Although a devoted mother to four children, Patty has seen each of her children walk away from the Church. The death of one of her adult sons, Kevin, left her desperate for the healing balm of the Savior. She’s found solace in her role as a temple worker and in immersing herself in the scriptures.
Although my upbringing prepared me in many ways to be a wife and mother, there was nothing like real hands-on experience. Being a wife and a mother to four young children was more challenging than I’d ever expected. It was made up of exhausting days and sleepless nights, cold food and a dirty house. I’ve wondered: if I was given the chance, would I do something else with my life? I can honestly say no. I am who I am because of my life’s experiences, so I wouldn’t change a thing. I loved and taught my children about God, and for the first twelve years, I took them to church alone.
As their mother, I have anguished as each one has chosen to leave behind the teachings of Jesus Christ and journey into the world in search of their own truth, love, and happiness. But I know the Lord is mindful of each of them. He loves them even more than I do, and He is watching and waiting for them to return. When that day comes, I know He will be there to save them, heal them, and set them free.
In the spring of 2008, I was called to be a temple worker. I was told in my Patriarchal Blessing that I would be called to serve in the house of the Lord someday, and I was excited and humbled by the opportunity to serve in God’s House. It was an exciting time, a time of learning and of understanding spiritual truths. I believe my service in the house of the Lord helped to prepare and strengthen me for the intense trials that would come a few short months later.
Your son Kevin has been a big part of your life. Can you talk about your experiences with him?
Kevin was my joy. He was born with red hair and a fair complexion. He had the biggest blue eyes and the longest red eyelashes that naturally curled up to touch the top of his eyebrows. I’m sure that his red hair had something to do with his rascally personality. He served in the Air Force for a short time. On completion of his military service, he met and married his wife. They were a cute couple with what seemed to be bright future. Shortly after they married, Kevin was injured and never healed. Surgery was required in which three vertebrae were fused together. He was never the same. His pain was unbearable, and his anger, lack of ambition, and depression took its toll on his marriage.
Just one week after his daughter was born, his wife left and took their little girl with her. Kevin was devastated. During the next year, I watched him turn his back on the Lord. He blamed God for everything wrong in his life. I tried to encourage him, but he wouldn’t hear me. He swore to never set foot in another church as long as he lived. I was devastated. I prayed for him constantly. I visited often, but I knew that it was his choice to decide the course of his life. He went back to his old ways—smoking, drinking alcohol, and fornication. I continued to pray for the Lord to reach out to him, to comfort him, strengthen him, and to help him see the course he was on and where it would ultimately lead. For six months, he told me how sick he was of being alive, how much he hated living on this wicked planet, and how much he just wanted to go home. That was such a hard thing for me to hear. I hoped and prayed I wouldn’t receive word that he’d decided to end his life.
Then one evening he called. I went into a quiet room and listened to him pour out his heart. The words to say came into my mind and out of my mouth. It was so powerful and I knew they were directed from the Spirit – I asked Kevin if he knew I loved him.
He said, “Yes, I know you love me.”
I told him that I also knew that his Father in Heaven loved him even more than I loved him. He was quiet, so I continued.
I said, “You know what? Heavenly Father knows the real Kevin, and I know the real Kevin, and even you know the real Kevin. The Lord hasn’t given up on you, I haven’t given up on you, and I hope you haven’t given up on you.”
He started to cry and said he was really glad he’d called. I felt so much comfort and peace from the Lord, and I knew He had heard my prayer, inspired my words, and touched Kevin’s troubled heart. A few weeks later, Kevin asked if he could come home to live with us. We said he could, but that he’d have to follow the house rules. He said he understood and willingly turned back to the Lord and walked away from the world. I still believe that he came home that day to prepare for his journey to his Heavenly Home. He came to church with us those few Sundays. I remember the only music he would listen to was Jericho Road. At our family Thanksgiving Feast, he made peace with family members he’d struggled with for years, and for a time, there was harmony.
Kevin was home with us for a brief three weeks before he suddenly passed away. He said to his father the night he passed, “This better not be a bunch of bunk.”
On the morning of December 13, 2008, Kevin slipped peacefully to the other side. We were assured that there was no pain and no struggle. That was a great comfort to us. I still remember going in to check on him. When I entered his room I found him laying very still, face down with no covers on. I called out to him, but he didn’t respond; as I walked closer, I noticed that he wasn’t breathing. I don’t know how, but I knew he was gone. I went over to him, knelt beside the side of the bed, gently touched his back and whispered as tears ran down my cheeks, “Oh Kevin, it’s okay. You’re with Jesus now, and you’re not hurting anymore.” Then I called out to my husband. Before calling 911, we knelt together in prayer and plead with the Lord for His comfort, strength, and peace.
