Sheri Dew: Living the unexpected life
'Unmarried' leader is almost a celebrity among LDS
Dew has never shared this publicly, although friends are more forthcoming. Ask Dew about it and she says, "I thought it would result in marriage. As it turned out it would not have been a good match, but it was the way it happened. That was such a painful part of my life. But I don't want to hurt those people. I still care about them."
Friends say it took her a couple of years to recover. In one fell swoop, she lost her best friend, roommate and boyfriend. Suddenly, she was coming home to an empty apartment and her best friend was off on her honeymoon. To make matters worse, she bumped into the man regularly because of her work.
"I've got to tell you, I think it was supposed to happen," she says. "I can't feel anything but grateful for that episode in my life. I think the Lord had to hit me in the back of the head to get me to dig deeper than I had ever dug before. It turned me to scriptures and prayer and fasting and the temple in a different way. I had no idea it was possible to feel so much loneliness and rejection.
"It changed forever, in the most wonderful way, my feelings about the Savior. I tapped into power that's greater than anything in this life. So it changed my life. I am sure I wouldn't have been prepared for my current church assignment without that experience."
Typical of Dew, she examined the experience and took from it every lesson she could find. One of them is genuine empathy for others.
"I haven't been divorced," she says. "I haven't lost my husband. But I have felt acute loss. I have felt pain. I have felt loneliness. And so when something happens to someone else that causes those emotions, I understand. Pain is pain." And here she pauses as her eyes well up with tears.
She also knows how to forgive. Do you know why Dew has back pain? Or why it's difficult for her just to stand at the pulpit? According to friends, when her former roommate was pregnant, Dew visited her at the hospital and took her outside in a wheelchair for fresh air. She injured several discs in her back while pushing the wheelchair up and down hills around the hospital.
In the end, as she recovered from the emotional trauma, Dew came to grips with her lot in life. She made her peace with being a single woman. "For my own sanity," she says, "I had to get to the point where I was willing and able to say to the Lord, 'Thy will be done,' and to really mean it. If you worry about it constantly, it wrecks your life. It's an ever-present issue, but I'm not distraught about it. I feel very confident I will get married in this life. But it doesn't look like I'll have children, because of my age."
Instead, she dotes on her nephews and nieces, taking them on trips to New York or to her cabin in Midway. They are, to an extent, her family. She is grateful they have allowed her to be part of their lives.
And, yes, to answer your next question, she does date, but not often and usually only when someone she trusts has a recommendation. The exposure she gets as a member of the LDS Church's Relief Society presidency has brought a steady stream of letters from people wanting her to date their brother, friend, son, which she declines.
"At this age, to date for dating's sake is sheer torture," she says. "I began dating in 1969, which means I have dated in the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s, and now a new century, and I still haven't found the right guy."
Perhaps the worst side effects of her marital status are the rumors and ignorance it fosters. She has threatened to hire a man to put his arm around her during General Conference just to stop the gossip that she is dating one of the general authorities of the church. Visitors to her house at Christmastime will commend her for decorating her house and for putting up a Christmas tree, as if they are surprised she would bother being single and all. Strangers advise her about whom she should or shouldn't date or chastise her for being "too picky" or for choosing a career instead of marriage.
"They have no idea how many times I've cried myself to sleep because of acute loneliness or the hundreds of times I've fasted and prayed to be married," she says. "If fasting and praying could get you a husband, I could pick anyone I wanted. At least let me be busy with a career and not sit around and be lonely. Would they feel better if I was checking bags at Albertson's? But the vast majority of people have been accepting and wonderful."
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