Almost twenty years ago my sweet Hubby and I stood alone in a breathtakingly beautiful room. From the ceiling hung an enormous crystal chandelier. Natural morning light spilled in from the windows along the wall. In the center of the room stood an altar where minutes before he and I had made sacred promises to God and each other meant to last forever. Chairs surrounded the room and we could still feel the warmth of the bodies who'd been there to see us married in the Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - family both nuclear and extended, mission companions, roommates, co-workers, people who love us.
Alone in that room, we had been encouraged to look into the two prominent ornate mirrors hung across from one another on opposite walls. It seemed as if we were looking into eternity. Behind us, the mirror represented the past and all the people who'd gotten us to this point - our parents, their parents, and beyond that, our ancestors who'd given all to come to a place where they could worship God freely. In front of us, the mirror represented all that lay ahead of us - our family, yet to be created, and their families . . . generations of future Travis and Samantha Lee posterity. I recall feeling sheer joy in that moment and having tears spring to my eyes, wiped away by the man I have now called my husband for twenty-three days shy of twenty years.
As we walked out the door of that sealing room all those years ago, hand in hand, giddy with excitement, we literally ran smack into an apostle of the Lord. Elder L. Tom Perry towered above us, his 6 foot 4 frame dressed all in white, his trademark wide smile spread across his face.
"Well, what do we have here?" he asked in his husky well-known-to-us voice, still smiling.
My own voice, high pitched and a little squeaky from a mixture of astonishment and excitement blurted out, "WE JUST GOT MARRIED!!!!"
"I think I already knew that," he said with a wink. "Well then, I hope your marriage and life will be blessed and full of joy." Then he shook our hands and walked away.
That moment seemed to the Hubby and I to be a sign of sorts that we were indeed off to the best start possible and would have, if we kept the promises we'd made that day, a wonderful life together.
Elder Perry passed away this weekend after a swift battle with cancer. The minute I heard the news, I immediately thought back to my wedding day and the wonderful gift he'd given to Travis and I by simply stopping to talk to us in the hall of the Holy Temple mere minutes after we'd been married. Oh how I loved this man! His goodness has touched my life in so many ways. I know that he truly was a called and ordained apostle of God who spent his life in serving as a special witness of the Savior Jesus Christ.
I went back to the address he gave just a two short months ago in General Conference and was touched by the last subject he chose to share with the world: Why Marriage and Family Matter - Everywhere in the World. He said:
"We believe that marriage and family ties can continue beyond the grave -- that marriages performed by those who have the proper authority in His temples will continue to be valid in the world to come. Our marriage ceremonies eliminate the words "till death do us part" and instead say, "for time and for all eternity".
Let me close by bearing witness (and my nine decades on this earth fully qualify me to say this) that the older I get, the more I realize that family is the center of life and is the key to eternal happiness. Of this truth I bear my strongest and most sacred witness"I am so profoundly grateful for Elder L. Tom Perry. It is his wish to us on our wedding day, in the beginning of our life together that has always helped me try to make of it a life filled with blessings and joy. His continued words, advice and counsel in General Conferences throughout my life have been a guide and a blessing to me. It is with great sorrow and great admiration that we mark the passing of his life.
PS. Thanks, Mom, for encouraging me to write this story down.
[photo courtesy of lds.net]