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This is the Tale of Two Parkers.

By Melissa Dalton-Bradford

This is also, by extension, the tale of two friends, Renée and Melissa, and of two families, the Halls and the Bradfords, and of two freak events that yanked all of the above onto two different but similar, unforeseen and shadowy trajectories. The tale tells how such yanking might dislocate some joints, but how it can also make a tongue-and-groove tightness which locks parents to children, friends to friends, and families to families. Mostly, it’s a tale about how the invisible and visible realms—we’ll call them heaven and earth—are sealed to each other. Indeed, the two are one.


Let me first introduce Big Parker. He is mine. He is the handsome boy with eyes the color of the water he’s dogpaddling in. On July 20th , 2007 he was eighteen years and five months old to the day. He was also lying in a coma in an Idaho Medical Center with the French name, Port Neuf. He’d been trying repeatedly to free a college classmate from a hidden whirlpool in a rural irrigation canal, and in the end he wasn’t able to get out himself.  The next morning there was no remaining brain activity.  He was removed from life-support.  A week from the very hour of his death, we buried his Big Parker body in a dark, narrow groove of earth.


Little Parker, (or Petit Parker or “P.J.” for Parker John), is Renée’s.  He is the cherub on the red velvet throne.  He and his twin sister, Penelope, were conceived a few short months after Big Parker’s funeral, which Renée attended.  She’d flown to Utah from her home in Paris, which is where we Halls and Bradfords lived and loved each other and where strapping Big Parker had been the Hall’s enthusiastic home teacher with his dad-partner, Randall. For their visits, the two always rode across town together on Randall’s Vespa, and the Halls always gave Parker love-in-a-can: real, chilled, imported Dr. Pepper.

The twins formed the favored baby spotlight of an equally favored life complete with superlative parents and their three older princesses who kept things at a rollicking clip with high-froth-quotient parties, spontaneous dance-a-thons, picnics in the local parks, and frequent excursions to Eurodisney.

That is, in fact, exactly where they were on February 20th, on what would have been Big Parker’s 20th birthday.  That was the day when Little Parker (who was just turning eight months old) contracted pneumoccocal meningitis.

When I got the phone call that Little Parker was in a medically induced coma and “probably would not make it another day”, I caught the next plane to Paris. Folding and refolding the waxy white airplane napkin, I couldn’t block out possible scenes of an ashen-faced Renée folding up baby boy’s clothes to be boxed or given away; I tried to suppress the impossible notion of my boy’s name being a curse; I foresaw the fragility that would invade and potentially reduce these mighty parents; I narrated to myself the story of loss Renée would yearn to tell, and I feared all the  ears that wouldn’t want to hear it, that sacred but scary story of The Phantom Child.

At l’Hôpital Necker Enfants Malades, (the children’s hospital on the left bank of Paris), and cloaked in paper gowns, masks and gloves, Renée and I entered the isolation booth where her Parker lay motionless, his swollen head and listless body wrapped in gauze and sterile cotton, the hospital personnel avoiding eye contact while attempting efficiently light conversation. It was, to me, a still life, (“nature morte”, in French), of unspeakable but crashing familiarity. The volume of my pleading inner dialogue with God and with  Big Parker—“Make him live! Strong brain! Strong lungs, strong, strong!!”—was so loud I was sure the staff would ask me to, s’il vous plait?!, keep my thoughts down.

From that week-long coma Parker did miraculously return to life, but it was not a strong one. Cerebral meningitis had ravaged his system leaving him virtually deaf, hydrocephalic, convulsive, shunted and cut and sewn so many times his head looked like a Spirograph drawing. He was gravely compromised neurologically, his gravitational vector was shot, he was floppy and unresponsive and had to be fit with cochlear implants in order to retrieve any hearing.  (John and Renée and their four girls under age seven began teaching themselves sign language—both in English and in French. For firsthand descriptions of their ongoing journey, this is Renée’s blog, http://parkerupdate.blogspot.com/ )

Renée also writes full-bodied emails, as do I.  So we two Parker Moms have amassed volumes going back and forth tracking our shared days and boys.  We write of heaven’s severe teaching methods, the wonder of small joys, the isolation and irony that mark major loss, the sharp or bruising contours of grief’s landscape, the deepening spiritual experiences hardly transferable by written word, and our love and hope and yearning and passion for our sons who, we recognize only now, actually never were just ours.  They are, before all else, God’s.

We’ve also shared accounts of the increased presence of the Spirit—and of spirits—in our lives.  Of all such narratives, I offer you this one written by Renée during last summer’s vacation.

