Grand Forks Memorial Service

July 9, 2002

I am so grateful for all of you here today.  I’m grateful for your friendship and kindness to Andrea, to me, and to our family, especially during the past 18 months of Andrea’s cancer.  That kindness is one of many blessings we received from Andrea’s illness.  And it made it that much harder to be away from home when she died, rather than here with you who lived it more directly with us.

But her death shortly after we arrived in Salt Lake was yet another blessing--further evidence of God’s love and mercy.  Even though no one was expecting her to die, during the three days before her death, she saw many family members whom she hadn’t seen in two years or longer.  Her older brother and his family visited from Colorado Springs for a family reunion in Utah.  So did her two stepsisters.  The day before she died, Father’s Day, her father and stepmother, and two other brothers with their families, visited us in Salt Lake.  We also visited with some of my family the last weeks of her life.  Those last visits were a great blessing to them, as well as to Andrea, even though it meant dying away from home and many she loved here.

She was also blessed that she did not have occasion to say goodbye knowing that she would soon die.  She didn’t want to do that.  Among other reasons, she hated to make people sad, which she felt she was always doing during the past 18 months of cancer.  For that same reason, she told me and others that she didn’t want a funeral, just a party.  With party snacks and decorations and Trivial Pursuit.  So that’s what we did in Salt Lake.  I figured she was feeling generous, though, so we had a funeral in the morning for ourselves and a party in the evening for her.  We’ll do a simpler version of the same thing tonight.  We’ll have food to eat in the next room when we’re done here.  I’d love to talk more to any of you who want to hang around.

I’ve enjoyed so much the past few weeks talking to many of those who loved her.  The cards and letters and phone calls from various places are evidence that although Andrea’s life was short, it was wide.  Not even counting the many cities in which she lived for summers and the like, and the city of her birth, she lived in 9 different cities.  And in all of those places, and others too, she found lifelong friends whose lives she blessed with her indescribable greatness of heart and soul.  I have talked to so many the past few weeks who have not seen her in years, but who love her as dearly as when they were together, and try to describe that greatness of heart.  If you measured life by how many people love you, Andrea’s life would be an incomparable success.

But it isn’t quite that.  That love that so many have expressed in recent days, and have felt especially keenly in recent times, is simply the fruit, the result, of what better measures a life.  That is, people love her so greatly, and will miss her so much, not just because they know her, but because she loves them and made their lives better.  She loves so many people with all her heart--and it is a mighty big heart.  She loves people passionately, without pretense or self-interest.

That love was reflected in her kindness and service to others.  She always wanted to make others’ lives better:  not just to take care of their physical needs, but to teach and inspire.  So often she would tell me that she felt that someone needed some sort of help or strength or understanding and we would talk about how to do that.  Along the way, she not only blessed many lives, but she trained me how to think of others rather than myself.

I remember so many whom she taught and inspired to be better and happier.  Even though she served each time for only months, she had an enormous impact on young women whom she served in the church.  I remember especially mothers, and mothers to be, whom she inspired to love motherhood and devote themselves to motherhood as she did.  She knew that there was no greater service to God and his children, and she preached, exemplified, and lived that conviction.  I can’t hope to describe how well she did, but the holes in the lives of my children resulting from her death will be dramatic evidence of her success in life as a mother.  It seems appropriate that her cancer physically originated from her efforts to have another child.

I also remember many whom she inspired to greater belief in Christ and greater efforts to live Christian lives.  As one of her high school friends told me a few days after her death, she had the courage not just to do the right thing herself, but to help others do the right thing, and to help them realize when they were doing the wrong thing.  I don’t remember ever hearing her justify or excuse friends’ wrongdoings when they tried to justify them and wanted her affirmation.  She did not compromise or betray the principles of righteousness in the misguided belief that doing so is necessary to maintain close and loving relationships with people.  And yet she so rarely seemed to offend, because people knew she loved them, and that she acted out of genuine conviction, not selfishness or pride.

She seemed to be especially gifted at inspiring others to live better because she was so good, and yet so real and genuine.  She was not other-worldly, as if she was different from us and therefore we could not aspire to emulate her.  She was not the frail angelic girl in the Victorian novel who doesn’t belong on this earth and so dies young.  She was one of us.  So many people, not just since her death but throughout my life with her, have told me how quickly they loved her because she is so open and genuine.  So many were drawn to her and admired her, and learned from her words and example.

