This Might Make You Smile

Dear Will:

About a week-and-a-half ago we got an email from a friend with the link to an online video. Her note said simply: “This might make you two smile.”

She was so right. The video shows her son-in-law and granddaughter (his four-year-old daughter) singing “Tonight You Belong to Me,” while he plays along on a pink toy guitar or ukulele. Dana and I watched it again and again, then shared it with some friends.

We weren’t alone. In that quintessentially Internetty way that some things catch on, “Tonight You Belong to Me” exploded into the collective consciousness. Since the video was first posted on September 17, it has been viewed over 3 million times (and counting). They even showed a clip on Good Morning America. It seems that pretty much everyone who has seen it has had a similar reaction. The question is: Why?

There is no doubt—no debate whatsoever—that the four-year-old is irresistibly cute. But the world is full of cute four-year-olds. YouTube, for that matter, is full of cute four-year-olds. That she can carry a tune helps too, of course, but that’s not it either. The true magic of the video (and if you haven’t stopped to watch it you should go do so right now) is in the interaction between the dad and daughter. The video isn’t about music—it’s about the clear and unmistakable love that sparkles in the eyes of a father completely smitten with his little girl.

Now maybe that’s the bias of another father who is himself completely smitten with his little girl. But there is a moment about a minute-and-a-half in when he looks at her and you just know. Just know. It’s love, unspoken but undeniable, clear, genuine, eternal. Read the comments of the strangers who confess to watching “Tonight You Belong to Me” over and over and over and you know that they see it too. “Every day when I get up I am going to watch this as it puts me in such a good mood!!” “Can’t stop watching this adorable video!” “The greatest thing I’ve ever seen.” “It’s impossible to watch this and not smile.” “This brings me so much joy.” “I cry every time that I watch this! Happy tears of course! The love is such a gift.”

The comments come from all over the country. From Japan, Malaysia. the Middle East. Comments in languages I don’t even recognize. People all over the world seeing and hearing and feeling something familiar and supernal in this three-minute duet, recognizing in it an element of truth and goodness and virtue in their purest sense.

I know a thing or two about that kind of love. I felt it surge within me when I held Luke in my arms for the first time some 23 years ago. I have never felt closer, more connected with God than I did in that moment, knowing that in some way Dana and I had helped Him bring another soul to Earth. And I still feel it today when I talk to Bryn on the phone or watch the ballgame with Seth.

I do not have science to back me up on this, but I believe that the love we feel for our kids is just about as close to godliness as we can get in this life. No wonder one prophet said that pure love is “the greatest of all” (Moroni 7: 46). And no wonder I find myself watching—for the 27th time—as another dad turns to his little girl and sings: “You belong to me.”

PW

God Always Shows His Hand

Dear Will:

It’s been quite an autumn.

It started with the prostate surgery in September. Everything seemed to go well, but about a month later I was in the ER for what turned out to be an “incarcerated bowel” (four feet of my intestines had escaped the stomach cavity and quit working). That required a nine-day stay in a remote hospital, most of it spent living on nothing but IV fluids and ice chips. And then for good measure I returned to the ER last week because I have developed a deep vein thrombosis, which is a fancy way of saying I have a blood clot in my leg.

Not fun. After going over 40 years without hospitalization, I have been in the hospital three times in less than 90 days. It has been painful, boring, frustrating, and (most of all) humbling.

At times, I’m sure, God comes to us when we call for Him in a moment of crisis. I have seen, however, that there are times when He actually goes before us and is waiting there for us when the crisis arrives. I can’t begin to tell you how often and in how many ways He showed His love for me in the midst of my suffering. God always shows His hand in such circumstances, and you don’t have to look very hard to see it.

Most often, His hands were the hands of friends and family, kind nurses and diligent doctors. The light in my hospital room always shone brightly because the love of God was there, expressed by the unexpected visit from a ward member, a note from my Seminary students, a simple act of kindness from a nurse’s aide. It was a profoundly moving experience to see, day after day, that He was watching over me and sending His children to me to let me know.

Do not get me wrong; I would not choose to go through again what I have been through these last few weeks. But having been through it, I remain very grateful. What a blessing to have my life touched in so many ways. How much wiser and more compassionate I will be in the future as I interact with others who likewise find themselves with physical or emotional challenges.

When I returned from the hospital at the end of October and sat down for the first time in 10 days with my family for dinner, I could not hold back the tears of gratitude that we were reunited. It might seem a small thing, but it was profoundly important to me. Consequently, when we were gathered around a Thanksgiving meal just a couple of days ago, I gave added thanks in my heart for the privilege and blessing of being together in that way.  I also feel blessed to have modern medicine, capable doctors and nurses, health insurance and an understanding employer. And above all, I have felt a deep gratitude for my wife who has somehow managed to keep the family operating even though I have been a heavy burden throughout what has proved to be an extended convalescence. Her compassionate service to me has often brought to mind the baptismal invitation that we might “bear one another’s burdens that they might be light.” Thus inspired, I am determined to go and do likewise.

I do not share all this to invite your sympathy. Rather I do it as an affirmation that God loves us and watches over us, and even when times are hard He is there for us and with us, every step of the way.

PW