We arrived late on a Sunday night July 25th at my parents’ home in southern California after driving all day long from Utah. We put the kids to bed, and John fell exhausted into bed well after midnight. I stayed up a couple of more hours, tooling around and organizing, filling my notebook with to-do’s and ideas as I always do whenever I grab the rare silent moment.

At precisely 6:22 a.m., I awoke to repeated, panicked, unrecognizable screams. John and I slept in a room facing the study where we put the twins to sleep. Their door was shut. The screams were not coming from that direction. The older girls were fast asleep upstairs. The screams did not seem to be coming from that end of the house, either, but they ripped me out of bed, these high-pitch and panicked screams for help.

I wandered quickly through the dark and into the kitchen where I met my mother, who was also awakened by the terrifying, continued screams. She reported that the girls were sound asleep upstairs, I indicated that the screams were not coming from the twins’ room, either.  Puzzlement growing to panic, we wondered, “Is it the neighbors? Maybe it’s a—“

Then I saw something out of the corner of my eye through the dining room window.  A child, floating in the pool.

Not only was it a child, but it was my child, my Parker, screaming, thank God, face up, floating on his back.

Screaming and half crying, racing but unable to move quickly enough, we ran to rescue him. He was floating on his back. His limbs were not flailing or thrashing, he was not bobbing in & out of the water. His body was perfectly calm & nearly still, but he was screaming. A shrieking, unrecognizable, repeated plea for help.

He had screamed for probably 3-5 minutes by the time I became alert enough to get out of bed, traverse the length of the house to the kitchen, and wonder aloud with my mom all before we finally found him.

Melissa, you know my little boy does not know how to swim. He does not know how to float. How many two-year-olds do, even the healthy ones? The week previous I’d even noticed that with Parker’s balance issues and unusual dispersion of weight due to his hydrocephaly, he actually tended to end up on his face while in the water much more frequently than other children. And the life jackets designed to force children onto their backs actually forced Parker to his front.  He can also barely stand, let alone walk, so supervising him means we are physically holding part of him all the time close to water or while in the water.

My two year old son who can barely stand let alone walk, somehow got out of his crib and crawled through the garage, opened and passed through a second door from the garage, headed down the side yard and discovered the pool, opened a gate and decided to get into the water. All at six o’clock in the morning. How could this child navigate his way there, through a dark garage and into dark waters?

Had he not screamed (this deaf boy who without his cochlear implant is mute), we would not have found him for at least one hour when the girls woke up, asking if they could swim, or an hour later than that, when Penelope would have awakened and seen that Parker’s empty crib.

There he lay; cold, fatigued and limp for an hour in our arms before he warmed and livened up. It was then I remembered that the night before, at approximately two a.m., I’d knelt to pray.  I had prayed earnestly for a sign and for more inspiration regarding Parker and his care. I had prayed that something significant would happen the next day, something to signify to me that the Lord was still mindful of me. Me, his aching daughter, and my baby. His baby. Our sick, growing baby.

I don’t know what to think beyond these facts: That He heard and answered my prayers a little too quickly & a lot too literally for me. That there are clearly angels watching over us, over this boy, and I am so infinitely indebted to them. That miracles happen every day. That we have already seen miracles with this boy, and that I fully expect to see more. That a loving Father not only hears prayers—aching prayers of a mother with a growing boy— but that He answers them, too.

I know, too, that in spite of all precautions and vaccinations and closed doors and gates—in spite of all I want to do and can do—I am, in the end, not the one in charge here.

Melissa, can I ask this next thing? Forgive me if it cuts you wide open.  Do you think your drowned son was there holding mine up from drowning?

I’ve already given my friend my answer.

Now, friends, I’m interested in reading yours.

About Melissa Dalton-Bradford

(Poetry Board) Melissa Dalton-Bradford resides near Geneva, Switzerland with her husband, Randall, and Dalton and Luc, the two youngest of their four children. (Their daughter, Claire, has just returned from serving a full-time LDS mission in southern Italy. Melissa served a full-time mission in Austria.) Geneva is the eighth international address Melissa and her family call home, having resided in Vienna, Hong Kong, Oslo, Versailles, Paris, Munich and Singapore. At the time of this printing, she and her family are moving to Frankfurt, Germany. Alongside having performed professionally as a soprano soloist in the US, Europe, and South East Asia, Melissa earned a BA in German and an MA in comparative literature (BYU), and taught German, humanities, English and writing at the university level. She is an award-winning poet and essayist, and is an active public speaker on living internationally, family, loss and grief, spirituality and women’s issues. Most recently, she has published her first book, Global Mom: A Memoir, and her next book, Loss & Living Onward: Collected Voices for the Grieving and Those Who Would Mourn with Them will be released in May of 2014. That volume is a substantial work on loss, grief and the power in communal mourning, and is a tribute to her firstborn, Parker, whose untimely and tragic passing at the age of eighteen redefined her life. Her most consuming passion is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and her family is, by far, her most satisfying creation.

