(Just for your information, Kathi is LDS - she's a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of the things she will talk about today might be unfamiliar to you. If you have questions, please let me know and I'll point you in the direction of the answers.)
KARA: "Tell us about some of the trials you’ve faced throughout your life. How has faith played a role in overcoming those trials? What kinds of lessons have your learned?"
KATHI: "Difficult challenges that we have overcome...
Some of the challenges I have faced are infertility which eventually led to the adoption of two children through LDS family Services. I lost both of my parents within the first two years of my marriage. My father died six months after my marriage from a heart attack and my mother died a year later from cancer.
The most difficult trial our family has faced is when our son Trent was killed. Trent had his final Mission interview with our Stake President. He had a wonderful interview and expressed his excitement to serve. Trent told us that our Stake President told him that if anyone was prepared to serve a mission it was Trent Thompson!
Four days later Trent was killed instantly in an automobile accident coming back from lunch just two blocks from his High School. A friend of his was driving and she turned into the path of an oncoming truck, which hit Trent on the passenger's side.
I can't even begin to describe the feelings of pain and loss you feel when you hear that one of your children has been killed. We were anticipating a mission call and would now receive a death certificate instead. Numbness came over my body as feelings of horror and disbelief ran through my mind. I also felt an unseen presence surrounding my entire body with a feeling of love and warmth. I felt Trent's presence and the comfort he must have been trying to give me.
The next day arrangements had to be made and we found Trent's influence in all of the preparations. Since Trent had been found worthy to serve a mission and had had his final mission interview four days earlier with his Stake President, our Bishop came to our home and told us that the Fresno Temple President had felt very strongly that Trent's Temple ordinances needed to be done before his burial so he could immediately begin his work in the spirit world. We were surprised at this but grateful for this sacred opportunity. Our Stake President said later that he had no idea the Mission Trent would actually be called to serve would be in the spirit world.
We were blessed and comforted during this time. As time went by and the reality of Trent’s death became more apparent we faced many unexpected challenges. Dealing with the aftermath of Trent’s death was extremely difficult as each of our family members tried to endure with the stages of grief and loss.
As the years have passed the Lord has made it known to me that Trent was called to teach the gospel to my ancestors in the spirit world. With Trent’s help on the other side of the veil, the amount of family names made available to me for Temple work has been staggering. It is with great joy I do this sacred work. Together Trent and I are working closely as Saviors in Mount Zion to our ancestors.
In 2005, my husband was in a terrible automobile accident. His car went off the road and ran into a parked semi trailer on the side of the road. He spent an hour trapped underneath the semi and another thirty minutes being removed from his car by the jaws of life. He was conscious during all of this and was grateful for those who gathered around him to give assistance. He was flown by helicopter to University Medical Center. He was on the brink of death when he was taken to the Emergency Room. Our oldest son Trevor and our nephew administered to Curtis in the ER and in their prayer blessed him that he would recover from his injuries. He was very badly injured and was in the ICU for almost a month. His face had hit the back of the trailer causing most of his facial bones to be fractured. He had facial reconstruction surgery where they placed over forty five plates and screws in his face to repair the broken bones around his eyes and nose. He lost the sight in his left eye. He suffered a broken wrist and a broken leg, which was broken in fifteen places just under his knee. He was unable to put any weight on his leg for three months. He lost several teeth. He damaged part of his colon from the impact of the seat belt and had to have part of it removed. He had five surgeries in the two weeks following the accident. Many more surgeries would follow.
Curtis was in a comma in the ICU for two weeks. He was unable to communicate with any of us for the first ten days. You see scenes in the movies where loved ones are at the bedside of their loved ones who are unresponsive and they say to them, “If you can hear me squeeze my hand.” Many of us had conversations like that and still there was no response of any kind from Curtis. It was a helpless feeling.
