For Months Our Family has been Keeping Private Some Pain.
For months our family has been keeping private some pain. In gratitude, I want to share here, with the “hive mind” of Facebook and the internet, parts of a private message I shared with my family today.
In the night after the 2014 New Year arrived, I felt the strongest impression to write a letter, addressed to each of my six step-daughters and son-in-laws. Charmayne and I have had a very happy life in the past few years. But as the New Year arrived, I felt clearly “given to know” that that was about to change. I wrote the letter that follows, and over the next few weeks my wife and I discussed it. We decided to prepare ourselves, but not to share the letter with the kids at that time. Today, it feels clear to me that now is the time to share this letter. Here is what I wrote:
January 1, 2014
Dear Phronsie & John, Cassie, Mysti & Manny, Chelsie & Johnny, Amberlee & Rob, and Ariel & Trent,
I have something pressing on my mind. This letter is important to me.
When I married Charmayne, I had to figure out for myself how to fit into a family that had existed long before our marriage. Today, our family is stronger than it has ever been. But our family is changing, and so is the world. We are going to need each other more in 2014 than ever before. We are going to be called on to help each other. The world is going to continue to darken. We will need one another.
Defining a family is hard when a family is simple. Our family is not simple :) Each of you has a father, a mother, a Caleb, a Lorien. There are in-laws, religion, politics. I cleaned up Ariel’s throw-up in the middle of the night when she was a child, and helped Amberlee with her middle-school homework. Others of you were moved away to college by the time I showed up.
To me, there is no “step” between me and my grandchildren. I won’t have biological children. What a thrill it has been to have a role with these six grandkids.
Let me share a personal story.
When Xander was about three, he found in my truck a copy of Madonna’s “Erotica” album. The cover shows a man sucking Madonna’s toe. Xander looks it over and says simply, “Why is this man sucking on her toe?”
When we got home, I threw it in the outside trash can, with other things from a former life. I realized why I needed to change. I did not want to be responsible for introducing that morality to Xander.
Change is the purpose of life. All of us are working hard to be better people. At the end of life, only two things matter. 1) Were you honest? 2) Did you do good, or do harm, to those around you?
We have six and soon seven young people (and eventually many more) who will one day want to know, and deserve to know, the facts about some of the “questions” that accompany our complex family. We have three divorces to account for. Two of us stole cars before we had licenses. We have smokers in the extended family, drinkers, we have a marriage in the temple and many more out of the temple. We have Mormons, non-Mormons, and former Mormons. We have had drugs and pornography. We have diversity of race, religion, and politics. We have an ancestor who was a dance hall girl, another who shot someone. We have a Salem witch -- my personal favorite :)
Each of us has made decisions that will need and deserve to be explained one day to the rising generation. More importantly, all of us are changing.
I mention this as preamble to this question: As a family, what are we?
Are we a “broken” family? A “blended” family? The “remains” of a family following divorce?
I want to be clear that Charmayne and I did not know each other during our divorces but we were lucky to meet each other soon after. However we got to be “family” matters less than the fact that we are family. We need to circle around Xander, Conrad, Dominick, Ada, Zack, Cora, and Lott child #1, as well as those coming. Around each other, all the adults, too. The world is dark.
Each of us has known grief. Some of us have caused grief. I have my own knowledge of remorse and pain. I try now to prevent grief, not cause it. Can I make some suggestions?
-- Don’t keep secrets from your spouse. Secrets always come to light as grief. We have seen this in our family. We can choose to never see it again.
-- Our actions affect the people around us. We can lift or wound. Think, then act.
-- We are human and sometimes we will wound each other. Let’s forgive and be peaceable.
-- Where do you get advice? When a decision is important, talk. Husband and wife. Daughter and mother. You will make better decisions -- have fewer regrets -- if you talk to your loved one.
-- The little kids are watching, listening, and learning. We need to show these little kids how to be good people.
-- Figure out discernment, and use it. Study it. It means to develop strong judgement skills -- what is right, what is wrong, when to act, intervene, speak, spend, scold, or wait. We have seen examples, even recently, of people in our family who felt a decision was wrong and said and did nothing, only to regret it later. When you feel something is wrong -- take action!
-- Get out of debt. Financial turmoil is coming. Get out of debt. Get out of debt.
-- To the six girls -- never keep a secret from your mother. She is your best protection against the world. She has earned wisdom. How she prays for you! You have no idea how powerful her prayers are, and how often they are answered. Whatever your problems may be, talk to her.
-- Finally, forgive. Create peace. I’ve had run-ins with some of you. I’m sorry. I apologize. I am changing, Thank you for letting me change. Let us be peaceable and happy.
Charmayne and I are here to help. Let’s circle around each other. We love you.
So, today is July 13, 2014. Very soon after I wrote this Jan. 1 letter, we learned that Lott Baby #1 was in dire straits. No amniotic fluid was being produced. Experts said the baby had no kidneys. We were told to prepare for the baby to soon die in the womb. We were told the baby’s heart was severely enlarged. We contacted a funeral home about buying an infant casket, and discussed where to bury the baby. Dark days. Many, many tears. The little kids, who were so excited about Ariel’s baby, had to be told they were never going to be see the baby alive. More tears and difficult questions.
We had a family fast and we specifically did not try to counsel the Lord, but prayed for counsel, and for the Lord’s will to be done. We made clear that we hoped for a happy, healthy baby, and asked that we would be comforted. And we were.
Since the day of that fast, there has been nothing but good news for the baby.
Suddenly the baby had kidneys. The heart enlargement vanished. Amniotic fluid filled the womb. This morning Ariel delivered her baby, as yet to be named. How thrilling to seeing the baby breathing, crying, and eating in the hospital today! The word miracle is almost never used in its correct spiritual sense in 2014, but can we deny we have been given a miracle today?
Our prayers have been heard and answered.
Not all the darkness has been drained from our lives, but light has prevailed today, as it will in the end. I have personal spiritual work to do. We all do.
The suggestions I included in my Jan. 1 letter are more relevant today than they were seven months ago. Today I invite our family to ponder what I wrote in January, and what it means today. After meeting Ariel and Trent’s baby, do we need any more evidence of where to turn for light?
Be slow to doubt what has happened today. Be slow to doubt that prayers have been answered by a living God.
This will not be our last darkness. There is clear and present darkness brewing on the horizon surrounding our family which need not be named in public. Let me suggest anew -- no secrets from spouses, or your mother. Lift, don’t wound. Forgive. Examine the advice you seek and take. Ask yourself who inspired your thoughts. Show the little kids the light, not the dark. Eschew debt. Study discernment. Decide to be accountable. Do not lie to yourself. Choose the light. I am working to change. We all can change. And be grateful for what we have been given.
Posted by Blog Staff at 4:12 PM