68 thoughts on “This is the Tale of Two Parkers.”

  1. I don't know that we will know for sure while here on this earth, but when I read your friend's line "clearly there are angels watching over us, over this boy", my mind immediately thought of your son.

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  2. Little Parker has angels watching over him. I'm sure Big Parker is one of them. The Lord answers prayers in beautiful and sometimes unexpected ways. I offer a prayer for Little Parker and his family. I also offer a prayer for you and your family as well. That you may continue to support one another and see the love of the Lord in your lives.

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Hey Melissa, I was so happy to find you here; we miss you here in Paris. I think we have all felt the connections between the two Parkers; I can imagine yours cheering on Renee's as he struggled for life. And what a miracle little Parker has become! Running when we thought he would never walk. Just as he was a hero in this mortal life, I believe he continues to touch lives, keeping the ones he loves — little Parker, and you — afloat.

    Gros bisous,
    Amanda Rafi

  4. I can see your Parker cradling his namesake in the pool, in the water, whispering in his ear–"scream little boy, yell like you've never yelled before. It isn't your time to go."

    And I know there were angels in the water with your boy too, Melissa. But I can scarcely imagine their words.

  5. I believe so.

    And I also believe that the name Parker is anything but a curse. Rather, it is the greatest of blessings.

    Just like this beautiful and bittersweet story.

  6. I sit here, eating my lunch and reading this beautiful story, when I get to the end, and I am overcome. Yes, of course, Big Parker was there. His mission has not ended; it has only just begun. Thank you for sharing. It gave me perspective and the balm of the Spirit on a day when I needed it much. Blessings to you, Renee, and your families.

  7. This is so sacred. "Thank you for sharing" seems an understatement, somehow. It is an immense privilege to have a glimpse into such a searing and sanctifying and soul-stretching series of experiences in your life.

  8. Thank you for having the courage to share the things that are close to your heart. You never said anything about faith or trust in God, but your example of it is there in every line. I can't help but think of all little Parker is doing on this side of that thin veil in changing the lives of everyone who knows him for the better and that big Parker is doing the same on the other side. Thanks for inviting us random readers to be touched by both of them.

  9. Wow. Just wow.

    I just wanted you to know I think of you and your son often, after your other post about the way people respond to grieving. I have tried to be more vocal about it when I hear that people are suffering something and I am grieving with them.

    I really appreciated also that you prayed for my sister, who cut her fingers off when she was 8 months pregnant. She and the baby are both doing really well.

    I'm so happy for your friend's miracle. That is lovely, lovely.

  10. Melissa – I am posting tomorrow of three saved lives, one of which was my own. I must say, however, it is daunting to follow this sacred space. My heart is drawn out to Renee and her little Parker. And to you Melissa.

    I join the acknowledgment of two entwined worlds – mortal and immortal. I know they are layered, coexisting, one infinitely more of aware of the other. If I could say it as beautifully as Michelle L., I would. For that is precisely what I believe.

  11. So beautiful. First of all, so glad to hear little Parker is doing better. And yes, I have absolute certainty that big Parker is involved for he was a true believer in the Lord and He is the one with final say. The connection between these two Parkers seems too strong to have not been … and in the water … it astounds me. I know that Parker is looking out for everyone, there to catch them when they fall, just as he was on this earth. It was always his nature to do so.

    God bless you both and thank you for letting us in on your experience of one of God's miracles.

  12. Oh. My.

    Your comments make my heart surge. Thank you. And thank you again. How wonderful to open up a comments page, see your names, and feel like I've walked into a room of friends.

    There's more, of course, much more I could relate here (or elsewhere) of heaven's insertion into this world, of specific, powerful and sometimes intimately known hands stretching toward us through the veil. Our family has seen it and known such hands. They are real.

