On February 3, 2019, my dear mother passed away after a long battle with various health challenges. Though it was hard to say goodbye, in my heart I know It was a blessing that she could finally go and be relieved of her suffering, and also have the chance to meet and greet loved ones on the other side who anxiously awaited her return.
She lived a good life and was faithful to her gospel covenants. Because of her faithfulness, I have no doubt that foremost in those anxiously waiting for her return were her Heavenly Parents and her oldest Brother, even Jesus Christ. Even as I write this, I can almost hear in my mind the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Welcome home. Come now and see the place we have prepared for you!”
How is it that I can write that I have “no doubt” about anything? It is on that blessing that I wish to focus this article.
Smelling the Roses
One of the fondest memories I have with my mother was the walks we used to take together. They started when I was a little boy and continued throughout my life until she was no longer physically able take walks. I loved those walks with Mom. One thing that stands out from all of them was that as we walked, especially when I was little, she would point out the various flowers in neighborhood flower beds: petunias, zinnias, daisies, tulips, and—my favorite— roses! Whenever we came to roses, she made sure we always, always stopped and smelled them. Through that experience, she taught me to always take the time for the important things in life. For that lesson, I will be forever grateful.
Smelling the Eternal Roses
As powerful as that lesson is, the more powerful lessons came into my life because Mom taught me how to smell the eternal roses by teaching me the gospel of Jesus Christ and helping me to know how to grasp those things that are most important from an eternal perspective.
As soon as I could speak, she taught me how to pray. She helped me to know and understand that I am God’s child, and that He, as my loving Father, wants to hear from me. She also taught me about Jesus, that He is my Savior and friend. She reinforced her teachings through music by helping me learn beloved primary songs such as “I Am a Child of God,” “Teach Me to Walk in the Light,” “Tell me the Stories of Jesus,” “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam,” “Jesus Said Love Everyone,” and so many others. She had a beautiful soprano voice through which the Spirit carried those messages to my heart.
I felt love and peace when I was with my mother, which engendered great trust in her teachings. She helped me to recognize and know that those feelings of love and peace come from the Holy Ghost who teaches us the truth of all things. Through that power, as a little boy, I had sweet experiences with God and Christ and knew and tasted of their goodness.
Mom also helped me to learn to love the scriptures and through them I came to know and love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I still have vivid memories of her telling me the stories of Jesus from the New Testament, as well as stories from the Old Testament about Joseph, David, Daniel, and others. Perhaps most vividly, I remember sitting on her lap and turning the pages from one of the volumes in our Illustrated Stories from the Book of Mormon set. When I was too young to read the stories myself, she read or told them to me. When I learned to read, I would spend time reading them myself. How I loved the stories of Lehi, Nephi, King Benjamin, Mosiah and his sons, Alma, and especially Captain Moroni! All of these good men, along with Mormon, Helaman, the other Nephis, the prophet Moroni, and many others helped me grow in my understanding and love of Jesus Christ and my appreciation for Him and His marvelous Atonement.
From all of these stories, I learned about faith, courage, the importance of service, obedience, perseverance, giving love, and many other gospel principles. I also learned of the attendant promises that come along with them.
I could go on for a long time about Mom’s eternal-rose-smelling lessons. I could speak of her effort to ensure we read the scriptures as a family and had family home evening, often in the face of opposition from my dad, who, though a good man, wasn’t super supportive if it was football season. I could speak of Mom’s example of serving in the Church and serving others, of paying tithes and fast offerings, of sacrifice and putting others first. I could speak of her example of courage following divorce and her example of faith and determination as she went back to school to earn a degree in Special Education. I could speak of her example of faithfulness to temple covenants and trust in the Lord as she struggled through years of loneliness. I could speak of her example of humility and gratitude for the multitude of tender mercies God extended toward her in blessing her to meet my wonderful stepfather. I could speak of her faithful endurance to the end through years of illness that left her mostly bed-ridden.
So, how can say I know something without a doubt? I can say it because Mom helped me smell the eternal roses by teaching me that:
- I am a Child of God
- Jesus is the Christ
- The scriptures, including the Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price are the word of God
- Service is a blessing and as we serve others, we serve God
- Obedience to God’s commandments and perseverance in trials bring happiness and joy in this life and eternal happiness in the life to come
- Gratitude and humility bring great joy
- By and through the Holy Ghost, we can know the truth of all things
As I have striven to put my mother’s teachings into practice—as I’ve planted those teachings and nourished them—I have come to know by the power of the Holy Ghost that what she taught me is true. I know that for myself, for not only has the Holy Ghost touched my heart when I listened to my mother, but He has carried the truthfulness of her teachings into my heart as I’ve applied them in my life and seen and experienced for myself the blessings that have come.
I’ve also seen the joy and happiness that those same teachings have brought into the lives of my children and others within my sphere of influence as I’ve passed Mom’s teachings along and they have applied them in their lives.
I know God lives and loves us. May He bless each of us with the ability to see and smell the eternal roses in our lives. May He grant that as we find the joy and happiness that smelling the eternal roses brings into our own lives, we will be filled with desire to share them with our families and those around us.
Randall McNeely is a husband, father of five, and author. He is also a singer/songwriter and has written several patriotic songs, children’s songs, and multiple religious hymns. The best known is 'Oh Jesus, Savior of Mankind', which won a Special Recognition award in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 2008 Music Submission contest. He and two of his daughters have also recorded and released the children’s song Everybody Speaks Smile! Randy has a firm testimony of Jesus Christ. He is the light and the life of the world. It is said and written of Him that "He went about doing good." In doing so, He weaved light into the hearts and souls of all with whom He came in contact, both in word and deed. Randy's desire is to have the same said of him. He wants to have the words and lyrics he writes uplift, inspire, and bless others. To read more articles by Randy visit his Pure Testimony website at www.puretestimony.org.