I knew from a very young age that there was something different about my mom.
When I was about 10, I learned what it was: my mom was addicted to drugs. Soon after that, I began to learn that my mom also suffered from severe mental health issues. Though she was one of the most loving people I had ever known her struggle consumed who she was.
For the next two decades of my life, despite my efforts, there was little I could do to help her through this life. I did everything I could within my abilities and knowledge and capacity, but it never seemed to be enough. I couldn’t ever do or say the right things to save her, to heal her, or to help her find peace.
Then in 2013, when I was 31 years old, my mom took her own life.
When she died, despite being devastated, I felt a very personal confirmation of peace from the Spirit that I had done everything I could to help her in this life. I knew Christ had her and that He was taking over the work that I could not complete.
As I was preparing for her memorial, I came across a scripture in the fourteenth chapter of John where Christ is speaking to his people and teaching them that He is the way. In the twenty-seventh verse Christ says,
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
As I read those words, I felt that I didn’t need to be afraid. I knew that Christ was with her and was taking over. He would save her. He would heal her. He would help her find peace and that He was with me giving my heart the peace and understanding that it so desperately needed. Even though I did feel that peace there was always a part of me that wished, and still wishes, I could have done more. I will never stop wishing she could have been saved in this life and ultimately that she was still here.
It never escapes me all the things she is missing. Baseball games, birthday parties, weekend sleepovers, backyard barbeques, and even though I regularly feel her with me, it just will never be the same as if she was actually here. My children will never know her in this life and that is something I will never get over. But I also have great faith, unshakeable faith, that all things happen for a reason and that someday we will be given the knowledge we need to understand the “why’s” of this life. I know that she is where she truly needs to be and that our time away from each other is just a chapter in our eternal lives.
Just as it says in the book of Ecclesiastes, I believe “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
After she had been gone for about a year, my family started talking about performing her temple work. I knew this was an important thing to do but I felt emotionally conflicted. There was something that felt rushed. At first, I thought it was me and part of it probably was. I needed time. Time to reconcile my own feelings and to navigate my emotions about what had happened. Time to make peace with her death. Time to forgive her for how it all happened. There was something keeping me from moving forward and going to the temple for her, but it wasn’t just me and my own emotions, something else was holding me back.
Then suddenly, one year turned into two, and then three and then four. Each year as her birthday and the anniversary of her death passed, I felt a pang of guilt for not doing her work but I felt an even stronger impression that the time still wasn’t right.
“It’s coming, but not yet. Keep waiting.”
It was a thought in my mind over and over. Like a whispering from the Lord.
In 2017, there was a song released by the artist ke$ha that spoke the words of my heart,
“I hope you’re somewhere prayin’. I hope your soul is changin’. I hope you find your peace, Falling on your knees, prayin.’”
I would sit in the car listening to that song with tears flowing down my cheeks. Again hoping. Hoping she was finding redemption. Hoping she was letting Christ work His mighty atonement in her life.
In the summer of 2018, we were on a family vacation with my aunt and uncle’s family in a place that my mother had loved as a child. A place she always said she had so many fond memories of. A place she had been happy. One day while we were there, my aunt pulled me aside and told me that she wanted to talk to me for a minute. She told me that she had a very vivid dream about my mom the night before. In her dream she had seen my mom as though she was here on this vacation with our family and my mom had pulled her aside and had looked at her so clearly and told her, “Tell Abbey I am ready.” My aunt knew she was talking about her temple work. I knew she was talking about her temple work.
After that vacation, thoughts of my mother started flooding me more strongly than they ever had since she had been gone. I found myself thinking of her more often. Thinking of a life with her by my side.
A few weeks later I was studying in Alma 34:32-35 where it talks about how this life is the time to prepare to meet God and how “that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.”
In verse 35 it reads, “…if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you.”
The first time that I studied these scriptures I, understandably, felt fear for her and her future. But as I dug deeper into the scriptures, I came across an explanation given by President Harold B. Lee.
He said, “To those who die in their wicked state, not having repented, the scriptures say the devil shall seal them as his own, which means that until they have paid the uttermost farthing for what they have done, they shall not be redeemed from his grasp. When they have been subjected to the buffetings of Satan sufficient to have satisfied justice, then they shall be brought forth out of the grasp of Satan and shall be assigned to that place in our Father’s celestial, terrestrial, or telestial world merited by their life upon this earth.” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, page 59)
I immediately understood the season of waiting. She was doing the work she needed to do. She was satisfying the debt so she could proceed to the place where she really belonged.