    But in this day of New Age angelmania and Touched By An Angel commercialization, in a day when, for a price, you can "Get Your Guardian Angel Tatooed On Your Shin!", there's justified incredulity for some. There are those (including my former self) who either don't think steadily or vividly about the larger reality inside of which our little mortal tunnel sits, and there are others who are wisely guarded about casual references to the sacred. Still others chalk it all up to loony baloney.

    But we are surrounded. It is true. To what extent the surrounding beings are allowed to intervene and save from death—or escort through death—we will not know in this life, as you wrote Heather G. But isn't it strengthening to rest in the assurance that unseen hands can and do buoy us up in whatever waters we might be in? As from this writer:

    Let us learn that we can never be lonely or forsaken in this life. Shall they forget us because they now have power to love us more? If we forget them not, shall they not remember us with god? No trial, then, can isolate us, no sorrow can cut us off from the Communion of Saints. Kneel down, and you are with them; lift up your eyes, and the heavenly world, high above all perturbation, hangs serenely overhead; only a thin veil, it may be, floats between. All whom we loved, and all who loved us, whom we still love no less, while they love us yet more, are ever near, because ever in His presence in whom we live and dwell.
    —H.E. Manning

    And for those who are not "buoyed up" from death but who are, instead, called to sink into and cross over That River, they do so held in familiar hands. Ah, Michelle, every living day I reflect on the image of which you wrote, of what those spirit beings whispered into the ear of my struggling and expiring boy. I must trust they were tender with him.

    From Charles Wesley:

    One family, we dwell in Him; One Church above, beneath;

    Though now divided by the stream, the narrow stream of death,

    One army of the living God, to His command we bow;

    Part of His host has crossed the flood, and part is crossing now.

    —C. Wesley

    Oh, I do hope Renee will slide in here at some point and share her thoughts. Her perspective is of great value.

    P.S. Amanda, so heart-warming to see your name in this box. Help take care of Little Parker there in Paris, will you please?

  13. Sweet Christina, I caught your comment just now. . .yes, you knew Big Parker in a way few did and you also know the Lord. As you wrote, He, the Lord, has the final say. Bending to that "say" is central to what we have come to earth to learn.

    I am glad that you have often experienced both the presence of your best friend, Parker, and of your Best Friend, the Lord.

  14. As a mother whose youngest is named for a dear friend who passed before his birth, I whole heartedly believe that Big Parker watches out for Little Parker. And that Little Parker feels his influence every day.

  15. I believe in angels and I believe in miracles. And Melissa, you always find the most lovely and beautiful way to pry off the lid I hold too tight on my heart. Thank you for sharing.

  16. I just wanted to add that I've been struck by how much Elder Holland has talked about angels. I think we will be delighted and perhaps surprised at how intertwined this worlds really are, that is, if we haven't already sensed that as perhaps some have.

  17. "I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and heavenly beings. We are not separate from the. We begin to realize more and more fully, as we become acquainted with the principles of the Gospel . . . that we are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors, to our friends and associates and co-laborers who have preceded us into the spirit world . . . . They see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever . . . . Their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves. As their family was their primary concern in this life so it will continue to be their primary concern on the other side of the veil. We would demean the nature of their labors in the spirit world to suppose that they had nothing more to do than to conduct daily watch over those they left behind; yet . . . on special occasions their presences will be felt . . . . In like manner our fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who have passed away from this earth, having been faithful, and worthy to enjoy these rights and privileges, may have a mission given them to visit their relatives and friends upon the earth again, bring from the divine Presence messages of love, of warning, or reproof and instruction, to those who they had learned to love in the flesh." –President Joseph F. Smith

  18. Melissa, Renee – you both have such wonderful sons. Thank you for sharing a bit of your experiences, and yourselves, with us. You are women of faith and examples to me. Thank you.

  19. One last thing…I found out today that my friend's 18-month-old grandson — with the last name of Parker — is hovering between these two worlds. If you have room in your prayers….

    p.s. Sharlee, thank you for posting that quote…it's one I have thought of often, but never seem to be able to find it.

  20. Melissa, I'm captivated by your post and even more so by your comments here. Your writing is beautiful. I re-read your comments several times because of their depth. I'm truly sorry for the tragedy you and Renee have experienced yet I'm in awe of the beauty that you have created out of it.

  21. Dalene, you can be sure that however tight the lid has been on your heart, I have an inkling of that kind of pinch. It is petrifying to share much of the treasures at the marrow of our beings. And it's safer to stuff and pack tenderness until it's dense and flat. But once in a while the risk of just cracking into a blossom is worth it. I think… I'm still pushing through different apertures of self-exposure.

