ by trying to become like him. Hiding old sins is not the way to do that.
So I clicked 'Send'. Instantly I was aware of my hands shaking and my heart pounding. I was horribly uncomfortable. I couldn't help but think, "How is this the comfort I asked for?" I spent the next day and a half checking my inbox to see if I would get a reply. As nothing came I was sure I had ruined a relationship by admitting this old mistake. I felt SO ashamed. But then I received an answer. I opened it nervously and read,
"AmberYou are completely forgiven and I certainly don’t think any
less of you. I sincerely hope you can clear your conscience of this event....."
Tears fell down my face as read her email. I cried a different kind of tear as I felt the joy of her forgiveness. Suddenly this one mistake, this one old weight, was lifted. I had long since prayed for the Lord to forgive me, and had wondered why the guilt was still there, but just those two simple sentences and it was gone. I felt lighter. My love for this person as they forgave me for wronging them was unreal. I felt humbled by their example and as I hoped I would...I felt instantly closer to the Lord. I felt a new joy as I realized that I have nothing to hide.
I understood, in the moments that I sat there being overwhelmed in the joy that being forgiven can bring, why THIS had been my answer to the prayer I said as I cried for my babies. I needed to feel joy. Joy is the opposite of pain. I was comforted as I felt myself becoming better and as I saw the example of this other person show me how to forgive. It was not just happiness or comfort I felt, it was JOY! It was an unexpected and beautiful feeling.
As I have though about it, I think the timing of my prompting to repent was perfect. I think that I was given the strength through the Holy Ghost to know what to do. I needed to get this off my chest for some reason. I am sure that in order to feel close to my children and to God that I need to know I have done all I can to be as much like Jesus Christ as possible. I needed to feel that I did all I can to fix my mistakes and to become as clean as I know how. However, when it mattered, I needed to do it on my own.
This was an unexpected answer to prayer. I was comforted in a more lasting way that I would have thought to ask for. In the days since this happened, I have truly hurt less. I have been happier in my day to day moments. I have felt less numb and more at peace with this trial. I have been able to truly appreciate the kindness of others because I have been less consumed in grief. I have felt a bit of how my children must feel in knowing that they are clean. That they can be in the presence of our Heavenly Father and have no shame. They are perfect.
While I am far from perfection, this was tiny sample of feeling clean. I felt comforted as I mourned for my children because I had taken a step to make myself better for them. If I died today I would feel even a little bit more comfortable being with two pure children- with being their mother. I would know that I had nothing I was hiding from them, and more importantly, nothing I am hiding from Jesus Christ or Heavenly Father.
When my time comes, I hope that I will feel comfortable standing before the Lord. I hope to be able to tell him that I did all He asked. I hope to be able to have Him tell me that I made Him proud and with that I can then enjoy being with my two perfect children.
Side note: I KNOW that this was not just an answer to my prayer that day. I think it took the prayers of many of you- friends, family, and strangers- to give me this courage. I want to thank you for your prayers. Sometimes, they are answered in ways we never expect. Hopefully, this can help you know how your faith is bringing my little family closer together. Thank you so much.