I am the fourth of five children and was raised in a strong LDS family. My father was a psychologist and university professor, and my mother retired as an elementary school teacher when she and my father married. From my earliest memories, I was always very clear that family and the gospel of Jesus Christ were the most important things to my parents. I thought then and have continued to believe that I was raised in an ideal situation. Because I felt happy and secure, because religious teachings and practices made sense to me, and because I trusted my parents and other leaders, I don’t remember a time growing up when I struggled with deep religious philosophical questions. And so my testimony grew not by testing, but rather by life validating the teachings I received beginning from my earliest years.
Now, as many decades have passed, I have had a few of life’s painful disappointments. Just living a long time allows more opportunity for us to experience some of the challenges of mortality, as well as the blessings that come from dealing with things we would not have chosen – those things that have in the end pushed us to be more dependent on our Heavenly Father and then in turn stronger than we knew we could be.
One of the most powerful and impactful such experiences happened shortly after my third child, Holly, was born. She arrived a little earlier than expected, but she appeared to be healthy and normal in every way. During her early days she began having breathing difficulties, but it was a cold winter and the doctors believed her issues would pass. However, by age three months she was in intensive care at the hospital and continued to fail with no clear diagnosis of the cause. After having spent several days and nights at the hospital, my husband and I were advised to go home and get some rest. Holly was being carefully monitored, and if there were a change, we would be called immediately. We were awakened by the dreaded call that came during the very early morning hours, informing us that we should return to the hospital quickly as our daughter’s death was imminent.
Both of Holly’s lungs had completely collapsed and it seemed there was nothing more the medical staff could do for her. We were told that, if we hurried, the hospital would do its best to keep her alive until we were able to return. During the ride to the hospital, the thought crossed my mind that this was a time to bargain with the Lord. Allow this baby to live, I wanted to plead, and I would give anything in return. But I couldn’t think of anything that I could offer that would be worth my infant’s life. So instead I prayed as fervently as I knew how that He would do what was best for this little girl and then help me to handle whatever was in store. Although still very anxious, I felt somewhat calmed.
Entering the intensive care unit, we saw our tiny baby surrounded by several doctors, nurses, and support staff. Holly could no longer be on a ventilator and a doctor was hand pumping oxygen into her lungs. Our first request was that we have a moment to give her blessing. Almost simultaneous with the final word of the blessing, “amen,” one lobe of her lung opened. One of the physicians present commented that this was beyond medical explanation. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough for the time being. I knew I had just witnessed a miracle, and feelings of gratitude greater than anything I had ever before experienced swept over me.
During the next twenty-four hours other miracles, one by one, just seemed to pour in. Her extremely rare physical problem was at last diagnosed, a surgeon skilled in performing a similar surgery on another infant was on staff at this hospital, and friends and family immediately began fasting and praying for our little child. Although there was a high probability that in her weakened condition she still might not survive the surgery, it was at this time and place that I for the first time truly understood the Holy Ghost as a comforter. Uncharacteristically for me, I was not crying. In fact, I was reassuring others. I felt hopeful and optimistic. I was certain that if my baby could be helped, the operation would be successful. If that were not to be her destiny, I knew we would learn and grow from this experience. I could almost feel other unseen individuals standing by and supporting me. My Heavenly Father’s love seemed tangible.
Holly made it through the surgery and, though the next few years were a little tough as her body began to repair from the major trauma, she continued to grow stronger. She kept beating the odds on many fronts. Today Holly is a beautiful, talented grown woman, married and mother to four exceptionally bright and adorable children – a fact I can report with total objectivity. The many, many prayers in her behalf were answered as I had wished, and I will be forever grateful for this tremendous blessing.
As stated, I consider Holly’s life to be a true miracle in my life. Not all of my prayers have been answered just the way I would have wanted, and I am not smart enough nor do I have a grand enough perspective to fully understand God’s wisdom when life takes us in directions different than what we hoped. Often we may need to wait a little longer to understand how the details of the moment – the details that are often extremely important to us – fit with the expansiveness of God’s broader plan for us. These can be opportunities to learn patience and trust, and to feel His strength propping us up when we have spent our own.
I believe that some of us are blessed to have experiences that are so meaningful and powerful that we cannot deny their divinity nor can we ever forget them. Such was the case for me with my daughter. I also believe that most of the time our miracles are less dramatic and can be easily missed if we don’t take time to notice. I regret the times when I have been too busy or too preoccupied to recognize the Lord’s influence in my life. I try to do a little better each day, and when I fail, I know He will let me try again. What I know for certainty is that the Holy Ghost has continued to be a comforter to me throughout my life. At times I have felt warnings that have prompted my actions, new insights have come to me, and often I have the overwhelming feeling of my Heavenly Father’s love for me. I know of God’s reality. I know His work and His glory is to help each of us return to His presence. I know that He will bless each of us as we allow Him into our lives.
Janet S. Scharman (Ph.D., University of Utah) is the Vice President of Student Life at Brigham Young University
Posted June 2011