    So laurieann, Yes, I will. I will. For Parker.

    And Michelle, Elder-beloved-Holland, absolutely yes. His addresses speak with forthrightness about angelic attendants. He frames the truth with such sweet nobility. No trivializing there, no. And I have room in my prayers for whomever needs those prayers. Bless that Parker boy.

    Maybe fewer of us know of these quotes from Elder Dallin H, Oaks:

    “Through the Aaronic Priesthood ordincances of baptism and the sacrament, we are cleansed of our sins and promised that if we keep our covenants we will always have His Spirit to be with us. I believe that promise not only refers to the Holy Ghost but also to the ministering of angels, for “angels’ speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ”(2 Nephi 32:3). So it is that those who hold the Aaronic priesthood open the door for all Church members who worthily partake of the sacrament to enjoy the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord and the ministering of angles.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Conf Report Oct 1998, 51)

    Or this from Elder Nelson:

    "Certainly communication through the gateway between this world and the next is not closed. Prophets and apostles treat such a transfer of intelligence as a very sacred matter, and rarely speak openly about it . I know by experiences too sacred to print that those who have gone before are not strangers to leaders of the church. To us and to you, our loved ones may be just as close as the room nearby. . ."
    Elder Russell M. Nelson

    And this one from an early church apostle, George Q. Cannon:

    "We are in reality, while in this mortality, aliens and strangers. We are far distant from our Father’s house, living in a cold world far removed from those affections which we doubtless have experienced in the spirit world, and which we will again enjoy, if we are faithful to the trust reposed in us on the earth…It is right that the ties should be strengthened between us and the spirit world. Every one who departs from this mortal state of existence only adds another link to the chain of connection—another tie to draw us nearer to our Father in Heaven and God, and to those intelligences which dwell in His presence…Those of us who have lost children (and brothers and sisters and parents)…feel an increased interest in the spirit world; the ties between such and the spirit world have become binding and we can contemplate, if not with delight, at least with no great sorrow, our removal from this state of existence to the next. In the providence of God it is right that these earthly ties should be weakened, to convince us that we are not in the condition that the Lord wishes us to remain in. We are here in a state of temptation, sin and sorrow, and he desires us to look forward to a better world, we who remain, to feel an increased interest therein, and feel stimulated to look forward with increased joy to the time when we shall be united…The Latter-Day Saints have hopes and anticipations, which none besides them can indulge in; because we have a knowledge of the Gospel which buoys us up under these earthy afflictions, and assures us that we shall be united with our friends again. It is not a matter of doubt or of speculation with us; but it is with us a matter of knowledge. God has given us the testimony of His Spirit, which bears witness to our spirits that we shall again be united with our departed friends after death."
    George Q. Cannon

    And. . . from Brigham Young:

    "Spirits are just as familiar with spirits as bodies are with bodies, though spirits are composed of matter so refined as not to be tangible to this coarser organization. . .Can you see spirits in this room? No. suppose the Lord should touch your eyes that you might see, could you then see the spirits? Yes, as plainly as you now see bodies, as did the servant of Elijah. If the Lord would permit it, and it was His will that it should be done, you could see the spirits that have departed from this world as plainly as you now see bodies with your natural eyes."
    President Brigham Young

    Well, sorry. My comments are exceeding the length of the post that started this all. Hope I'm no filibustering. . .So glad there is a place like Segullah to share things of this nature.

  22. I'm coming back to comment after a day spent thinking. As expected, Melissa, your post wrenched my wound wide open again, but the sweetness of the pain reminded me again and again of how loved we all are, how cherished we all are by our Heavenly Father and by the angels who surround us, whether living on earth or in heaven.

    My scripture study took an unexpected turn a few weeks ago. When I asked for guidance on something, I was directed to consider angels and their role in our lives: in MY life, specifically. I've been touched over and over by Heavenly Father's tender mercies as He has put talks and scriptures and now this post in my path. I am learning much.

    And Michelle L., I have often considered the angels that surrounded both my brothers that dreadful day: the one who lived and the one who didn't. Your comment took my breath away.

    Melissa, thank you for continuing to share the wisdom you've gained at such a high price.

  23. Dearest Melissa, thank you so much for sharing this with me. As one who has a new understanding of the presence of angels and nearness of the spirit world, it meant so much. I'm certain this is only one of the many miracles the Halls will see in the life of their beautiful son, and the possibility of the magnificent Parker Bradford being involved isn't at all surprising to me. I love hearing about him!

  24. Oh my! Dear sister-friends,

    I am equally touched by your grace, and humbled by your sincerity.