Throughout our journey in this life, we won’t always see how the pieces of our lives fit together. In fact, we rarely will, until much later, if at all but I know now the reason it didn’t feel right to do her temple work before was that there was still work being done on the other side. She was healing. She was learning. She was preparing.
But the season of waiting was over. It was time and she was ready.
After those two experiences, It seemed that the prompting to do my mothers temple work grew and grew. Nearly every spiritual experience had a connection to her. We decided to do her work on her birthday. It was six months away, but it felt right.
In those six months, so many tender experiences happened that further proved to me that she was ready. One day my cousin, Candy, and I were casually talking about parenting and motherhood. I had jokingly said to her that I am a far better mother than I should be given my childhood. I told her I credit it all to God and His influence. Candy quickly without hesitation said to me, “It isn’t just God. It’s your mom too. She is mothering you now in a way she couldn’t before.”
Was that true? I wanted to believe it was. As I continued to think about it for days, I realized just how badly I wanted to believe it was true.
As a mother myself, with little to no training, there have been so many times where knowledge and abilities that are outside my experience have come to me. I’m better at parenting than I should be. I have found myself being able to talk to and teach my kids in ways that just shouldn’t be possible given the childhood that I had and my lack of experience and example to follow.
After Candy shared her thoughts with me, I couldn’t help but wonder if who I am as a mother in this life was because of the guidance and influence of a Father in Heaven who I know loves me and my knowledge of the gospel and because of the unrecognized influence of my own mother. Was she strengthening me here? Did she now have the ability to be the mother to me that she had not been able to be when she was alive?
I felt confident in the truth of this. God had worked bigger miracles in my life than this, so it made no sense to doubt His capacity to bless me with this as well.
The Sunday after that conversation with Candy, I found myself in a church meeting I wouldn’t normally have had the chance to go to because I am usually teaching primary. However, that Sunday none of our kids were there, which had never happened before. The discussion in that meeting was on temples and it was as if it was specifically meant for me.
Brother Fillmore, who was the father-in-law of our Bishop and in the Temple Presidency at the Salt Lake Temple, talked about how thin the veil is between heaven and earth in the temple and how there is no place that we can more strongly sense the presence of those who have gone before us than when we are in the temple. He talked about how he goes to the temple often, almost selfishly, because of what is there and who is there and his desire to be near them.
At that moment, I realized that while she isn’t here and she won’t ever physically be here in this life in the temple I can be nearer to her than in any other place in the world. I understood that despite my desires and best efforts to do more for her in this life I hadn’t been able to save her. But I could still do something for her. I could complete this sacred work for her. The work that would bring us back together. It took time, much needed time, but she did what she needed to do on the other side to prepare herself so we can feel the influence of each other in the temple. We can have a connection with each other until we meet again.
Those six months passed so quickly and the day of her birthday came. It was time.
I decided to go alone to do her initiatory ordinance by myself. It was a chance for it to be just her and me in the temple together. I was understandably nervous as I headed towards the temple. I sat in the parking lot of the temple and said a quick prayer, “God, let me find a friendly face.”
No more than 30 seconds later, God answered my prayer.
Walking 10 steps ahead of me into the temple was my friend, Peg. I can’t think of a more perfect answer to my prayer than her. Her warm smile and her tight hug were exactly what I needed to calm my nerves. Peg is about my mom’s age and has more than once stepped into mother me when I have needed it. She has provided me with spiritual confidence and guidance that I have needed. She has been an example to follow as I navigate how to be a good mom. None of which I even think she realizes. She has mothered me just by loving me and being who she is.
She asked me what I was doing and I said, “I’m here to do my mom’s work.” She hugged me again and we walked into the temple together.
Moments later, I found myself sitting on a stool quietly waiting for my turn. I held my mom’s temple card and brushed my fingers across it over and over. I suddenly felt completely overcome with emotion. In that moment, I realized that I was feeling all my own emotions. Tears poured out of me and down my face. I felt it all. The sadness, the pain, the anger, the loss, the missing her, the broken heart. I don’t know how long I sat there, but it felt like time was frozen. Frozen so that I could have the time I so desperately needed to have a moment with my own feelings. Time to let my grief pour out of me.
