Once upon a time I promised this blog would include everything from the entertaining to the intriguing...CHECK! But I also considered making it a journal of sorts, a way to immortalize Ella's stories for the ages. I have done just that with the GYM and the DATE, but something has kept me from doing it with one of the best stories to date. Well, no more...
Yes, my path has changed a smidge since then, but this story has a lesson I still need and still want to remember. Every day. And it seems even more applicable now...(the italicized line floored me as I reread this today)
Originally written 10/22/09 (to friends on missions at the time):
Now for the best story of all. Ward temple night. So many times I go to the temple and I think I'm there for someone else, but then I always end up focusing on my own issues...during the time I'm awake, that is,......THAT is less effective temple attendance. Tuesday night was the MOST amazing night because my Father in Heaven helped me do it right, for the first time in a long time.
It started out as any other temple night. The ratio of girls to guys in my ward is about 8:1 and temple night is no different. As I sat in the room full of girls with only 4 guys there, not sitting by any of them (which is a rarity actually...I usually sit by the guys), I started to dwell on what I don't have. The problem was only exacerbated by the aforementioned arrival of ___ & ___...salt in the wound...thanks. I then forced my thoughts onto ___...yes, HF, I'd take him. That'd be good....I could work with that. I stared blankly at my name slip for Mary Poe. Welcome Mary. This is going to be a great night for you, I thought with little conviction...and then I let her slip out of my mind again as we climbed the stairs of the Provo Temple.
Luckily, Heavenly Father made my statement come true. This was no ordinary night. Mary Poe and I had an AMAZING night. Even now, I cry when I tell the story. As we made our way up to the endowment room and entered, things were a bit different. Usually everyone files in perfectly taking every seat in front from the first row on back. This time, however, we have like 4 newly endowed girls who don't' really know the "rules", and they'd filled the first row and the third row, leaving the second one almost empty. There, at the very end of the second row, sat an extremely old little woman with her sitting-walker perched beside her, and 5 empty seats awaiting. I filed into the seat next to her, not thinking much of it. Oh how wrong I was...thankfully. She was so sweet. I love her. The only thing I can guess is that she has something like muscular dystrophy. She was completely lucid, but VERY very physically handicapped. I love her. As we sat waiting for the rest of the session to fill, she tried desperately to get her appendages to do what she wanted, but her muscles had other intentions. She rocked and rocked, almost occasionally spilling out of her seat. I thought I was going to have to hold her in, but she always managed to catch herself and reposition herself upright for the next 20 seconds until her body started again. Did I mention I love her?
The session started and I had a grin all the way across my face. I wasn't tired at all, and neither was Mary Poe. I watched very minute of that video, except for the ones where I glanced down to check on my friend. When it came time to put on something for the first time, I leaned over and said, "I'd love to help you, if you need it." She shook her head no, to my astonishment, and then painstakingly put it on herself. Tears filled my eyes as I watched her hands struggle...they so resembled Marky's to me. From that moment forward, tears occasionally leaked out of my eyes and down my grinning face. The Spirit was so strong. For the first time, I did not think about myself ONE TIME throughout the entire session. I loved it. Any time she had to do anything with her hands, she tried and tried to get them to hold still, but again, her muscles wouldn't listen that well. More than once, I got smacked in the face and just smiled even harder. I love her.
It then came time to really dress. I looked at her and she said, "Yes, I need help this time." YAY! My spirit was bursting with the need to show her, and Heavenly Father, how much I cared about her, even only knowing about her existence for about 20 minutes. She carefully did her best to grasp the back of the seat in front of her with fingers that couldn't bend and hoisted herself up. However, her feet were still perched on her slippers and she started sliding down quickly. The Spirit has reflexes, that's all I can say. I caught her, full-body dead-weight, before she hit the ground. I don't think I grunted, but I certainly may have. I caught her though, and stood her back up...my worn out muscles suddenly full of strength. I took her packet and carefully pulled everything out. We worked as a team to get it all on right. I'd hold it out and she would do her best to aim the flailing arm into the armhole and then grab on for dear life again as I held her up. We finally got everything on, with some help from others. I sat her down and she went back to rocking. I looked around for my stuff, and the girls in my ward surrounding me had it all out and ready. They came at me and I was dressed in about 2 seconds. Tears were everywhere. On a silly note, I have no pockets in my temple dress. Therefore, EVERYTHING resides in my packet. In their haste to help, my stuff went EVERYWHERE. 10 minutes later, my RS pres (directly behind me) tapped me on the shoulder and handed me my locker key. 15 minutes later she handed me a cough drop. HILARIOUSLY BEAUTIFUL.