    Thank you to all who have commented and contributed in this "room of friends" that covers 4 corners (or at least 3-France, Singapore, and Utah..) of this great earth. It's a remarkable thing.

    Mel, you write like I wish I spoke. I speak only by obligation. AND to give thanks. It's true that more than anything, I praise Him, and I am a thankful being. Nothing I can say can BEGIN to encapsulate all of the feelings I have regarding this event, and THESE events, and these two gorgeous boys.

    C.S Lewis articulates better the meaning for me: "Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”

    Often, its not that I am discovering something, but RE-discovering something, that I've always known, deep inside by soul.

    We are surrounded by miraculous things and beings and circumstances all of the time. Yet, we don't recognize them as such. It's instances as these that allow us a chance to see these miracles at hand.

    I'm indebted to you for telling this story. For those who pray for you, and for us. I give many heartfelt, tearful thanks.

  25. Though I am rarely without words, this post left me quiet and still and thankful.

    Thank you for sharing not only your words, but your heart. Sometimes we make the veil thicker than it was meant to be.

  26. Wonderful and “ravissante” Renee. . .you cannot know, maybe, how much we love hearing your voice here. You are a living token of God’s power in our lives. Always your sister.

  27. I believe you know exactly my sentiments concerning those ever attentive angels surrounding us…including a certain red-haired angel I know. Parker continues to rescue so many of us including his little Parker namesake. Such a beautifully told tale…bless you for your wisdom and your words.

  28. I know I'm late to commenting, but I decided to check Segullah before I went off to bed and found this post and now I'm crying my eyes out.

    Angels are all around us as Elder Holland has so pointedly talked about in many General Conference talks. Most assuredly Little Parker had help from the other side in his time of need.

    Thank you for this lovely post.

  29. Lisa, I think daily—daily—of your red-haired beauty gone too soon from your side and our sight. Jocie is alive in a bigger way than we can comprehend; alive and vibrant and growing at a speed beyond to her speed on the slopes. May she often make her ministering presence known to you. . .

    A favorite thought from gifted photographer, Suse Lowenstein:

    "When I work. . .I think of all the children who were lost. Their photographs hang on the wall at the entrance to my studio. Alexander is there, too, on the other wall. I speak to him every day. I think about him all the time, even when I am thinking about something else. Funny, I think about him more now than I ever did when he was alive. His spirit is somewhere, maybe right here, in this room, right now, listening to us talk. . .Alexander wants me to hold up and carry on. Perhaps he is he spirit inside the Other Suse, the one that picks me up every time I am feeling like I can’t go on."

    Suse Lowenstein, "No Voice is Ever Wholly Lost" ed by Louise Kaplan

  30. Melissa, chiming in late here to say that once again, you've created something beautiful and holy with your post and your comments. I stand in awe.

    And I have no doubt that your Parker is close by, watching over you and yours and Renee's Parker, as well. Thank you for sharing this tender and sacred experience.

  31. my short answer is yes.

    my long answer i still have to think about. but know this: i read this hours ago and the lump in my throat is still there. this is just beautiful. something i will never forget.

  32. Yesterday our Gospel Doctrine class was about "Miracles." I sat firmly on my hands biting a trench into my tongue, so hot was my desire to Iunge out of my padded pew and blurt out the story of a certain toddler floating on his back in swimming pool in southern California.

    And you know what? I sat tight. I listened to cool, cerebral, even nonchalant analyses of "What constitutes a miracle, really?", and wanted to weep or yowl. Is it not a miracle that we take a breath after the one we are drawing in, even now?Is it not a miracle that we sit, talk, write, have a mortal trek at all? That we have friends, family, vision, air, that the flower wilts then regenerates itself to bloom afresh? I wanted to ask what a cherished friend asked me at Big Parker's funeral: What is the greater miracle; healing or comfort?

    I recall a thought from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I believe, and darned if I can't track it down for this post, but it is, paraphrased, something like this: (Forgive me , Elizabeth!)

    "The world is afire in the miraculous, but most of us spend our time picking blueberries."

    Thank you for being thoughtful respondents to this post. And thank you for being attentive eyes and ears to the miraculous which is, without question, the water upon which we all float.

  33. What is the greater miracle; healing or comfort?

    Comfort in my world is a form of healing. I think we often miss the amazing healing power of Christ when we're looking only for a linear solution to a problem, what we think we want 'fixed.' But, oh, how multi-faceted, and layered, and rich, and soul-changing other forms of His healing can be!

