Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My sister Sheridan and her sacrifice for me.

Today is March 31, and that's the day my little sister Sheridan was born. She died at the age of six months, but had she lived she would be sixteen years old today! It's so strange to imagine what she might be like. It seems awfully sad that she should have been robbed of life at so young an age.

I was eight when she died, and I have long thought that the experiences I had then forever changed me so that my life would never be the same again. Certainly, I knew sadness, but I also learned to feel the Spirit of the Lord and a deep sense of peace. A firm foundation was laid upon which I could build my faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When I was growing up, my dad didn't go to church. He occasionally went for a few weeks at a time, but he was basically inactive. He wouldn't support my mom in trying to teach us the gospel. He wouldn't participate in family home evenings or pray with the family most of the time. My parents had not married in the temple, and I admit that I had a certain feeling of misery whenever I heard people talking about the temple at church. I thought, "Sure, the temple is great for people who are actually sealed together. But that's not my family."

But then Sheridan came along and everything changed. She was born early and sick. She had heart defects and other problems that kept her in the hospital for much of her life. She had a powerful, determined spirit. Her life was almost continual suffering and my parents realized that she was probably not going to live for very long. This had a powerful effect on all of us, but on my dad most of all.

Dad and Sheridan had a unique connection. She couldn't see very well and yet she always knew when he came in the room. She turned her head and became excited, and everyone knew that she loved him deeply. He was so sad to see her suffer, and he could not bear the thought of her dying and being separated from him for all eternity. He started to change his life. He became active in the Church and making whatever other changes he needed to make.

He believed in the LDS doctrine of eternal families, and suddenly he realized that it was worth the to effort to achieve. All of us turned our thoughts to the temple, and we decided to go as a family so that we could be sealed with our sweet little baby.

And we were in, August of 1994. In October of that same year, Sheridan died.

We believe that all of us lived with God before this life and that we come to earth because we want to. Every primary child knows this, and so I wondered why my sister would want to come to earth to live such a short life of great suffering and then die. It was her choice to do so. I realized that she came because she loved us. Plain and simple, she loved my family, my dad most of all, and she wanted us to have the blessings of the temple. She was willing to do whatever it would take to help us to change our lives. The act of coming to our family in the conditions in which she came gave us the opportunity to turn to God.

I was reading yesterday in Alma chapter 7 of the Book of Mormon. It talks about the life and suffering of Jesus Christ. It says that Christ wanted to have a mortal life so that he would know how to take care of us-- he would know from his own experience. I believe that he knew, just like my sister, that he was going to have a hard life. He knew that he would suffer tremendously, and he loved us so much that the sacrifice of his own life seemed worthwhile to him.

Probably one of the greatest gifts that my sister gave to me was this understanding- that a person could give their life for others. Sheridan said to herself, "This is going to be hard, but just think of how they will all grow because of me. They will be sealed in the temple for eternity and live righteously for the rest of their lives if I do this. My suffering doesn't matter very much to me."

And so she's like the Savior who looks at each us with boundless love and says, "My suffering for you was worthwhile because of the person I know you can become."