Claire July 2011: Our first amazing month for over a year.
“We decided that divorce would never be an option,” President Tucker confided to the Marriage class.
In the front row, his wife Pat, nodded her agreement. It was evident to all in attendance that Paul and
Pat Tucker had not only fallen in love more than 40 years ago, they had chosen to love every day since. Without knowing their romantic ‘how we met’ story, without hearing the trials they had inevitably encountered and overcome, I felt the power in their marriage and in their words. Marriage was a choice and they had chosen well.
I admired the Tuckers immediately upon meeting them at church five years ago. President Tucker, in particular, made me feel at home our first week there. He taught Sunday School, and amazingly, he learned the names of all the new couples. All twenty-five of them. I soon realized he did this every year with each new batch of graduate students. During our first class, Dustin whispered in my ear, “If I closed my eyes, I would think your Dad was teaching the class.” I agreed completely. He sounded just like my dad – mannerisms and doctrine both. Even if I didn’t sound or feel like either of President Tucker’s two daughters, President Tucker was A father, much like my own.
And Pat. I loved Pat as only a kindred spirit can. When I bought the chocolate chip cookies that she sold at a service auction, I insisted that it come with a baking lesson. I wanted to be her friend. I soon discovered that Pat had kept a daily journal for decades without fail. I also have stacks of journals. So Pat, like me, was a writer whether she knew it or not.
When Claire was diagnosed with Leukemia in the summer of 2010, Dustin called President Tucker to assist him in giving Claire a priesthood blessing. Pat came with him. Upon their arrival, Pat gave me a motherly squeeze and President Tucker shook my hand gravely. The tears collecting in my eyes dripped out onto my cheeks like a slow leak, my throat too tight to speak. With understanding that can only come through personal suffering, the Tuckers expected no explanation and simply listened to the beautiful blessing. Afterword, President Tucker said that he had felt the truth of the words “You will be healed” given in Claire’s blessing. My strained faith felt immeasurable comfort knowing that this Man of God had been given a witness to Claire’s healing blessing.
On Saturday March 10, 2012, I learned that my beloved Tucker family was to face one of life’s most difficult trials. The trial of the unknown. Pat was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer.
I discovered the news amidst a gathering of women, busy with service. I was sure that my ears had deceived me and that Janet, the bearer of the news, had either meant a less intimidating disease or a different person altogether.
I shook my head as if to disagree with her. Then, questioning the validity of her report, I said, “You said Pat Tucker, right? Pat. Tucker.” I emphasized both names with a nod of my head just to be sure Janet understood the weight of putting the name ‘Pat Tucker’ with the diagnosis ‘Ovarian Cancer.’
Although Janet is no stranger to grief herself, I think my visible mourning at the news overwhelmed her. She hugged me and moved on. I walked the ten steps to my post at the ironing board where several women were gathered. One of them glanced my way to say hello. She easily saw the emotion on my face.
“Are you okay?” she asked with great concern.
I brushed my tears away. Taking a deep breath, I was about to answer that I was fine, but the deep breath brought no relief.
“No. I’m not okay. You’re not going to be okay either once you hear this news.”
I went on to share the crushing information about the Tucker family and searched the faces of the other women for the emotion I was feeling so strongly. But, I didn’t find it. These women were not as deeply affected as I was. One reached out to give me a hug to comfort me. One reassured me that ‘if anyone can do it, the Tuckers can.” And still a third asked me, “Are you guys close to the Tuckers?”
For several days, I felt devastated at the news. I was not sure why I was so profoundly affected other than that I know something of what her family might have been feeling - shock, fear, incredibly overwhelmed, full of grief, and many other emotions that are so powerful even on their own that together, they are just that: devastating.
Later I pondered this experience. Admittedly, since our own traumatic experience with Claire’s diagnosis, I am much more sensitive to bad news. I now know firsthand what it means to say, ‘my soul weeps.’ No other description is full enough in moments like these, and I have found that my soul weeps for other people who are handed some of life’s more difficult situations. Maybe my acute reaction has something to do with the love and admiration I feel for the Tucker family. Maybe it’s that it was a cancer diagnosis, just like Claire’s. Or, perhaps, I was simply feeling their pain. Whatever the reason, I hope that I am one step closer to understanding what it is to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.
I’m happy to report that my dear Pat Tucker finished her cancer treatment the same week Claire finished hers. Her cancer is now in remission. In March, my heart was overcome with sorrow, and today it sings with a joy that surpasses the pain of yesterday.