But her influence on others was never greater, and her love never stronger, than during the past year and a half of cancer.  I asked Tammy to talk about those recent events in particular because they are the most important of her life.  They were the culmination of a truly successful life, and a great blessing to us and many others.  They are the highlight, not just the climax, of her life.

When she was first diagnosed with cancer, Andrea poured her soul out in prayer to her Heavenly Father, praying that she would be healed and live.  As she did so, she heard a voice plainly ask her, “Do you want to live?”  She realized that she didn’t always act that way:  that she didn’t always properly appreciate the value of this life.  But after reflecting on this question, she realized that she did want to live, and live well.

And so she did.  Her already boundless love for others seemed to grow even greater.  At times it was breathtaking.  Gratitude for the kindness of so many magnified that love yet further.  She seemed to devote all her energy to helping others.  Even when nauseated and weak because of chemotherapy, or in pain from surgery, she would wear herself out spending many hours on the phone comforting and counseling others, or writing letters to express her love and gratitude to others.  She wrote in her journal about how happy she was when she had the health and strength to make meals for the family.  When she prayed with me, it seems she always prayed for others before she prayed for herself.  I remember her driving a friend--one who became a friend because Andrea was her visiting teacher--to the hospital or other places on various occasions, even when she was in pain.  She always visited not just those she was asked to visit each month, but usually several others she felt that she should visit.  I remember that on one particularly discouraging day, one of several on which she learned that her cancer was not gone as it had appeared, and there was more treatment to do, that she didn’t think of herself, but felt inspired to visit a woman whom she had never visited before, and spent a couple of hours counseling and strengthening her, even before sharing the news with me or returning home.  Her influence on others was magnified because of her illness, and she knew it.  Those she talked to would listen and believe more because of it.  They were inspired to love and serve more themselves when they saw Andrea doing so despite her illness.  Yet whenever anyone would praise her for it, she didn’t see anything special or extraordinary about her efforts.  And that humility would inspire others even more.

That was just one of many blessings she received and recognized from her cancer.  One of the greatest was increased faith in God and Christ.  From the beginning, she trusted in God, not man, to heal her.  As each medical treatment failed and doctors grew more skeptical, it became even easier to “trust in the Lord God with all her heart” and not trust in “the arm of the flesh.”  Even though she did not receive the blessing of being healed, she still enjoyed all the blessings of exercising faith that she would be.  She prayed fervently and frequently, and God blessed her with the peace and hope of the Holy Spirit in abundance.

That Spirit brings with it inexpressible joy, and we surely experienced it.  Our lives were never happier than the past year and a half.  Andrea knew that God loved her dearly, that he was guiding her through this great experience according to his love and mercy.  How could one not rejoice at such a life?  Sharing that joy of the Spirit, and the eternal perspective so clearly highlighted by her illness, made this time the best of our 18 years together--and they were all inexpressibly great.  I tried feebly to convey that feeling in this poem that I gave to Andrea on Valentine’s Day last year:  [Poem]

So our experience during her illness is testimony that, as the Lord has said, our hearts should be comforted; “for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly.”  (D&C 100:15)  She loved the verse printed in the program, and she lived it:  “Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you.”  (D&C 68:6)  Andrea increasingly understood that it didn’t really matter what happened with her cancer:  whether it lasted one year or five, whether she lived or died.  Whatever happened, all that mattered is that she believed in God and Christ, that she loved them and served them, and their children, with all her heart and strength.  If you do that, you can’t lose.  You will fulfill the purpose of being here on Earth, and nothing that happens can stop that.  It is easy to be of good cheer with such a perspective.  This understanding and conviction was especially impressed upon her and clear to her a week before she died when we went to the temple.  She fully absorbed the reality that this life and the next are part of a continuous, eternal whole.  And she was truly happy and ready to move on.

Now I know it can be a mistake to ask why someone dies when and how she does.  Not only can it confuse and trouble us, but it also may lead us to overlook what Andrea understood:  that it doesn’t matter whether we live or die.  So perhaps God often does not have a particular reason to cause or prevent death.  It just happens, and it’s OK.  One continues to live and grow and serve.