The temple worker opened the curtain and held out her hand. She looked at the temple card and at my red, tear-filled eyes and asked me if I was doing work for someone I knew. “My mom,” I told her. She squeezed my hand and smiled at me. As I completed the initiatory at each point this sweet woman told the workers, “This is her mom.” Each woman poured love and support over me as I sat there with tears streaming down my face. With each step, I felt so supported by these women and their tender hearts.
Beautifully as the initiatory began something changed in the tears that I shed. They were no longer about me. They were no longer mine. They were the power of the Spirit flowing out of me. After I said my moms name for the first time, it felt as though a weighted blanket had been wrapped around me. I could physically feel it even though it wasn’t actually there. The weight was heavy. One I can scarcely describe. But this was different than anything I had felt before. It was a heavy weight of peace.
When my mom died and many other times in my life when I had felt peace, it was like a weight being lifted. A lightness. But this time I could feel an all-encompassing strength of peace bearing down on me.
There was a point in the initiatory where the temple workers discuss sins being forgiven and clarity of mind being restored. These words struck me in a way they had never done before when I had been in the temple. These were two things that were so core to what my mom struggled with and what she so desperately needed to overcome.
I imagine the feelings I felt were just as powerful for her as she watched me complete this work for her from the other side. It was then that I heard almost a faint whisper of her voice behind me, “You’re here! You’re here! You’re really here!” I could hear the excitement in her voice. She was healthy. She was healed. She was the mom I remember before everything went so terribly wrong.
As I finished, I walked through the final curtain and again God answered my parking lot prayer. Peg was there again. My so needed friendly face. I don’t know if she was intentionally waiting for me or if her turn had just not come yet. Nonetheless, she was there with her warm smile. She stood up and gave me an even tighter hug than the two before and I felt myself melt into a puddle of emotions in her arms.
As I walked away from her, the temple workers took my moms temple card and stamped the date on it. They all hugged me as I headed out. I looked down at the date wanting to remember every moment of the experience. There it was. March 20th. Her birthday. This part was done.
So that my family could all be there, we had decided to perform her endowments the next day, so I would come back the next day to finish.
As I walked out of the temple and headed towards my car, my mom’s best friend came to my mind. Pamela was the woman that I think my mom always wished she could have been. She is an amazing wife, a wonderful mother, a light and a joy to so many, and has lived the life that I know my mom always wanted for herself. I realized with the chaos of planning it had slipped my mind to invite her to come.
I sent her a quick message, letting her know that I realized it was completely last minute but I would love her to be there. She messaged me back a little while later and let me know that she had been able to rearrange her schedule and that both she and her husband would be there.
The next day, I felt myself mostly lost in my own thoughts. Thoughts of the importance of temple work, thoughts of the atonement, thoughts of redemption and thoughts of my mom. It seemed that no matter what I was doing each thought and each moment made its way back to her.
As I got ready, I quietly listened to my favorite spiritual music. A song from Lauren Daigle came on that seemed hand-picked for the day. The lyrics said,
You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be
Though I fall, You can make me new
From this death, I will rise with You
Oh the grace reaching out for me
How can it be
How can it be
It was as though my mom was speaking the words. I knew she now understood the answer. Through Him. Through Christ. How can it be? Through Him anything can be.
When it was time, Tyson and I made our way to the temple. After walking in together, we went our separate ways towards the dressing rooms. After changing, I made my way into the chapel. The first thing I saw was the friendly faces of my mom’s older brother, Richard and his wife, Joan’l.
I headed towards them and sat next to my uncle. I suddenly felt hands touch my shoulders from behind me and a familiar voice say, “I am so happy we can be here with you.” It was Pamela. I stood up to hug her. Tears flowed down my cheeks with gratitude of her being there, but I also felt the tears of a long-awaited reunion. I knew that my mom was so grateful to have her very best friend in the temple to stand next to me.
I sat down again and pulled out the temple card. Again, I brushed my fingers across my mom’s name. My uncle asked if he could hold the card. I could tangibly feel the emotion of that moment for him. So many times in the last years of my mom’s life when things were the hardest, he and my aunt had been the ones who had stood beside me. They had held my hands as hard decisions were made and shouldered the burden of her situation with me. There wasn’t a single hard thing that I went through with her that they weren’t there supporting me. I knew that his feelings were just as tender and overwhelming as mine were.
