Being Thankful for a Family that Is Not My Own


I dearly love a family that is not my own.

My brother, Vernon, married a woman who had 5 sisters and a fraternal twin brother. My brother and she married in 1990 and remained married for 5 1/2 years. They had two children: Jessica and Benjamin.

The Horman Family (circa 1970s) -- Shelley is on the far right in the red sweater.

The Horman Family (circa 1970s) — Shelley is on the far right in the red sweater.

Shortly before their 5th anniversary, Shelley had some health problems. Doctors ran some tests, and the diagnosis was cancer. Her children were almost 3-years-old and 14 months. My mother, a grade school teacher on summer break, went to be with them. She helped her daughter-in-law as Shelley began the treatment to save her life. My mother bonded strongly with her young grandchildren. My mother still remembers this time with Vernon’s family as one of the happiest in her life.

However, my mother had a job to return to. After a few weeks, she returned to California. The question everyone had now was how would Shelley continue her treatments and stay healthy and take care of her own family.

The answer was within Shelley’s own family.

Shelley and her sisters (circa mid-1980s)

Shelley and her sisters (circa mid-1980s)


Most of Shelley’s sisters live within an easy drive of one another. Her mother, Hermine, did as well. The Horman sisters and Hermine stepped in and diligently served Shelley for months. One sister faithfully came to Shelley’s home every Monday, another on Tuesdays, Mother came on Wednesdays and so on. Vernon and Shelley got the help they needed.

Shelley, Vernon, Jessica and Ben (circa 1995)

Shelley, Vernon, Jessica and Ben (circa 1995)

Sadly, Shelley passed away. Her family fought so hard to provide her with what she needed, so she could heal. Her family was in shock. She was only 33 years old. Her children were 3 1/2 and 23 months old.

The Horman family needed to grieve. I could sense this. My mother had stayed in close contact with them throughout the school year. Plans were posited on what the existing support structure, i.e., moms & sisters, should do to help Vernon and the kids if Shelley did pass away. Not one person who had helped up to this point could be in Shelley’s home all the time. Everyone had responsibilities that prevented them from dedicating their lives to the needs of Vernon and his two very young children.

I asked if I could go be with them. I could take a term off from college and be with Vernon 100% of the time. This was the answer to so many prayers, especially Shelley’s.

The timing of someone’s death is never convenient. I was finishing the winter term. Due to final exams, I missed Shelley’s funeral which was held on a Friday. I told no one at school of her death until after I completed all my finals. I focused on finishing my “to-do” list, so I could get up to Utah. I did not arrive until Tuesday, the next week.

Group photo of The Horman Family on a cruise (family members missing are Shelley and Vernon)

The Horman Family on a cruise (missing: Shelley and Vernon)

What happened next was miraculous in the most beautiful sense of the word. I saw a family in pain place their trust in the Lord and they were healed.

All of them.

Every one.

The Horman family missed Shelley terribly. They could no longer be with her in this lifetime, so they sought to spend “time with Shelley” by spending time with her children. I was included in that “quality family time.” There were so many tears shed, but there was laughter too. Life had not stopped as they might have wanted it to, so they threw their energies into building stronger bonds with each other, no matter what generation they were — grandparent, child, or grandchild.

Friendship was and still is everything to this family. For the first time in my life, I saw a family that craved one another’s love. This group of individuals, bonded by genetics, believes that families can be together forever and actively seeks to build those bonds in this lifetime — not waiting until the next.

I want to thank the Horman family for teaching me day-by-day that FAMILIES ARE FOREVER.

April and Sieg Widmer

April and Sieg Widmer (taken by Jasmine Widmer)

This year — 18 years after Shelley’s passing — the youngest sister, April, succumbed to a long battle with cancer. She was and is adored by her husband, Sieg, and her six girls (ages 27 to 7).

This family is hurting. How could they not be?

Yet, through social media, I am able to see that they know what to do. They draw closer unto one another. One sister regularly visits the little ones to teach them skills their mother would have taught them. The older girls of April’s (all in their 20s) are also doing the same. The family does not want April to be forgotten because she is not. She is part of every breath, every tear, every laugh and every prayer.

I love this family because I learned from them that even in times of great strife and overwhelming grief, the road to happiness is through service.

This family embodies true faith in God, the Father; his Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior to the World; and the sealing powers of the Holy Temple, the House of the Lord.

They have traveled the same painful path more than once. Some might think that just once would be enough to turn their hearts against the Lord.

No. It has brought them closer to the Lord.

Their “collective” choice reminds me of the third verse of a beloved hymn, #127 “Does the Journey Seem Long?”

Summer 2007 -- I visited with Phares, Hermine, Karen and Becky Horman. Heather is not pictured, but was there for a time. It was wonderful to spend time with them.

Summer 2007 — I visited with Phares, Hermine, Karen and Becky Horman. Heather is not pictured, but was there for a time. It was wonderful to spend time with them.

Let your heart be not faint
Now the journey’s begun;
There is One who still beckons to you.
So look upward in joy
And take hold of his hand;
He will lead you to heights that are new—

May the Lord bless and comfort this righteous family in ways that strengthen their faith and those with whom they associate.

I love the Horman family, and I know they love me. They are my “sisters.”

I could not ask for a more precious gift than that from the Lord.

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