But I have asked God why anyway.  I know some of you do not share my faith in Him.  But I know that He lives and communicates with me.  He has so generously and powerfully answered my prayers throughout my life, and especially the past couple of years, that I felt he might make it known to me.  And in any case, he wouldn’t reproach me for asking.  I asked not out of bitterness or despair, but to understand and learn, and help others do the same.  Andrea never feared dying, but she did fear complicating or impairing others’ faith because of her death.  She knew that her illness was a growing experience for many others beside herself.

God had told Andrea and me, and some of you, by the Holy Spirit many times that it was his will to heal her of this cancer.  That Spirit that we felt in our hearts and minds in response to our prayers was truly the Holy Ghost promised and described in the scriptures.  We may be tempted to think it wasn’t the Spirit, since she wasn’t healed.  Or that it was the Spirit, but that we didn’t understand it correctly.  But I know that is not the case.  When the occasion was appropriate, I directly asked God in prayer whether it was good and right--his will--to heal her of this cancer, that she would continue to live here in mortality with us.  I was fully prepared and willing to receive no answer or a negative answer, but the Spirit powerfully affirmed.  Not once, but many times throughout the past 18 months.  It would be a great tragedy, and a great pain to Andrea, if her death caused us to doubt such clear and powerful spiritual manifestations--not to have gained and kept that increased faith that God will speak to us by the Spirit and increased ability to discern it.

I always understood that I hadn’t really asked God to reveal the future to me, and he hadn’t done so.  I just asked him what to believe, what to pray for, what to say when I blessed Andrea by the priesthood.  After her death, I asked in prayer whether this was sort of the Abraham and Isaac story in reverse.  That God told us she would be healed knowing that she wouldn’t, in order for her to experience the growth of faith and humility and unity with Him that I have described.  And perhaps to make the time leading up to her death easier and happier.  That certainly would make sense to me, and in any event was a blessing of the experience.  But that’s not the answer.

Rather, the answer, made known to me by the Holy Spirit as powerfully as I’ve ever felt it before, is this.  Once Andrea had fully comprehended the unity of life before and after death, once she no longer wanted to keep living because of the attachment to this life that comes from not having experienced the next life yet, and once she had received the full benefit of her mortal experience, a merciful and generous Father blessed her with the righteous desires of her heart.

Many of you joined with us fasting and praying for Andrea here on June 1st and 2nd.  She noted especially in her journal how Bishop Johnson had prayed at the beginning of that fast that she would be blessed with the righteous desires of her heart.

Before she even left the building that Saturday, Andrea’s head started to hurt so much that it nauseated her--the first time she had such symptoms.  The pain passed after awhile, but returned again for a couple of hours the next day as she left the church meetings.  Monday she had a CT scan, which clearly revealed a tumor in her brain.  The following day she had an MRI of her brain.  The next morning, Wednesday, we met with the doctor and learned that the MRI showed several tumors in her brain.  He arranged for us to meet a specialist in Salt Lake City on Friday, so we quickly packed up--and Andrea cleaned the house--and we left town Thursday morning, arriving just in time for a Friday afternoon appointment.

The following week she began radiation therapy on her brain to eliminate the tumors there.  The doctor was optimistic and so were we.  But the road ahead was likely to be long and hard, with more surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy, more disappointed hopes, and above all, more frustrating inability to serve God as productively as she would like to.  As we talked during the last few days of her life, she told me she would prefer to move on to the spirit world than endure much more of the same.  But she wanted most of all to do the best thing.  Earlier in her journal, as it was becoming clear that the cancer remained and more treatment was likely to be necessary, she had described her thoughts about what lay ahead as if she were sitting in a cave with several tunnels around and wondering which one to take to lead her out.  “Some,” she wrote, “are absolutely wrong and will get me lost; others are okay but will make my journey long and difficult.  There is one tunnel that is perfect but I don’t know which one it is.  So I sit in my mind looking around at each path I could take not knowing which I will do.”