Over the next few minutes, our family all made their way in. Her siblings and many nieces and nephews. We were all together for her. I remember all these same faces from the day that we stood at her grave and said goodbye to her. But today was different. Today was not about the sorrow of saying goodbye. Today was about the joy of being reunited to each other. Her death had pulled us apart and broken our hearts, but the temple was bringing us back together and healing us all.
When it was time to start, we all walked into the endowment room together. I saw my aunt Joan’l a few steps behind me and asked her to sit next to me. As she sat down, it hit me how much sense it made that she would be the one sitting next to me. In more ways than anyone else, Joan’l has filled my mom’s place since she passed away. She has been the one who has stood next to me, supported me, and guided me as a mother would do. It felt incredibly right to have her be the one sitting next to me now.
Throughout the entire endowment, I, once again, felt blanketed in that heavy weight of peace. I listened more intently to everything then I had ever done before. I wanted to soak in every moment as I sat as a proxy for my mom.
I could feel and hear her there. Throughout the endowment each time I spoke, I couldn’t hear my own voice, I could only hear my mom’s. Each time I moved my hands or arms, it was like her hands and arms were rested against mine. She was there. And the peace that I felt wasn’t just the peace of the Spirit, it was the peace and confidence of my mom. There was no need for me to be worried or nervous or overwhelmed because the time was right and she was ready.
As the endowment was almost over and I walked up to the final point, I felt overcome. My body trembled and the tears flowed out of me more than they had at any point in the last two days. I can’t even fully describe the feelings I felt.
I was only supposed to say her name, but out of my mouth came, “My mom, Linda Reeder.” At that moment, I could barely speak and none of the words coming out of my mouth made any sense through my sobs. The temple worker standing next to me stood behind me and she grabbed onto my arms and helped me to stand and stay steady. She loudly whispered the words I was trying to stay. She became the strength I needed to make it through this last part. I can’t help but feel there were women on the other side holding up my mother in the same way.
My great grandmothers, my Grandma Cinderella (as we so lovingly called her), my husband’s aunt Suzie were all the women who I know had played a part in helping my mom to this point along with many others I am sure. They were the women who served as missionaries to her on the other side.
The moment I stepped through the veil, I felt like I had stepped into the light for the first time. I felt as if I was walking those steps for her and I felt her so close to me. I felt the excitement of stepping into the light and the anticipation of the reunion that was ahead of me.
I walked into the Celestial Room and the first face I saw was Tyson’s. I walked up to him and he wrapped his arms around me just like he has done a thousand times before. His arms are the safest place in my world. He has been the strength and security that has encompassed me through most of my life. He pulled me in tight and I felt overcome with emotions. My sobs echoed throughout the room as he tightly held me. Just like in that tiny waiting room the day before, all of my own emotions poured out of me. The sadness, the pain, the anger, the loss, the missing her, the broken heart. Every last bit of my grief finally poured out of me.
I felt the Spirit whisper to me, “You did your part. It is done.”
I caught my breath and as I turned around all I felt was joy as I saw all the faces of everyone who was there to support her and me. I felt the happiness that I knew she was feeling on the other side. Those next few moments will be some of the most wonderful of my life. To be there all together, just as it is supposed to be, as a family, together forever.
I didn’t want to leave and could have stayed there in that moment for much longer but as we headed back to the dressing rooms I was reminded of the words of Brother Fillmore from months earlier. That there is no place to be closer to those we have lost than in the temple. We can reunite with them each time we are there.
This was not going to be the last time I could be with her at the temple. She would be waiting for me each time I came. That night as we walked out of the temple, I couldn’t help but feel that my testimony had grown in a way that was only possible in that experience.
I know that God knows my mom and I know that God knows me. I know His timing and His love for both of us is perfect. I know that He welcomed her home no differently than He will someday welcome me. I know that He provided the way for her to be made whole. Through His Son, she could be redeemed and all could be made right. He never abandons us and He always finds a way to keep families together if we simply trust in Him.
I also felt strongly that once again, Christ had kept His promise to me just as He had five years ago in a moment when I needed Him most,
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Christ truly is the Prince of Peace. He provided peace when He welcomed her home and healed the sorrow of my heart. And He provided it again when He redeemed her so that we can be together again.