It’s really impossible to write about anything else, so you’ll have to indulge me. About twenty-five years ago I was eight years old. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, that means I could consider baptism. I wanted to be baptized in my childlike desire to be like Jesus. My older brother was 16 and worthy to be a priest. In our church young men have increasing opportunities to serve in the priesthood. At 16, if they believe in Christ and are worthy (meeting basic requirements like keeping the Word of Wisdom—a commandment that teaches healthy practices–and staying chaste), they can baptize. My parents thought it would be great if he, Karl, could baptize me. I was fine with that.
One thing you have to know about all of my other brothers…I guess maybe they teased us…but I don’t remember that at all. I’ve talked with my sister and my mom and neither of us have any remembrance of hardly any teasing at all. They were great older brothers. Yes they did out vote us on some things, and I’m sure they must have said some things…but it was fairly mild. That’s part of what makes this memory stand out; it is the only teasing I can remember.
Fast forward to the day of my baptism…I’m excited. I was wearing a beautiful dress. My grandma had curled my hair with rag curlers (before I get immersed in water because…because). All the way to the baptism my brothers were suggesting that Karl dunk me, or hold me under or some other such thing that he had done many times in our pool. This was far from what I expected or anticipated for baptism. I was already nervous at taking such a step, and started to worry.
At the church my dad pulled my brother aside. As a parent now I would have loved to be a fly on that wall to hear what was said.
All I know is that after a song and a prayer and probably somebody saying something about baptism, I found myself standing with my mom at the top of the stairs, to walk down into the baptismal font. My brother was waiting down in the font. He stretched out his hand and, in a gentlemanly manner I didn’t anticipate, carefully guided me down the steps. He was sweet. He was tender. Who was this guy? Where was the dirt and noise and action? I was used to love being a little more like being included in the fort or the football game. This was far different.
He pronounced the prayer carefully, with a tremulous voice. He was nervous. This was important to him too. He was trying. The soft pressure of his hand on my back lifting me out of the water is how I began my understanding of the priesthood. He was and is very much my brother. He still voted that we leave all of our friends and move closer to the beach so he could surf. He still loved practical jokes and parties and his Fiat (fix it again tomorrow, which he did).
But he was also trying, in his 16-year-old way, to honor his priesthood and to act in a way that would be pleasing to God. I learned from Him that imperfect people can do amazing things. Which is great because I am very much flawed, perhaps I also have a place to serve in God’s kingdom.
Why do I share this personal memory today? Because this brother is barely clinging to life right now. After almost three years of testing and surgeries and the best possible medical care, there are still no good ideas as to what exactly is the problem. We are left with memories and questions and each other and faith.
About Britt Kelly
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.