Wright Words: Despite horrific fire, Mormon couple has inspiring message for the world

Published: Tuesday, April 15 2014 9:00 a.m. MDT

Dirk and Naomi Avery with their children in December 2013. The family members are, from left, Naomi, Tristan, Brody, Gwendolyn holding baby Eleanor, Isaac and Dirk Avery.

Provided by Dirk Avery

With fresh tears filling her eyes and dangling from her long lashes, Naomi Avery looked at me and summarized the theme of our nearly three-hour-long interview.

“God loves us.”

Naomi said the words quietly but with confidence. Dirk, her husband, smiled warmly, squeezed her arm and nodded in agreement.

On March 31, just one week before our memorable meeting around a friend’s dining room table, the Avery family was tested in ways most cannot fathom. On a spring afternoon like any other, Dirk, Naomi and their five children — members of the Hartwood Ward, Fredericksburg Virginia Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — were devastated as an accidental fire destroyed their home.

The fire chief told the family he'd never seen anything like it in his 20-year career. In just 10 minutes, their beautiful house on a large country lot was dropped to its foundation, and the Avery family was brought to its knees.

Losing your photos, journals and everything but the clothes on your back in the front yard would be tragedy enough. Such a trial would force most to ask why God would allow such a thing to happen.

But losing antiques and appliances wasn’t a concern.

Though four of their children were safe on this side of the veil, one would perish and be welcomed by angels on the other. Eleanor Avery, an infant just six months removed from heaven, was back home again.

Through his own tears, Dirk began our conversation with a simple declaration. “She’s on a mission,” he said, his hands locked with his wife’s. “I just know she’s a leader on the other side and she’s bringing people the truth.”

He added that if sharing their experience would bring others to the gospel, if allowing strangers into their story would lead people to better know God’s plan, it was something they had to do.

“If she’s serving a mission there,” he said, “I want to serve with her here.”

The truth is, Dirk might have been serving with Eleanor long before she even arrived. For months, he had promised there was one more meant for their family, with four children already in the nest.

“Every single day Dirk asked me if we could have one more baby," Naomi said.

“She’s right,” Dirk answered. “I knew there needed to be one more. I wanted one more child to have Naomi for a mother.”

Not only did Dirk believe another soul would join their family, he also insisted from the beginning that baby would be a girl. “Before the first ultrasound, and even when they were inconclusive,” Naomi said. “No matter what, Dirk said she would be a she.”

Both parents described how different Eleanor was as a baby from their first four. “We noticed she was happy and vivacious,” her mother said. “Everywhere we went, she was so content, so smiley, so engaged.”

“She made people feel special,” Dirk added. “She was a light.”

As our interview evolved, the Averys spoke of the blessings of prayer and how constant communication with their Father in heaven has been the key to knowing the next step would be possible. Minute by minute, they’ve asked for help — help they knew would come. “My faith in me might be shaken,” Naomi said, “but my faith in him is not.”

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