Carla Parsons, “Three Small Headstones,” Ensign, Dec. 1996, 53
I was waiting in a cemetery, shivering in the bitter-cold winter wind. It was Christmas Day, and we were gathered together to view the headstones for my sister’s three deceased children. Due to a rare inherited illness, three of her four children had died when only about a year old.
After my sister’s third child died in the fall of 1992, she and her husband worked hard to design special headstones for their children. Arrangements were made to have the headstones finished by mid-December.
So on that Christmas afternoon we gathered at the cemetery to set the headstones and offer a prayer. The truck bringing the stones was late, and as I struggled to keep my children warm, I found myself growing impatient about having to wait so long in the cold.
Finally the truck arrived, and we enjoyed a beautiful graveside service. I was glad that I had braved the cold to share in that special moment devoted to children who would never spend Christmas together in mortality. The touching service and the headstones were our final gift to them. What I did not know at the time was that those three small headstones were also a gift to someone else.
About a week later, a friend of my father shared with him how he had spent Christmas Day.
The man had gone through a difficult divorce. Alcohol had played a big part in the breakup. He had checked himself into a treatment center in an effort to put his life back together and had remained sober for several months, then returned home.
On Christmas Day he sat alone at home, keenly aware of the absence of his wife and two small children. Sadness and loneliness overwhelmed him, and finally he felt himself giving in to the temptation to escape his pain by drinking. He climbed into his car and headed for a bar. On the way, he pulled up behind a truck heading for the cemetery.
Lined up across the back of the truck were three small headstones. Two were etched with beautiful nature scenes, and the third had a likeness of the Savior with a child. The man realized there were parents waiting in the cemetery who would never spend Christmas Day with their children. Tears welled in his eyes. At that moment he decided that, despite his challenges, his life was not without significant blessings. He returned home touched by the Spirit and without succumbing to the alcohol.
It still warms me to think that the delay of a truck on such a cold day could result in perfect timing for a man in great need. I’m thankful that our Father cares enough about each of us to allow small things to work wonders in our lives.