Reader Voices: My father's powerful reminder to me about the importance of gratitude

By Debra Woods

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Nov. 20 2011 5:00 a.m. MST

This general conference talk from President Monson helped one Mormon Times reader find peace amidst trials.


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It was early on a Sunday morning in January and the fifth-floor cancer wing of the East Texas Medical Center was uncharacteristically quiet.

I had spent the night on the couch in my father’s hospital room, and before rising, I peeked through the curtains just above my makeshift bed and out into a winter wonderland — the trees and grounds glowing with freshly fallen snow. The peaceful scene before me contrasted sharply with the anxiety I felt over my father’s rapidly deteriorating condition.

I crawled from beneath the covers, slipped my shoes on, and tiptoed across the floor so as not to disturb my younger sister who was somehow sleeping soundly in the recliner beside the couch.

I settled into a chair beside my father’s bed and while watching my big teddy bear of a father sleep, I thought about how he had never missed a Sunday of church until the last couple of weeks when he was too sick and weak to attend.

When he awoke sometime later and focused his eyes on me, I asked if it would be OKif we had our own Sabbath day devotional. Although he had spoken very little in days due to the increasing pressure of the tumor on his brain, he managed to mouth the word “OK” in something just above a whisper.

The first place I turned for inspiration was to his favorite section of the Doctrine and Covenants, to the very verse he had raised his four daughters on. I read aloud in a tone I hoped conveyed my love and respect for the man who had woven the power of this verse into the fabric of my spirit: “Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail" (Doctrine and Covenants 6:34).

My father smiled and nodded his appreciation but gave no verbal response. I then pulled from my backpack a copy of the most recent general conference issue of the Ensign and thumbed through the pages, trying to decide which talk to share.

I looked from the table of contents to my father, tears forming and threatening to overtake the big-girl face I was trying so hard to put on. I simply could not comprehend that the man who lay in front of me, significantly paralyzed now, and barely able to speak, was the same man who had, only weeks earlier, been arguing cases in the courtroom.

After a time, I managed to speak, “Dad, I’m having a hard time figuring out which conference talk to share.”

Saying this was my way of buying another minute or two of blinking away the tears so I could see to select a talk. However, in the next moment, my father surprised me by speaking aloud — “Why don’t you read ‘The Divine Gift of Gratitude’ by (President) Thomas S. Monson?”

I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. The few words my father had spoken in recent days suggested that his thoughts were becoming muddled, or at least his ability to express them. But what he shared now was clear-minded and inspired, said only with tremendous effort.

I looked at my father lying in the hospital bed — weak and immobile — and said, “OK, Dad, OK, I’ll read the talk on having gratitude,” and I did.

As I read through paragraph after paragraph, one passage in particular leapt out at me as if President Monson, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had written it just for us in this very hour of our need:

“When we encounter challenges and problems in our lives, it is often difficult for us to focus on our blessings. However, if we reach deep enough and look hard enough, we will be able to feel and recognize just how much we have been given.”

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