Hope's Funeral - Marinda's Talk

On January 24, 2005, Mike and I learned the possibility that our unborn daughter showed signs for a genetic disorder “incompatible with life”. Trisomy 18 affects 1 in 8000 to 1 in 3000 births (depending on the statistics that you read). Our little girl’s signs included disproportionate heart ventricles, a large cyst on the brain, restricted blood flow in the umbilical cord and a significant delay in development. Receiving this news was devastating. What was supposed to be an exciting day—getting our official ultrasound—turned into a nightmare. We entered the doctor’s office two young people excited to have a baby and left full fledged parents with all the love, worry and fears any parent has for his or her child. The next weeks forced Mike and me to reflect seriously on our testimonies of eternal families and to learn to rely on and love each other with greater depth.

Three days after learning this news we visited the temple. We went to find peace and answers and also to choose a name for our little angel. We had always leaned towards the name Elizabeth, but with the recent developments Mike had suggested the name Hope. At the temple, we chose the name Hope Elizabeth Wessman.

In the days and weeks since I have been drawn to scriptures and thoughts related to the principle of hope. The first to come to mind is found in Ether 12:4. I was familiar with this verse because seven years ago in Osorno, Chile, two of my sweet Chilean sisters read this verse as my companion and I taught them. “…Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world….” The spirit taught them that by following the gospel of Jesus Christ, they could be assured of the hope of a better world and a better life. I have always loved this phrase of scripture, but now it holds an extra special meaning to me. I know that because of our belief in Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, we can with absolute surety hope for a better world. And although the world to come will certainly encompass the ultimate in “better worlds”, I don’t think that we have to wait until the next life. My life on earth is better no doubt because of the belief I have in a loving Father in Heaven. This verse in Ether continues by explaining that our hope and faith serve as an “anchor to the souls of men.” I testify that my testimony and my hope for a better world with my husband and children, including Hope, are the only things that can anchor my soul during times such as these.

Hours after receiving the official diagnosis of Hope’s condition on February 9, I read parts of a chapter in a book written by Elder John H. Groberg [General Authority for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]. His remarks teach that “There is Always Hope.” I looked up the scriptures he referred to and was especially touched by the New Testament verse found in 1 Corinthians 15:19. It reads, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Now, I am not advocating that we change the scriptures, but I couldn’t help but reread this verse “If in this life only we have Hope Elisabeth, we are of all men most miserable.” Our time with our daughter was limited. If the time with her on this earth was all we had to look forward to, then I will be forever miserable, but I know that a merciful Creator has prepared the Great Plan of Happiness that will allow us to avoid that misery. Because of our marriage in the temple, Mike and I will have Hope for eternity. There is more than this life and because of that we can rejoice and give ultimate thanks to our Heavenly Father. I testify of the power in temples to seal our families together for eternity.

As the weeks passed, Mike and I worried and grieved with the fears regarding our daughter’s health. As we experienced this sorrow, however, the Spirit was rich in our lives and continually bore testimony to us of our Father’s awareness of our situation. For example, at one point, when Mike was on a business trip, he visited the San Diego Temple. He found himself reading in the Book of Luke in the New Testament. He called me that night and told me that he felt we needed to spell Hope’s middle name with an “s” just like Elisabeth in the New Testament. I asked him why he felt that and he asked me to read Luke chapter 1, verse 37. It simply reads “for with God nothing shall be impossible.” As I read verses surrounding this verse, I realized that I was reading the account of Mary and her cousin Elisabeth, both with child, carrying Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. Both of these stories carried with them incredible miracles! I knew that Hope’s life would be surrounded by miracles, whether they be in her life or in the lives of her family members.

Just as January 24th was perhaps the most difficult day of my life, May 14th competes as one of the best. The Spirit that I felt as Hope entered the world was absolutely beautiful. Her earthly life was short—not more than 45 minutes long, but even after her Spirit left her body, I felt of her sweet presence with us. Mike and I were privileged to hold her and keep her with us for several hours after her passing. During that time we desired to share with her experiences that we may feel we were missing out on as a family. We said family prayers; we sang songs and told her stories. We shared favorite scriptures. I shared with her verses found in 2 Nephi 2:8-9. They read:

    Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

    Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is glorious! And because of it all of us will be resurrected.

Mike shared with Hope and me the beautiful account of Christ blessing the children as He visited the Nephites.

I close with a well-loved verse from the Book of Mormon:

    Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. (2 Nephi 31:20)

For Mike and I, as well as other members of our family, the life of Hope Elisabeth has provided a perfect brightness in our lives. She has helped us to strengthen our love of God and of all men. It is my prayer that I will press forward always feasting upon the words of Christ because my greatest desire is to have eternal life with my husband and children.

I testify of Jesus Christ. He lives and He loves us. He will always bless us with the support, strength and comfort that we need. Elder David E. Sorenson of the Seventy said in last month’s General Conference that “the key is to remember that faith and obedience are still the answers—even when things go wrong, perhaps especially when things go wrong.” Perhaps our prayers were not answered in the way we had hoped, but out prayers were heard and answered. And I know that according to the Lord’s will and timing things went especially right.

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