The last Saturday in September of 2010 was not one of my finest moments. It was the night of the General Relief Society Meeting and I did not want to go. Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels this way sometimes. After all, my husband and daughter were going to play with our horses, and I had to put on a skirt and go to the stake center for a meeting? Ugh. Such was my attitude that day.
But, I went. And the address given by President Monson that evening is one I have cherished ever since. The talk was entitled, “Charity Never Faileth,” but the message I took away had little to do with that topic. Instead, I learned something incredibly reassuring about the worth of souls in the sight of our Heavenly Father.
My daughter has a chronic illness. You’d never know it to look at her, but there are a lot of things her body puts her through that just aren’t fair. As a mother, watching her struggle has been excruciating at times and is my biggest challenge. That evening I sat there in tears listening to President Monson as it seemed he told a story for the sole purpose of calming my troubled heart.
The story was about a woman named Mary Bartels. She rented rooms to patients of the hospital across the street from her home. One day a “truly awful-looking old man” came to the door needing a place to stay. He had been turned away from other homes because of his appearance, but Mary had compassion on him and set up a cot because her rooms were filled. The man continued to return to her home over the years, always bringing gifts for Mary and her family. Mary was blessed to get to know the man and learn what a beautiful soul he had. I now quote the rest of the story from President Monson’s telling:
After the man passed away, Mary was visiting with a friend who had a greenhouse. As she looked at her friend’s flowers, she noticed a beautiful golden chrysanthemum but was puzzled that it was growing in a dented, old, rusty bucket. Her friend explained, “I ran short of pots, and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn’t mind starting in this old pail. It’s just for a little while, until I can put it out in the garden.”
Mary smiled as she imagined just such a scene in heaven. “Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might have said when He came to the soul of the little old man. “He won’t mind starting in this small, misshapen body.” But that was long ago, and in God’s garden how tall this lovely soul must stand!
I was moved that evening picturing my own especially beautiful soul living in a body that is far less than ideal. She, too, will one day stand tall in God’s garden. In the meantime, she is an example to me by making the best of every day and being happy in spite of circumstances outside her control. No matter the condition of her physical frame, she is growing something beautiful on the inside. The light of our Savior shines brightly through her and I am humbled and blessed that she was sent to our home.
The metaphor of the golden chrysanthemum meant so much to me that I found a dented, old, rusty pail and with my daughter planted a beautiful flower. We listened to President Monson’s story and hopefully the meaning will stay with her as it stayed with me. I highly encourage you to listen to this talk and hear him tell the story in his own magnificent way.
Farewell, President Monson. I thought the best tribute I could give you was to share how much it meant to me when you calmed my troubled mother’s heart and gave me something I can reflect on time after time. You were truly a man of God and I will cherish you forever for giving me a new perspective and turning my sorrow into hope for a brighter day.
By Stephanie Gifford