She had been a good and faithful servant.  As she liked to quote from Hebrews, she had “run with patience the race that [was] set before [her].”  (Heb. 12:1)  And so, just as the Lord asked her in the beginning whether she wanted to live, and as the resurrected Christ asked his disciples, the Lord in effect asked Andrea, “What desirest thou?”  (D&C 7:1)  Similarly to John, and three of his Nephite disciples, she might have chosen to stay and bring souls to him here.  I believe that she could still have been healed had she preferred.  But she might also choose to come speedily to Him in his kingdom as the other Nephite disciples chose--or to bring souls to him in the next world.  Either choice was good, since she had finished her own race.  I encouraged her to express her desires in prayer, and I’m sure she did.  I don’t know if she ever consciously made a choice to live or die; I doubt she did.  But I know that God knew the desires of her heart, and granted to her what would most fulfill those desires--not to be spared pain, but to best serve God.  Now she serves Him without all the impediments of this life, and the special impediments of her illness.  Of course, God knew all along that time would come, when her desires would be best fulfilled by death.  But as he generally does, he answered our prayers throughout her illness based on our hearts and circumstances in the present.

So sometime between 3:15 and 3:30 Monday morning, June 17th, she woke up with terrible pain all over her head.  As a CT scan revealed later in the morning, the brain tumors caused bleeding in her brain.  She woke me up and calmly said, “Give me a blessing or say goodbye, because I’m going to die.”  I gave her a priesthood blessing.  I don’t remember all I said, but as I searched for inspired words I remember at the end blessing her that she would find peace and rest in Christ.  As I said the words I thought that meant the pain would pass and she could rest from pain for awhile.  But now I see that it meant she would find not just such temporary rest, but eternal peace and rest in his kingdom.  For a few moments the pain was so great that it scared her.  But as we spoke she turned her thoughts to Christ in the Garden and was mentally calm, though the pain made it impossible for her be physically still.  For a time she was able to walk in the Savior’s footsteps in that small way.  But within 15 minutes or so she died.  The Lord has promised that “those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them.”  (D&C 42:46)  I know that it was sweet for Andrea.

And I know that she still lives.  Both she and Heavenly Father have made that known to me.  She has emerged from that cave into the light.  We sometimes compared ourselves to the children of Israel, because our frequent moves and life changes seemed as if we were wandering in the wilderness, and we looked forward to entering a promised land of peace and rest.  We never found it here, but it isn’t to be found here.  She’s now entered that promised land--the only place of true peace and rest.  As Alma explained, “the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.”  (Alma 40:12)  And, because Jesus Christ lives, eventually her “soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.”  (Alma 40:23)  I also know that I will be reunited with her and we will live together forever, because of the atonement of Jesus Christ and the mercy of his and our Father.

As Alma prophesied, Christ took “upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he [took] upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”  (Alma 7:12)  I know Andrea felt that love and understanding of her Savior.  He gave her peace and strength throughout the past 18 months and even in her last moments here.  Christ and Heavenly Father have been kind and merciful and generous to us always.  I cannot thank and praise them enough for the 18 years I’ve had with Andrea, and for the blessings of the last year and a half.  I love them, as I love Andrea, with all my heart.  

As the scripture in the program says, Christ has stood by us, and so I bear record of him.  I testify that through Christ each of us can be made whole and perfect.  Andrea was pure and sinless when she died.  But it was not because she lived perfectly.  As she wrote in her last journal entry, comparing her feelings to Nephi’s feelings recorded in 2 Nephi 4, “Christ is our Savior not ourselves. . . .  Believing in Him will heal our souls.  I feel very flawed.  I am bothered that I give in so easily to sin.  I know, however, that only through the atonement and my diligent effort will I be saved.”  I add my testimony to hers.  She was free of sin because she believed in Christ, desired righteousness and lived that way, and repented of her sins.  And so she was made clean by and through him.  If we desire righteousness as she did, and believe and trust in Christ, “his grace is sufficient for [us], that by his grace [we] may be perfect in Christ.”  (Moroni 10:32)  I am grateful for his special kindness to Andrea in purifying her.  It was the greatest desire of her heart.  I know that he is mighty to save, and may purify each of us if we will come unto him.  In the name of Jesus Christ, I testify of Him and His Father, that they live, and that we may all live eternally with them through Christ’s atonement and God’s mercy.  Amen.