How were you able to deal with Kevin’s passing?
We were all in shock. It didn’t seem real. Like a bad dream that we were going to wake up from any moment and find him standing there and everything would be fine. We did wake up to find, in a sense, that everything was okay. We woke to a new understanding and appreciation for the power of the Atonement and the Resurrection. We woke to the promised peace that “passeth all understanding.”
The days after the funeral were followed by tears, happy memories, and individual dreams we had of Kevin that added to our comfort and peace. One of the sweetest memories that I still cling to happened right after Kevin had moved back home. We had gathered to read scriptures and pray as a family. Kevin quietly put his right arm around my neck and pulled me close. Then he quietly whispered in my ear, “Mom – I just want you to know that you loved me back into submission to the Lord.” That is such a treasure to me. The Lord knew that those words would be a great comfort to me in the weeks and months and years that followed his death.
Remembering the happy times is a healing balm. I can remember how his chubby fingers felt when I held his little boy hand. I remember his bright eyes, his freckles, his laugh, his love. Most of all, I remember our last embrace and look forward to the embrace we are sure to share again. I’m so glad I was the one that found him that morning. I was there when he came into this world, and how appropriate it was that I be there when he left.
What were the events leading up to Kevin receiving his endowments?
Within a week of Kevin’s passing, I talked with my husband about going to the temple in a year so Kevin could receive his endowment. My motherly concerns for Kevin’s salvation were confirmed when I had an experience I will never forget. A few days before Christmas I was out doing last minute shopping when I realized I needed a new calendar for the coming year. I stopped at a stand and began looking at the covers. I noticed a daily flip calendar that was entitled: Promised Blessings – Scripture Verses for Every Day of the Year. I felt prompted to flip through to the one year anniversary of Kevin’s passing. I picked up the calendar and quickly flipped to December 13th and read these words:
“Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell, then will I go to the altar of my God, to God, my joy and my delight.”
I couldn’t hold back my tears. I took the flip calendar and headed for the checkout stand. I wasn’t prepared to receive such a powerful witness right there in the middle of the Christmas shopping bustle, but I will always cherish the comfort and assurance I received from my Father in Heaven that day.
When my husband read the scripture verse in the flip calendar, he was on board with preparing Kevin’s name. After checking the calendar and noticing that December 13th fell on a Sunday, we decided we would go on the 15th. I went to the family history center and prepared the necessary information to take Kevin to the temple.
The year leading to the designated date was overwhelming. I had gone back to school. I had continued to work outside the home and to serve in my callings at church and in the temple. We had also decided to move out of our home and into a farmhouse to help a friend. It was the move that was my final straw, and I experienced a complete breakdown then and there. My breakdown occurred almost a year to the day of Kevin’s passing. I was so weak that just walking from the bathroom and back to bed would leave me completely exhausted.
On the morning of December 15th, I was lying in bed when my husband came to ask if we were still going to the temple. All of a sudden, I remembered the scripture verse from my calendar. I got out of bed and said, “The only way I’m not going to the temple today is over my dead body.” I got up, dressed, pulled my hair back, and we headed for the temple. If we hadn’t gone that day, it would have been put off for at least another year because of the aftermath of the breakdown.
What were some of the experiences you went through with your breakdown?
Although I didn’t experience debilitating grief at the time of my son’s death, I did experience a tremendous storm one year later. At first, I had no idea what was happening to me. It was the first year anniversary of his death, and many people warned me that it would be the hardest grieving period. I began to think that this must the problem.
I remember feeling overwhelmed and afraid because of the state of our American economy. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to meet our financial obligations and that we would lose our house. I tried more than once to express my concerns to my husband, but he could not deal with my anxieties either and was dealing with his own issues and grief. I continued to push myself into a state of complete emotional and physical exhaustion. It got to where I couldn’t think straight or sort anything out in my life. I completely lost my appetite, and my physical strength was gone. I couldn’t sleep at all, and after two weeks of burning sensations all over my body, I dreamed I was going to die and join my Kevin. The next day my mother took me to the hospital where I was admitted to the psychiatric ward.
This was the darkest time of my life. I was confused and afraid. I had no idea what was happening to me or why. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I couldn’t stop crying, I hadn’t slept in two weeks, and I couldn’t eat. All I wanted was to feel normal again. Thankfully, I had a wonderful psychiatrist who found a treatment that helped. He said that I had anxiety due to too much stress and that it was manifesting itself physically.
