Nikki Sue Larkin | Jan 12, 2017
Nikki first shared this story on stage at the Salt Lake City TOFW event in November of 2016 as our local presenter during the ONE HEART, ONE FAITH tour.
On October 16, 2000, my new baby girl Kenadee and I watched my husband of 15 months excitedly get dressed to go hunting for the day. Cameron had worked a night shift and had come home early that morning full of energy and ready to have fun. We said our prayers together as we always did before he left. His prayer was sweet as he thanked Heavenly Father for his wonderful wife and beautiful daughter. We kissed each other good-bye and said “I love you” as he hurried out the door, calling back that he would see me later that afternoon.
When Cameron and I were married in the Idaho Falls Temple in June of 1999, it felt like a gift. For all of my 29 years, through my college education, a mission to South Korea, and the long period of time afterward, I had longed to have a family of my own. In fact, just before I met Cameron in our singles ward, I was preparing to “graduate” to a family ward and had lost all hope that these blessings would come to me. The day of our wedding, I felt so grateful that I had remained worthy throughout my life and that I was being sealed to a worthy man. I realized Heavenly Father had been listening to me; everything had happened in His time, not mine.
Cameron and I were very happy. We served others and magnified our Church callings. We made our home one in which we could be guided by the Spirit. Cameron felt we should start our family right away rather than wait until he finished school as we had considered. How grateful I am that he listened to the Spirit. In August 2000 our daughter, Kenadee, was born. I had been happy in my life, but the joy I experienced as a wife and mother was beyond description. Finally, I was living the life I had always wanted.
By 2:00 p.m. on that day in October, he still wasn’t home and I began to worry. I felt something was wrong but dismissed the thought. At 3:00 p.m., I received a call from the hospital. A nurse told me there had been an accident and my husband was being taken by life flight to the hospital. She did not have any details.
That peace stayed with me so much so that when I walked into the hospital, I was not prepared for the news: Cameron had already died. My mind flooded with thoughts of disbelief: “No, it isn’t true. Why me? Why now? It isn’t fair! I waited so long to find him and we were only married for 15 months. We are so happy. We have a new baby.” I had lost my best friend and my daughter would never know her dad on this earth. Why had I felt such peace? Driving home from the hospital in a daze, I knew that a part of me was gone. I felt a despair and devastation that I had never known.
That night as I knelt down to pray, my emotions overcame me, and I wept. As I cried, I prayed and thought of Jesus Christ. For a moment I took comfort in knowing that the Savior had experienced everything I was feeling and more. But that didn’t change the fact that in an instant, my whole life plan had changed. I was not sure how I could live without Cameron. There was so much we would miss without him there. We did not even have any pictures together with the three of us because Kenadee was so new.
I prayed for strength. This was the first of numerous prayers that have sustained me. I knew my Father in Heaven was there. I knew HE listened and I felt the comfort He gave me. During the viewing and funeral, I had a feeling of peace that seemed to sustain me. As I spoke at the funeral, I felt as if Cameron were standing next to me. Even though I didn’t want to, I knew I had to go on. I knew I still played a part in Heavenly Father’s plan somehow. And there were miracles and kindnesses to counteract the pain. A friend who knew my heart created this picture for me.
She took our engagement picture and added in Kenadee. This is one of my most treasured pictures.
The months following Cameron’s death were a time of intense learning, and I came to understand many things that helped me deal with the everyday battles I faced. After Cameron’s death, people commented on how strong I was. Looking back on that time, it is evident to me that I was relying on the strength of the Lord and the relationship I developed with Him. I could never have been strong on my own. During this time, I started to apply the Atonement to my life more than I ever had before. I quickly learned that accessing the Atonement, meant being one with Christ. The atonement helped me understand my “real” relationship with Jesus Christ. I leaned heavily on the comfort that comes from constant prayer and careful scripture study. One day I was feeling painfully alone and was searching for peace.
I found the inspiration I needed in the scriptures in Doctrine and Covenants 58:2–4
"For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
“Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
“For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.”
My blessing after this trial came in a very unexpected way. Though it was difficult to think about dating again, I had felt, through much fasting and prayer, that the Lord wanted me to have a husband and someone to be a father to Kenadee. When I met Bruce, a father with five children of his own, I was not immediately convinced that we were a match. But over time, I saw how amazing he was. Bruce and I were married in 2004 and we instantly became a family of 8!
I was an instant step-mom to kids ranging in ages 5 to 15. Blending two families was not easy and came with its own set of trials. There were days I wanted to throw my hands in the air as I wondered if this would really work. Those were the days I spent on my knees. I remembered as a kid watching the Brady Bunch. They made it look so easy and I wondered if we would ever feel one as a family.
In order to feel as one as a family we learned that we needed to have our own traditions. We established new holiday traditions for just our family. Scripture reading and praying together also helped to bring us together. With time, persistence, and love we began to feel as one as a family.
When I look back on my life, I would not wish away the experiences I have had, for I know I have a part in Heavenly Father’s plan.
I have a plaque that hangs on my living room wall that expresses how I feel about life:
Our Heavenly Father wants to comfort us. He wants us to come unto him so he may relieve our burden. I have come to understand that when I bind myself with the Lord, and am ONE with His purpose, I am better able to accept His plans. I have faith that someday everything will be sorted out. I trust that I will understand the answers to the “why” questions so for now, I put them aside.
The Savior endured the suffering of all our Father’s children. He experienced all physical pain and also the pain caused by the disobedience of mankind. He understands what I feel and He has perfect compassion. What I have learned most from my adversity is a deeper appreciation and love for my Savior. I know He can heal us and bring us peace and comfort.