    That Elizabeth Barrett Browning quote is a favorite of mine. Here it is (I especially like the first part):

    "Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes – The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

  34. No miracle that Barrett Browning is better in the original than in my skimpy, counterfeit paraphrase. 😛

    Thank you, Michelle! I've print it out to memorize it and live more by its wisdom.

    And I wholly get your thinking: whether it is a broken limb or a broken soul which is patched together by healer hands makes little difference. Whether we are raised from the grave or from grave sin or grave sorrow, it is all a miracle. I know a bit of what it feels like to be figuratively resurrected, and honestly 3 years ago I would have believed this kind of "raising" less possible, even, than a full-on corporeal resurrection.

    thanks again for finding the full quote!

  35. I just stumbled upon this article, and I'm so glad I did. It is breathtaking, heartbreaking and indescribably inspiring.

    I believe Little Parker isn't the only one who has been the beneficiary of Big Parker's work on the other side of the veil.

    You and your family continue to have a significant impact upon my life, and I can't begin to explain how much I admire your faith. Thank you for making more of a difference than you will ever know.

  36. Emily,

    . . .And you an your family continue to have a significant impact on my life—our lives. Thank you for your kindnesses, for your time and words and warm presence, for feeding us (literally and figuratively) when we have been hungriest yet unable to take anything in.

    I'm grateful for people like you who live within the remembrance of holiness you've experienced. It's important, challenging and soul-replenishing.

  37. I know a Parker too and he is truly amazing. I think that name is a strong name for strong souls. When I read the part about Little Parker being in the water, even before I got to the end, I knew that it was your Parker watching over him. As I was reading I gasped and said "It was Big Parker" I strongly believe that your two families were entwined long before this earth life and will be long after.
    God bless and thank you for sharing such an intimate story.

  38. I too, had to bite my tongue during the Sunday School lesson on the 'Miracles of Jesus' on Sunday, Melissa. For a few reasons:

    1-I still "stand all amazed" that my prayer for a sign was so literally and immediately & undeniable answered in CA last summer. It seems irreverent to share in an inappropriate setting, and I'm afraid it will fall on "deaf ears" (no pun intended, of course)

    2-I wonder why I have been blessed with being the mother of a boy who has been the result of miraculous, persistent prayers. I wonder what I am to learn & teach from and about him. And amazed by how much his life has touched others. And equally amazed by the intensity of love, and being on the receiving end of so many prayers & much love is overwhelmingly humbing.

    3-I can't help but question "WHY?". WHY is it that one mother's prayer for a miracle is answered and another's is not? WHY is it that Parker F gave his life for the life of another? WHY was it that some miracles are immediate, and some take years to unravel?

    A very wise brother and friend in Sunday School questioned WHY does it seem the Miracles of Jesus were all immediate in the New Testament? Walking on water, healing the blind, or leper, or raising the dead in Copernaum. It makes you wonder if it's still in fact a miracle after years pass of asking for the miracle…

    After fully expecting the miracle of Parker's life from his meningitis diagnosis (the Stake organized a rolling 72 hour fast in his gravest moments), I was frankly surprised he did not "arise and walk". My husband, wise as he was responded, "But he did not walk before. HOw can we expect him to do so now?"

    And after meningitis attacked his ears & balance & left him with serious brain lesions, we were not sure he would ever walk at all in this life. The miracle is that faithful Saints and non-Saints continue to pray for the miracle with him. And he walks! He was nearly 2 1/2 before he walked. And now he is almost running. The miracle is, indeed, unraveling before my eyes. And its "only" taken 2 years (It's but a small moment in eternal measures, right?)

    I never thought I'd feel this "normal" again after passing through this refiner's fire. I can echo your beautiful words, too, Mel:

    “Whether we are raised from the grave or from grave sin or grave sorrow, it is all a miracle.”

    AMEN to that.

    Often my mouth is full and dripping with blackberries before I realize I am in a sacred place, standing in front of a burning bush. Thank you for helping me to recognize this in such a profound way.

    I love this!

    “Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes – The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

  39. Also, the Sunday School teacher (Rich Shurtleff) told a story of his Uncle Parker who was in a war, left for dead, toe was tagged and they were carrying him to his grave…and a nurse said, "Wait. I think that is a tear coming from his eye."

    And he lived. And had a long, successful life after that.

    So perhaps, indeed, there is something to the name? I did not know beforehand…

  40. "Often my mouth is full and dripping with blackberries before I realize I am in a sacred place, standing in front of a burning bush."