When I was finally released and sent home to recover, I was still in pretty bad shape. I remember avoiding mirrors because I didn’t recognize myself. I began grief counseling to work through Kevin’s death. After a few months of listening in group therapy, I was asked if I’d be willing to talk about my son. I didn’t hesitate to share what had happened and the peace I still felt about his passing. At the end of the session, the counselor took me aside. She wished to express that she didn’t feel Kevin’s death had caused my break down. I seemed to be in a healthy place regarding his death. I sobbed with relief and thanked her for her reassurance. I attended several more months of personal counseling to discover the root cause. Painful truths of heartache, neglect, and abuse from my childhood and beyond that I’d buried for years began to surface, and the process of cleansing them from my soul began.
I remember feeling like I wasn’t worth anything to my husband because I was such an emotional mess and could barely take care of myself. I felt that he needed a strong, capable woman, and that woman wasn’t me. It was beyond difficult to let him hold and comfort me. I didn’t believe he could ever really love me in my current condition, and my own insecurities surfaced. I decided it would be best if I just left my old life behind because I felt that he’d be better off without me. I just wanted to figure out what was going on so I could do everything in my power to avoid it happening again. I am so grateful that God blessed me to work through these dark times, and through His grace, I was able to find peace in His loving embrace.
My physical weakness continued for some time. All my life I’d enjoyed excellent health. I’d been strong and able—or at least I’d pushed myself to believe that. Now I could barely keep up. My time was spent resting and recovering from a weakened condition that had no predictable recovery time. I was told it would just take time, and that I needed to be patient and take care of myself, but I desperately wanted healing right now! I turned with full heart to the Lord for strength. I’d given all I had to this process, and I trusted that He could make up the rest.
You struggled with your breakdown for quite some time. What processes have you gone through to heal?
Healing has come as I exercise faith in Christ. I also choose, day by day, to love and forgive my husband for all the years of neglect and abuse, and I watch his heart soften in return. Through the prayers of family and friends, and through the process of repentance and forgiveness for both of us, our marriage has been saved. I’ve heard that when Christ touches something it lives. I know for myself that this is true, and because He touched our marriage, it lives today.
I’ve learned to be positive and focus on the good things in my life, no matter how many bad things surrounded me. That is so hard to do when the clouds of darkness and mental noise are so consuming. I started writing down five different things I was thankful for each day. As I focused on my blessings, I began to feel better about myself and about my life. I realized I had so much to be thankful for, my attitude became more positive, and my mental clarity greatly improved. I learned to take things slow. I learned to say no and create boundaries. I learned to be realistic with myself, to pace myself, to take breaks and rest throughout the day. The process has been difficult, but I am learning to do what I can and find joy in simple daily accomplishments.
In April of 2010, I received the miracle of healing as the Lord blessed me with a renewed and energetic body and mind. My healing journey is far from over, but I’ve come to realize that working through these experiences is just that—a journey—and now I embrace the power that comes from it. I know that God’s timing is perfect. I have come to trust not only in His will but also in His timing. I’m so thankful for the Savior, for His Love and Grace, and for the power He has to bless and heal us if we will trust Him and let Him.
I echo the words of the Prophet Nephi as if they were my own:
“Behold my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.
My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.
He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.
Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the nighttime.
And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high.
Rejoice, O my heart and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robes of thy righteousness. Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way – but that thou wouldst clear my way…
Oh Lord, I have trusted in thee and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh.
Yea I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold my voice shall forever ascent up into thee, my rock and mine everlasting God, Amen.”
This October I celebrated my spiritual birthday. It’s hard to believe that it has been twenty years since I plead with the Lord for forgiveness of my sins. That day I made the most important decision of my life, the day that changed the course of my life, the day I decided to give my whole heart to Jesus Christ. I will never be the same. Yes, sometimes the journey is long, but it is in our darkest hour that we often turn to Him, truly come to know Him, and love Him, and trust Him. It is our greatest and most important decision to have faith in the Lord, in His perfect timing, and in His perfect will. It requires our very best, and when we do, He does make up the difference in our lives. I know in the future there will be more challenges to face and obstacles to overcome, but I will always believe Him and trust in Him.
God lives. He loves us more than we can imagine. He does hear and answer every sincere and heartfelt prayer. We are known and loved by Him, and He longs to encircle us in the arms of His love. He has said, “Draw near unto me,” and in return has promised, “I will draw near unto you.” He is who He says He is: He is the God of Miracles and the God of Love. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Healer of our Souls, and He is our Savior and Redeemer. He guides us patiently, waiting for us to decide that we need Him more than we need the world or the struggles in it and realize He was there with open arms all along.
At A Glance
Location: Potlatch, Idaho
Marital status: Married
Occupation: Hair Technician and Spokane Valley Temple Worker
Favorite Hymn: “The Lord is My Light”
Interview by Jessica Drollette. Photos used with permission.