The thick, creamy envelope lay heavy in the open mouth of the mailbox. “Office of the First Presidency” was etched in the upper left corner. My heart raced and my hand shook as I handed it to my husband Jon, still standing in the driveway, his coat and satchel dropped on his shoes, not all the way home from work. We had been waiting for weeks—months, years, eons, eternity—for this letter to arrive. Our entire hopeful future rested on what was in that envelope.
I had not been sealed to my first husband. My children were not born in the covenant, nor were they sealed at any time after. There is no easy way to convey the magnitude of this to someone not of our faith; one’s eternal relationship with family and with God can feel like they are on the line. When I got divorced, I assumed this was a door that had been closed to us, and I tucked those hopes away, pretty sure God would love us anyway. I never expected to be holding one of those thick, creamy envelopes with my future in it.
My husband’s hands were shaking as badly as mine, keys still laced in his fingers, as he tore the letter open. Four sentences. Simple, spare words on a rich white page, signed, by all three of the First Presidency. Clearance granted. We would become Us, and my children would be sealed. Four sentences…
We cried together right there in the driveway while life swirled around us, holding each other up in relief and joy. Forever.
Thirty days later, I stared at myself in the silver mirror in the beautifully luxurious Bride’s Room of the Brigham City Temple. My sisters-in-law had insisted I have a wedding dress, since I didn’t have one at our civil ceremony the year before. My mother-in-law had carefully laced me into a lovely white gown we had rented the day before, and left me to have a few moments to myself. I was suddenly glad they had encouraged me to be formal.
My children—our children soon—were upstairs, being entertained by their uncle while waiting to be brought in for the ceremony. I looked into the silver mirror again. My nose was dotted with sweat, and my dress was covered in the temple robes. I was glad we had prepared the kids and told them what to expect. I fussed with the bows before gathering my skirts and stepping out. In the hallway, several sisters were waiting on another ceremony and smiled warmly the way you smile at a bride. You don’t really notice that until you’re getting married; people have special lovely, sunshine-y, bride-smiles.
With my skirts in hand, I smiled back at the happy faces. My stomach was fluttering and swirling, an odd cocktail of ridiculously happy, nervously scared, and abatedly grieving.
The week before, our family had experienced the devastating loss of my children’s father. We had offered the kids the option of putting off the ceremony, of waiting for a time before moving forward. Each of the kids, without hesitation, said they wanted to do it. In retrospect, I consider this one of the greatest gifts their father gave them—he gave them permission to love. He had conveyed his approval, and his support, and his acceptance of their step-father. They knew they could love both men to the detriment of neither, and in the beautiful way only children can, they accepted that gift without reservation. It’s really been an ongoing miracle.
In the second-floor foyer, Jon met me and took my hand. Our family and the small group of friends had moved into the sealing room, and after a short stop at the veil, we joined them upstairs.
Only twice in my life have I done a Sealing Ceremony. I had stayed away—it was too painful to do for someone else what I could not myself have. The only other time was in Nauvoo many years ago. It was one of those rare experiences transcending description; it left me spent and changed, but filled my lamp with oil for years and through many dark nights. One of the friends who knelt with me in Nauvoo was now sitting in the witness chair alongside Jon’s father. I don’t believe he knew why I asked him; with my blood family unable to attend, I chose the family I could.
Nothing can prepare you for walking into that room; like so many emotionally intense experiences, the details are veiled now—but the impression of faces glowing with love in every possible direction is strong and abiding. Jon and I knelt, and the words were uttered and the vows made with each other and with God, taking us beyond the veil. All five of the children were brought in; my youngest son had prepared a paper with the name of his dad, and placed it gently on the chair to the left of Jon. Tears spilled down my cheeks, suddenly uncontainable in my vessel.
The three children who entered the world through me were gathered around the alter with Jon and me, our hands interlaced, and the sacred words uttered, as a gift. In that moment, the children moved from mine, to ours, not just in the world, but in the eyes of the God we love. Forever.
Afterwards, our celebration was small and quiet, but very real and very happy. Jon’s family gathered around and joyfully welcomed me and my children as their own. The kids and their cousins ran and played in the grass and poked the rocks and eddies at the edges of the slow-moving creek, while the grownups ate tart lemon cake and chatted, keeping one eye on the creek while the late summer sun sunk in the sky.
There is a lot I don’t understand about faith—any faith, my own faith, this faith to which I belong—but what I do know is something greater than my own understanding took place that afternoon. I felt people and love nearby in a tangible way that, again, like so much of the spirit, defies description. But it was as real as the tears I could not contain.
Forever. Forever. Forever.