Friday, December 28, 2012

Life Story: Let No Man Put Asunder


The goal of every Mormon couple is to be sealed in the temple. Many couples are sealed when they marry, for eternity, the first time. Because I had been married/sealed in the temple before, I had to wait until the cancellation of my sealing to my first husband. The process, we were told, could last from six months to a year. We started our paperwork as soon as we were settled into our top floor condo off of Grandview Hill.

Our first year of marriage was difficult. Christopher struggled reconciling his new life. I felt lonely a lot, perhaps never so lonely in my life. The difference between this marriage and my first one was simple, I honestly loved Christopher and the thought of him leaving was so painful it physically hurt to think about. I knew I could carry on, like I always had, but I would do so terribly wounded.

And through it all, he was sweet to me, always honest, earnest, asking for forgiveness.

I learned to give up on making things perfect. I could see that Christopher had to work out his battles with God and I stepped aside. During this first year I learned not to mention our future sealing, because the eternal side of it all would send my husband into a tailspin. I also learned quickly the first rule of any solid relationship: surrender it God.

In my surrender I was visited by grace. My life took on meaning. I woke up and ran for miles each morning, showing my body strength and fitness for the first time ever. Running was never something I dreamed I could do, much less on biting cold mornings next to the crusty Provo River.

My little sister Stephanie, and fertility wonder, had two babies within years of each other Claire and Jane. They were dropped off on our doorstep frequently for us to spoil and smother with love. Having those babies in our home filled it with noise and energy. We were the happiest when the babies were over, and loved them like they were our own offspring.

My job at the elementary school became a place of refuge. The students were delightful. I looked forward to their faces and spirits daily. This job was a comfortable fit for me. I started working in the after-school program as an assistant director. I took Spanish classes at night so I could speak with my students and their families when needed. This part of my life I soaked in, entirely. I loved my co-workers and enjoyed the retreats and parties we had together. I made life-long friends.

Our condo had a huge view of the Wasatch Front and southern exposure to the valley. A little balcony provided hours of excitement when lightening storms rolled across the mountains and out to the lake, or fireworks exploded in spurts in July. We found a lot of joy in having parties, cooking and entertaining for friends and family. We also discovered my love of decorating and his love of engineering worked well together. I came up with the ideas, he smartly implemented them.


At church I was given a heavy assignment, I was called to serve as the Compassionate Service Leader. Our ward was made up of spectrum of lifestyles from young couples starting families to older widows sitting in quiet houses. My job was to give help where and when help was needed: meals to families with newborns, provide a family lunch for loved ones after funerals, seeing to the needs of those in distress. I was kept busy filing holes in hearts with my fellow sisters. It was a holy calling, I never felt more like my Mormon ancestors than working about the neighborhood with baskets of food.

One day I was asked to visit a woman who rarely came to church. I wasn't told much about her background, but I was warned about her intense privacy and asked not to pry. The idea was to convey our support as a neighborhood family.

I was nervous to knock on the door. It was uncomfortable for me to show up, a stranger, on a doorstep of a woman who kept herself in for a reason. It felt rude of me. But when she opened up and I stammered through an introduction, she easily let me in and asked me to sit. After that our conversation flowed like we had known each other for decades. I felt like I had the gift of tongues, I knew what to say, what to ask, how to react. I had visits like this as a missionary, but it was easy to hide behind a nametag: SOEUR CLARK, REPRESENTATIVE. This time, I was showing up as me. Incomplete, suffering me.

Her story was tragic. She had two children, one who had died suddenly at a very young age. Her grief couldn't be reconciled, even years later it weighed heavy on her heart as if it happened days ago. She woke up with it, she fell asleep with it, day after day. We cried together and that's all we did. She hugged me good bye and the next week I saw her in church, sitting in the back row, we exchanged knowing nods. I felt so much love for that woman, even in the little pieces she shared with me. I realized this must be charity, the love of Christ.

Other visits happened--the sister who had lost three sons in three different automobile accidents, the sister who lost her baby in the last trimester, the sister with a baby struggling in the NICU. As a I took each soul into my awareness, I noticed I had less room to feel sorry for myself.

In one year's time a letter arrived from Salt Lake City. It was official: I could be sealed to Christopher in the temple. This sent my husband into a panic and the pain it caused me would have to be reconciled. But I picked a date in the future, November 7th and asked him to work on it with me. He agreed.

Nothing significant happened in those four months, except the slow change of Christopher's heart. When I look back on it I can see it had nothing to do with me. It was as if God and Christopher were working things out, while I kept busy. But on November 7, 2003 we were sealed together by my Grandfather Layton Jones, surrounded by friends and family in the Provo Temple. Afterward we had a big dinner with big pots of Massaman curry and Beef Waterfall and entertainment. My husband was glowing.

I don't mean to make things seem overly-magical, but the truth is this: after we were sealed in the temple our marriage took on a strength and smoothness I never could've believed. Our relationship became a rock, not a perfect organization, but highly impenetrable and safe.

After that day I never felt lonely in my marriage again. It was a miracle.