We continued on and then it came time to change again. I wasn't taking any chances at this point, so I helped her stand and we switched her around in record time. Even she was smiling at this point. I sat her back down and then began switching myself around. As I tried to tie mine as tightly as possible, she tapped me on the hip, as that was as far up as she could reach. I bent over double to hear her, "Your skirt is falling off on this side." I about giggled out loud. "I know, thank you. See, I've recently lost 20 pounds, and I forgot about my temple dress. I'm barely keeping it up, but thank you!" She giggled. I love her. It's true. I almost lost my skirt about 4 times while I was focused on her. I got completely situated and sat back down. Once my face was covered, I didn't hold back. I cried and cried, thanking my Heavenly Father for loving me enough to let me be a part of such a glorious opportunity to serve. At that moment, I knew. I knew that He knows what I want. He knows I'd rather be a wife and mother more than anything else in the world. But He also let me know that there are so many important things for me to do. It was as though someone said it aloud. This dear, sweet little old lady was His way of showing me that there are so many more people out there that I'm supposed to help before I devote my time to a husband and family for eternity. If I can just stay focused, He will put me to work doing amazing things...starting with this ASL MTC project that has now become a dissertation, btw. I'm doing the research for the Masters, and after graduating in August 2010 with that, I will continue on to a PhD for the curriculum development portion. It's big, I know. But, after that night, there was no denying that it is to be done. He reminded me of all the wondrous miracles that have paved the way...Wednesday afternoon was no different. I met with MTC again to ask permission to drag it out into a dissertation , and they agreed again. So lucky. So spoiled. So blessed. So loved.
When it came time to proceed to the V, I asked, "Do you walk with it or sit on it." "Both." Uh, ok. I reluctantly began to stand up with her and her walker (I didn't want to draw unwanted attention to her, as we were now the only ones standing in the room). The Spirit will kick you out of your seat if He must. As I stood she fell again, and I happened to be there to catch her and stand her up again. She carefully walked, but I wasn't about to not follow her. As we approached the front of the room I could feel every eye on us, but I didn't care. For the first time, I truly knew what it meant to be there FOR SOMEONE ELSE. She began to swing her walker around to the back to sit on it, but her clothes got caught on it. I untangled her and sat her down, and then turned to gather my composure before they called me up. Too late. As my row stood, I caught a glimpse of the room I saw tears everywhere. (I also finally found my Carmex underneath the seat next to mine...I'd finally retrieved everything from my packet...whew.)
When I got through to the C Room, there were many people there, ready to give me kudos...whatever, I didn't want to hear it. That was so much more for me than for that lady. I needed that. I needed her. She came through a few minutes later and I approached her again. I gave her a huge hug and thanked her again for letting me be there with her that day. She smiled and thanked me and then said, "Hey, keep going on the weight. You look great!" SWEET SWEET WOMAN. I love her and always will.
There's my story. I told you I saved the best for last. I love the temple. It means so much to me. The president that came to speak to us beforehand testified to us of the truth in it being HIS HOUSE, and that He is there often. I know that to be so true. He's so happy when we come to visit Him, and we are so lucky to have that possibility at our fingertips (ok, maybe not RIGHT now for you..but in general). I learned so much about myself that night, and He reminded me of so many important things that the world seems to drive out. Please know that I have such a testimony of it all. He loves us each so much, and, though it surpasses our current understanding, He is there at any instant for every single one of us. He knows every thought, every desire, every hardship, every inner success. He knows.