Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Letter to the Almost Man in My Life

Dear Son,

You’re my firstborn, my only son, and the only brother your little sisters will ever know.

You entered my life when I was twenty-one—barely a woman myself. As I held you for the first time, I was equal parts terrified and excited to be a mother.

You were three and a half when I first had a glimpse of the man you might become one day. We sat in sacrament meeting as a family of four, with another baby coming soon. I was exhausted, discouraged, and sure that I was muffing up this motherhood thing—what was I thinking having a third child?

A woman gave a talk about her brother who had left the Church because he no longer believed in God. She repeatedly used her brother’s phrases describing his disbelief. I didn’t think my little Sunbeam was hearing anything of it, but you looked up from your crayon scribbles, leaned in to me, and said with a shake of your head, “Mom, we know there’s a God.”

“Yes, we do,” I said, and pressed my lips together as tears welled in my eyes.

Nearly three years ago, shortly before your ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood, you and I sat on the couch and went over some of the Faith in God goals to prepare you. We discussed what the priesthood is, what it can do, and why a man should be worthy to hold it. Suddenly, you got a somber look on your face, and you said, “This is a big thing I’m doing, isn’t it?”

It was. And is. But you’ve carried the duty well. During the time you were a deacon, I sat in awe watching you serve, at how seriously you take your responsibilities and your worthiness, your eagerness to do what is right whenever you can. You've been a teacher for nearly a year now, and have kept up your duties well. You strive to become a better person and to grow closer to the Spirit, even if that means going to do baptisms at the temple before school—and waking up at quarter to five in the morning to make it possible.

No one told you to. You just signed up when you had the opportunity.

A little over a year ago, you literally got close to being run over trying to serve. We were driving home on a snow-packed street, and Sister S was stuck in a snow bank one house over. A few young men were helping to push her out. In your eagerness to help, you threw the door open and nearly jumped out of the moving car. I had to call you back so the wheels wouldn’t roll over you. When it was safe to exit, you hurried to help. Five minutes later, you came into the house with rosy cheeks and a grin. You’d helped get Sister S on her way. That is the kind of man I always hoped my son would be.

But the one moment that made it clear to me the kind of man you already are—and the amazing person you will one day surely become—was over Christmas break a year and a half ago. We were visiting grandparents about an hour away from home. While you and Grandpa went to a game, we received word that your aunt was in the hospital for emergency surgery. You and Grandpa left the game to give her a blessing at a hospital in our home town. Then you stayed at our house overnight to avoid driving back on slippery roads so late.

The next day, Sunday, while packing up our things at Grandma’s house, I was unsure whether you’d taken a Christmas gift with you to the game with Grandpa or if I should keep looking for it. I called home to find out, and Grandpa answered. “I think he brought it here with him,” he said.

I asked to talk with you just to be sure.

“Oh, he’s not here right now,” Grandpa informed me. “He went to church.”

I stood there with the phone to my ear, not sure what I’d just heard. “He what?”

At the time, we had church at nine o’clock. Like most growing teenagers, if left to your own devices, you’d sleep until ten or eleven.

The ward knew our family was traveling that weekend. No one expected any of us to attend. But you were home, and you knew it was right to go if you could. Grandpa had no Sunday clothes with him, but you did. You got up, put on a white shirt and tie, and passed the sacrament with the other deacons. Then you sat alone in the back of the chapel.

You could have stayed home. Not a soul expected you to do anything different. No one in the ward would have known differently.

But you knew. And you knew God knew. So you lived up to your duty.

Thus far, you’ve been a dream of a son to raise. I just know that one day, you’ll be a dream of a husband and a great father. Your wife will know that no matter where the bar is, you’ll be a step or two above it—not because anyone will be watching and judging, although they probably will, but because that’s what you do. It’s who you are. You strive to reach your God-given potential, to fulfill your duty to best of your ability.

You’re not quite fifteen, but as far as I’m concerned, you’re a true man already in the ways that matter most.

Happy Father's Day.