Thursday, July 26, 2012


Sometimes Jordan and I just end up at Costco.  I can't explain exactly how it happens.  One thing leads to another and we find ourselves strolling up and down the wide cemented aisles, stalking the free samples, and wondering what item we could possibly need in bulk. 

We originally got our Costco membership to buy things like diapers and formula for Jonah.  Now we usually leave the store with a something like a year-supply of batteries, a 10-pack of Oreo's, and a gut-wrenching reminder that we are now just two...and not three.  We don't go out of necessity, but out of ritual. 

As we left Costco last week, with nothing but a paper cup of hummus and a pita chip in hand, I watched a woman rush past me down the aisle.  At first she just jogged behind her giant shopping cart and sternly yelled out her daughter's name.  "Maria!"  When Maria didn't come she suddenly became less self-conscious, less stern.  She began running and crying out. "Maria!"  She ran like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep, up and down the aisles, and we watched as the panic of the possible engulfed her.  Her daughter was gone.  Lost.  Maybe wandering.  Maybe stolen.  Her husband's panic followed suit as he sprinted to the other end of the store.

I watched them and was frozen in place by their urgency, because it reminded me of my own.  I stopped walking and my heart raced.  I remembered the moment that I realized Jonah was in trouble;  the feeling of trying to save him, sweeping his mouth, and pounding his back.  I remembered reaching for my phone as his body became limp.  I could see myself running with him in my arms to the front yard, crying for help.

As I relived my own panic I found that I could not help these worried parents or continue shopping.  I just prayed.  I prayed that Maria would find her mother. 

The staff at Costco quickly mobilized and found the little girl.  We heard a scratchy Walkie-Talkie report that she was located by the giant teddy bears.  She was fine.  But the panic stayed with me in a profound way.  As we made our way out to the parking lot my chin quivered, and I told Jordan, "that moment...that mom's panic...hit me so hard." 

Before Jonah died I would have felt sympathy or mild concern for the mother of a lost child, but after losing Jonah I felt her panic as if it was my own.  I have never felt so deeply for a total stranger.

We are often taught that Christ died for us, that he suffered for our sins, and that he felt our joys and sorrows.  We testify that he truly understands us.  We talk about His Infinite Atonement.  I have always believed and testified of these things.  But when I stood in Costco and felt the deep and heart wrenching panic of a worried mother, I understood more deeply how Christ feels our sorrows.  He knows our heartache, because His heart has been broken.  He knows our pain, because He endured incredible pain.  He feels our panic, our frustration, our anger, and our disappointment, because He experienced those emotions.  I don't claim to comprehend fully Christ's ability to succor us, but my unexpected moment of empathetic panic taught me that deep empathy is truly borne of experience.

Jesus' perfect empathy was ensured when, along with His Atonement for our sins, He took upon Himself our sicknesses, sorrows, griefs, and infirmities and came to know these "according to the flesh" (Alma 7:11-12). He did this in order that He might be filled with perfect, personal mercy and empathy and thereby know how to succor us in our infirmities. He thus fully comprehends human suffering.  Neal A. Maxwell


  1. I love to read your writing and to hear your honesty in your words. Thank you for being transparent and letting us come along with you.

  2. Thank you for posting this, Julie. I always feel uplifted and edified when I read about your little boy.

  3. I had the most overwhelming experience tonight. My friend's mother died suddenly yesterday afternoon. She had struggled with emphysema and alcoholism for most of her adult life and was not in great health but did not have any indication that death was imminent. Of course this has been so hard for my friend and I have been spending time with her helping her cope and try to make final arrangements.

    My friend's mother lost her first baby to SIDS when he was only 4 months old. I feel like my experiences with losing babies, especially this last one, has given me a glimpse of the grief that accompanies losing a child. In a quiet moment this evening, I had the most vivid image in my mind's eye of this woman, whose grief and pain weighed her down and contributed to her suffering and addiction, embracing her son surrounded by light and love. For just a second it was almost like I felt her peace and joy as her burden of heartache was lifted and I was so overwhelmed with the hope and peace that someday my sorrow will be lifted too.

    I love you so much Julie and I am so grateful for you, Jordan, and our sweet Jonah and the influence you have had in my life. I am a better person because I know you.