    Good heavens, Renee, shiver-me-timbers. How I love you.

    And to your #3. . . Yes, those many, many, countless and staggering MANY who do not see their worthy and well-aimed faith in a hoped-for miracle sail its full arc and pierce the bulls' eye.. .?? I have no glib answer. (thank goodness.)

    But do any of the greatest Christian philosophers?

    Those who bury theirs while others rejoice in theirs being miraculously saved, those who nurse for decades their ill while others celebrate with their miraculously healed, those who are pinned under rubble while others climb out into sunlight, those who see fortune while others rot in poverty. . If my aim is at my pin-point miracle (or as next best, at least equity for goodness sake) rather than understanding God and His will, my arrow is probably going to sail head first into disappointment and bitterness. As Christ modeled: after all is said an done, THY will de done.

    And it seems we're all at one stage or another going to either suffer or succor, and some do a whole lot of both. (I shudder, for instance, to think of my Haitian or Chilean or Chinese or Sudanese sisters whose suffering far exceeds anything I have known or can imagine. . . I shudder to think of what a certain German woman I visit taught had suffered in her life. . .)

    In either state—suffering or succoring—are we not smack dab in the middle of that burning bush?

  41. "If my aim is at my pin-point miracle (or as next best, at least equity for goodness sake) rather than understanding God and His will, my arrow is probably going to sail head first into disappointment and bitterness."


    "In either state—suffering or succoring—are we not smack dab in the middle of that burning bush?"

    Oh, yes!

  42. O, Heather O!

    Lots of waterproof everything this week. . .Big Parker's 22nd birthday is on Sunday.

    And as heaven would have it, that's the same day I'm scheduled to teach the young women of our congregation the lesson on "Eternal Families".

  43. Oh Melissa!

    You've GOT to be joking about Sunday. There is no coincidence, of course.

    I'm not sure I've ever been figuratively "jaw-open, flattened to the floor" as much as I was by once hearing my sweet, faithful, rock-solid husband tell the Director of Parker's deaf school,
    "I don't believe in chance anymore."

    I'm echoing those words, Melissa.

    I just got a request for ideas from a dear friend who has been asked to talk on "Courageous Parenting"… And whom is feeling slightly overwhelmed by this daunting task.

    I'll direct her your way.

    You and Randall define "Courageous Parenting", Mel.

    And to both Heather O, and you, I'm fresh out of waterproof mascara. Good luck, and Courage!

  44. "If my aim is at my pin-point miracle (or as next best, at least equity for goodness sake) rather than understanding God and His will, my arrow is probably going to sail head first into disappointment and bitterness. As Christ modeled: after all is said an done, THY will de done."


    "In either state—suffering or succoring—are we not smack dab in the middle of that burning bush?”

    This to me ties into what Heather just wrote about. And now I want to find that quote again about accepting whatever we have.

    Whew. So much to ponder here.

  45. I am inspired by all of your beautiful words. It is difficult to type through the flow of my tears. Have there been more miracles in our world lately, or are we just better at recognizing them? For they are all around us, every day. You have taught me well today. I am reminded of specific messages received in a time of great need from my deceased grandparents-"We are here, and we are helping."
    I love D and C 84:88
    "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."
    Love to you all.

  46. Diana (and everyone), this scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 84:88 took on personal meaning for me as a missionary so many years ago.Thank you so very much for including it above, Diana. What better application than in this true-life event ?

    As a missionary I thought I had probably learned all I could possibly learn about the reality of heavenly assistance, the way unseen helpers can at times strategically—down to the day-hour-minute and the most minute details—guide us.

    But I knew only the smallest bit, both of the availability of and the acute need for spiritual direction/life-saving. Personally, I'm right there with Renee's husband, Big John, and am so done with "coincidence" and "chance" and "luck". I believe in prophets and visionaries and priesthood, I believe in God's plan for each mortal child, and am trying, like so many of you, to reach for and tightly hold hands with the scores of ministering angels encircling us even now. From Elder Holland:

    "In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike—and they will—you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abrahams’ seed.”
    Jeffrey Holland, New Era Oct 1980

    "From the beginning down through the dispensations, God has used angels as His emissaries in conveying love and concern for His children.. . .Usually such beings are not seen. Sometimes they are. But seen or unseen, they are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private. Occasionally the angelic purpose is to warn. But most often it is to comfort, to provide some form of merciful attention, guidance in difficult times."

    Elder Jeffrey Holland,"Ministry of Angels"


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