Sometimes, people (or things or ideas) cross my path and may or may not get my attention. But the ones that cross my path a second and a third time, compel me to pay closer attention and find out what it is I need to learn from them.
In February, during Stake Conference, an older sister, Pat Jones, spoke in the Saturday evening session. I had never seen her before in my life, but I was completely riveted to her talk. She spoke about the three missions she and her husband had served, especially their most recent one to Nauvoo, IL. There really was nothing in her talk pertinent to my life, but I was moved by the things she said anyway. Then, the next morning, she and her husband sat in front of us during the Sunday session of Stake Conference. I talked to her briefly and mentioned how much I enjoyed her talk. I didn't see her again until a few weeks later when I ran into her in the Temple. I often see people in the Temple that I recognize, but I'm never sure if it's because I actually know them, or just because I have the same schedule every week, so I don't always talk to them. I smiled at this familiar-looking, white-haired sister and went on with my purpose for being there. The next day was our Stake Relief Society Conference, and guess who spoke! Yep...Sister Jones. Instead of her assigned topic, she chose to toss out all of her notes and give an impromptu talk about acting on personal revelation. (Really??) At that point, she might not have known it, but there was instantly a bridge built between two unlikely friends. So, right after the conference, I walked across that bridge and introduced myself! We exchanged email addresses and agreed to contact each other soon. I had an email from her waiting for me that very night and we have emailed regularly ever since. I still don't know the purpose for our paths to have crossed so often, but I've decided to let that stuff work itself out, while I thoroughly enjoy my new friendship.
A few weeks ago, I loaned some books to a friend who was stuck in bed with an ankle injury. When she returned them, she accidentally included an extra book that wasn't mine.
I recognized the title and the cover, but it took a little while to remember where I had seen them before. And then I remembered...
When my husband and I were in the Alpharetta Ward in 1994, my mother-in-law loaned this book to me. The Sealy family was in our ward (not the author, but her son.)
The book is about Sister Sealy's son, Devro, and his first marriage to Gayle Burch. They were married a very short time when, through complications from pregnancy, Gayle passed away shortly after giving birth to their son, Skyler. (Skyler lived for 13 days, and died just a few days before his mom.) It's a beautiful story...sad, heart wrenching, and sometimes difficult to read...but the example of both Dev and Gayle are amazing. I thought that the first time I read it. At the time, Dev was in our ward with his second wife, Lori, and their 4 kids. Of course, I had never known there was a Gayle. I thought Dev was a great man even before I knew what he had been through, but the book confirmed that. We interacted with their family only on a ward level. We weren't close friends, but they made a lasting impression.
When we moved to Utah, some mutual friends from Atlanta mentioned that the Sealy's were living near us, in the Bear Lake area. Their kids were grown up. And Dev was battling an extremely rare form of cancer. Dev died in 2007 before we had a chance to see them and catch up.
So when this book crossed my path again, and with it, Dev Sealy, I thought I probably needed to pay attention to whatever it was that I was supposed to learn from it. I spent the entire afternoon re-reading that book. It was heart-wrenching (again), and beautiful (again). But I still don't know what specifically I was supposed to get out of it the second time. This time, having been to the Temple and having 17 years of marriage experience, I definitely had a different perspective. It is an incredible blessing to have an eternal marriage. And I was overwhelmed at the evidence in this family's life of the kindness and love Heavenly Father must have to provide a way for people to be happy even when their lives don't go quite the way they plan.
Here's a quote from Shirley Sealy that I loved...
And in that magic moment of flashing wisdom, in the light of our summer sun, I felt a new understanding of the love our Heavenly Father has for us: a love so great, so beyond our mortal comprehension, that I felt I could almost hear Him say:
"I'm here, my children. I'm listening and taking care of all your needs in the best way for you. Please trust me. Endure this hurt, and remember that these small hurts are nothing in comparison to the blessings I will pour out upon you if you will only trust me. For just this little while, trust me, and learn and grow from each difficult experience. I'm here - believe me - and I love you so much. Let me bless you beyond your understanding just for now..."
I have at times, heavily influenced the direction of my path to be absolutely sure that it would intersect with the people I thought I needed to be in the presence of. I had a habit of flitting around and waiting for them to inevitably notice me. I used to set myself up as a human road block so that there would be no other choice for them but to run right into me. I have learned (I hope) that it's better just to be where I'm supposed to be and wait for the right people (and books and lessons) to cross my path on their own...because they always do.
Be Good. Be Patient. Don't Forget.