I was stringing lights this weekend until the family room looked aglow and thinking of our daughter, Melissa. Some years ago we didn’t think she would be coming home for Christmas, but on Christmas Eve, much to our surprise, the doorbell rang and there she stood on the front porch, the glow of Christmas lights reflected on her face. She had driven the miles from Boston to Virginia to surprise us. It was the best Christmas present I ever received.
I wish the doorbell would ring this Christmas and she would be standing there, but she died suddenly and unexpectedly September 10 from complications following surgery and that doorbell will not be ringing for me this Christmas or on any to come.
I have debated about writing this article because it is so intensely personal, but when I hesitate I am impressed again to share some tender feelings. This will not let me alone, and so I plunge into my own heart hoping that someone, somewhere will be lifted and that I can express in some small way my unspeakable gratitude for the comforting power of the Savior’s atonement.
As I write this, part of me still doesn’t believe it is true, because how can someone so vibrant and alive and important to you just suddenly be gone? Now, no matter where I look or where I go wandering in this whole world I can’t find her face, and it will be a long, long time before I see her again.
The shock and pain of this death has carried me to place I’ve never been before. One night years ago, we were lying in bed during a thunderstorm when a sound crashed over our head like two earths colliding with a primordial roar. It registered in my nerve endings, thundered through the house, and actually knocked a neighbor out of bed. Some suggested it was a lightning strike or sheet lightning directly over our heads, but we never learned for sure what it was. It was unforgettably out of my realm of experience.
I thought, before that night, that I knew what deafening noise was—and I was so wrong. My understanding of sound waves and their possibilities had been contained in some safe, knowable range. Loud could be painful, but nothing like this. Now, with this, pulse-stopping, earth-shattering bellow, I knew something more about what sound could do.
My grief at my daughter’s death was the same.