Spending Thursday nights studying is never fun, especially as a 15-year-old. It was about 10:00 PM when my dad came in my room as I was banging my head against my biology book. Beginning to laugh, he made me a deal in hopes to motivate me. He told me If I studied for ten more minutes, he would take me to lunch after my test tomorrow. Who doesn’t love leaving school early and getting free food with your best friend?! I went to bed that night anxiously awaiting the exam in which I thought would be the most significant test of my life. Little did I know the Lord had a different test in mind.
Friday morning approached and after I submitted my test I rushed to my seat to text my dad that I was finished. Seconds later a voice echoed over the intercom and said, “Can we have Shaleese White down to the office to check out.” I eagerly gathered my things and rushed down the stairs. I was halfway down the last set of stairs and surprisingly saw my aunt standing in the hall instead. I had a strange, comforting feeling, almost peaceful and at the same time, I instantly knew something was wrong. Her first sentence to me was, “Shaleese we need to go to the hospital, it’s your dad, we need to hurry.” I began frantically asking questions and she wouldn’t answer. All she would say is, “we just need to get to the hospital.” It was as if everything turned into slow motion. The car ride, any words said to me, my thoughts, flashbacks of last night, walking into the hospital, seeing my mom sobbing, everything was slow motion. My mom walked over to me and the words “he’s gone” raced through my head. I felt numb. I kept repeating over and over “it’s not true, it’s a bad dream.” I went home that day with every emotion, however, anger was the leading one. How could God do this to me, to my family? How could God take my best friend? I do everything I am supposed to. I read, pray, pay tithing, do service, etc. Why am I being punished? This anger developed into hatred. I wanted nothing to do with the church I had just joined almost 5 years prior. Being a convert I thought I had developed a strong testimony, I thought I had faith to overcome mountains. At this moment I felt the Lord turned on me and I felt helpless and even worse, furious.
Monday morning finally arrived, and I went back to school. I wanted to get away from the sadness that lingered my home. I had seminary second period. I went but left halfway through. I slowly stopped going to church, youth activities, seminary, reading scriptures, and anything related to the gospel. Everyone justified my actions at first. “She just lost her dad, it’s understandable” or “give her a break she is tired of people asking how she is” and my personal favorite “she’s going through a phase, she’ll grow out of it.” I stopped caring about everything. I went from being a 4.0 student to barely passing. This digression went on through my junior year. I started hanging out with different friends who chose to drink, party, and not care about consequences. I stopped caring about life and my future. I used my seminary period to get a Jamba Juice or lunch, church on Sunday became a 3-hour nap time, attending school was merely a social thing, and I was not on track to graduate, I just didn’t care anymore. I was infested with anger.
Almost the end of my junior year I had a friend bribe me to go to seminary. She said if I went with her she would buy me an aloha pineapple Jamba Juice… my biggest weakness. After 30 minutes of trying to convince me, I caved. That day changed my life. The lesson was on trials and enduring to the end. Majority of the class was spent reading 2 Nephi 31, but the two verses that hit me like a spiritual train was 2 Nephi 31: 19-20.
“(19) And now beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this straight and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ, with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. (20) Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfast 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.”
This started the uphill battle to turning my life back around. I cried the entire day after that. I prayed for the first time in almost 2 years that day. I reflected on that dreadful day when I lost my best friend. I always angrily questioned where the Lord was during the worst day of my life. How could He just sit and watch my world fall apart? After reflecting I realized that He was there the whole time. I thought about how I came down the stairs and saw my aunt, the strange, comforting feeling I instantly felt. The Lord was trying to help me through it before I even knew what was to come. He never left my side. He patiently waited as I spent two years being unhappy, angry, and blaming Him for all the things that went wrong that day and the next two years. I am by no means perfect now. I still make mistakes, I fall asleep reading scriptures, I miss church sometimes, and I forget to pray and many other errors. That is the most significant thing of this gospel, is knowing no matter where you are in life the Lord loves you and will forgive you. He does not put us through trials to merely watch us struggle, or hope we figure it out on our own. We have trials regardless of what we believe in, however, what we believe in can make the trials bearable and conquerable.
Losing a loved one is never easy, no one is ever fully prepared, and no one deserves it. Death is something we will have to deal with in one way or another, but it is a helpless life event. So, when it happens, be mad, be angry, be sad, cry, scream, ask questions, yell, BUT remember to grasp the Lord with everything you have. I know that the Lord loves us and I know this gospel is true. I know that I can return to him and be with my family forever someday. I know that I can do all things through Christ.
Here I am almost nine years later (next week), and I can say it doesn’t get easier, you simply get stronger. I still miss my dad, I still cry sometimes, I still wonder what it would be like if he was still here. However, I don’t have anger towards God anymore, I don’t block out the loving arms of a savior who lives me. I am about to graduate with my master’s degree, working for Real Salt Lake as a certified/ licensed athletic trainer, teaching sunbeams, 24 and still falling asleep at night reading scriptures and being so grateful for what I’ve experienced and the helping hand I had through it all. Life will hand you situations where you want to throw in the towel and give up; you might even do just that. It’s never too late to turn around. The Lord’s hand is always extended, and in reach, you just have to look up and grab it.