One day as I was home resting and reflecting on the difficult situation we were facing, I remembered a talk I heard by Michael Ballam about the power of music and healing. Michael Ballam said that music is often used for patients who are unconscious or in a coma to communicate to the patients. I decided I would try one of his suggestions. It was about eight days after Curtis’s accident and I found myself alone with him late one night in the ICU. I leaned over and sang “Angel Lullaby” directly into Curtis’s ear three times. This was a very special song to us because this is the Lullaby we sang to our children each night when we put them to bed when they were young. I knew how much Curtis loved that song. There was no response from him during or after the song. I stayed with him a little while longer and then kissed him goodnight and told him how much I loved him and then left for home.
A few days later, Curtis began waking up and talking. It was so exciting to be able to finally communicate with him again. When he saw me, he told me that the only thing he remembered while he “was sleeping” those ten days was the night that I came in and sang the “Angel Lullaby” to him. He told me that the words of the song touched his heart and soul and gave him the will to live. It was an amazing experience and I am so glad I had followed the suggestions of Michael Ballam’s talk.
After Curtis regained consciousness we realized it would be a long and painful road to full recovery. It has been almost five years since his accident and he has had over thirty one surgeries to repair his broken body.
Because of the experiences our family has had with many difficult challenges, I have become passionate about using the things I have learned through these experiences to help others. I realize that it is important for us to become like the Savior in this life and to mourn with those who mourn and to help others carry their heavy burdens. Our experiences with people who did not want to reach out and help were similar to many of Job’s friends. Who wants to lose a child who is worthy and ready to serve a mission only to have him killed by a careless mistake of someone else? Our family was everyone’s “Worst Nightmare”. Our family was very active in the church and worthy of the blessings of Protection by the Lord. We were evidence that Bad Things Do Happen to Good People. It has been a long hard road for our family but the Lord has truly visited us in our afflictions and has carried us through them. He has answered so many of our prayers and revealed His Purposes for our son and for our family.
One morning I spent some quiet moments reflecting about the difficult years following Trent’s death. I tried and put things into perspective as our family tries to accept the “Lords Will” in losing Trent. I went to the Lord in a humble and honest prayer and told Him how devastating it was to lose Trent just before he was to serve a mission. I had two binders full of letters from Trevor while he was on his mission in Taiwan. I was sad that I will have no letters from Trent. I remember telling the Lord that I felt cheated out of the mission experience with Trent.
Shortly after my prayer, I had a very strong spirit witness to my heart and mind as the Lord revealed to me by the power of the Holy Ghost, two things. First, “You may not have any letters from Trent while he is serving his mission, but you have more than two binders of letters from people whose lives he changed by his love and small acts of kindness. Not many parents of missionaries get letters like the ones you have.” Second, the Lord revealed to my heart “You have not been cheated out of Trent’s Mission experience… you are a part of it.”
Curtis and I have felt this in our hearts since Trent’s death. Although this has been a long and painful journey, we can testify that the Lord has blessed us with spiritual insights that have been beyond what we ever could have imagined. We can see the hand of the Lord as His purposes were revealed to our family. We have come to understand Trent’s mission as a missionary in the spirit world. We have also come to understand that part of Trent’s mission through our Motivational Speaking was to help us all understand the words our Savior Jesus Christ told us when he said, “As I have loved you, love one another.” We believe he is actively involved on “Both sides of the veil”.
Trent’s story was included in the new book called “The Transfer” by Susan Woods. “Out of the more than one million missionaries who have served in this last dispensation, less than one tenth of one percent have ever qualified for “the transfer”, thus making it a very rare occurrence. The book is a compilation of their stories as told by loved ones”. Trent’s story is in Volume I."
I appreciate so much Kathi's willingness to share such sacred experiences with me and my readers. The trials Kathi has been through break my heart. As a mother, I know it would be so difficult to lose a child. Some of my friends have had this same experience, and it's been hard to watch them have to go through that. One thing really stood out to me from Kathi's story here... "I realize that it is important for us to become like the Savior in this life and to mourn with those who mourn and to help others carry their heavy burdens." That's something that I'm trying to do with breast cancer patients and survivors, because of my experience with breast cancer. I feel so strongly that I have to help others who are experiencing that trial. I know from experience that Kathi is right about this.
Tomorrow, I'll share the messages that Kathi and her husband give as motivational speakers, and her ideas about traveling.