It all started when I was elected vice president of my elementary education cohort. I was more than willing to take on the role, although I was a little uncertain about working with the girl who had been elected as president.
We had our first presidency meeting and my concerns were validated. She wanted to support the members of our cohort by recognizing individuals with weekly spotlights and awards.
I didn't. That was too much work for what I imagined we'd get in return.
I wanted to keep things simple. I accepted the nomination thinking our role was mainly to act as liaison between students and faculty meaning that I would have the chance to debate an item or two. She accepted the nomination thinking that she would have a chance to love and care for each individual on a deeper level.
Don't get me wrong, I've got a lot of love for a lot of people, but I'm also a no-nonsense kind of girl. I don't like frivolity. I would rather spend my time concentrating on my school work or talking to my classmates than filling out award slips and making cute things to give away.
Without having to talk it out, we compromised. She cut back on the "things" we were going to do and I supported her in the "things" we kept.
We spent a lot of time together in those first few weeks. She called weekly meetings. Although a little annoyed, I am quite an obedient person. I attended my meetings and bit my tongue and her wild suggestions.
I don't know exactly when things changed. All I know is that this forced relationship blossomed into one of the most beautiful friendships I have ever experienced.
Jodilyn and I are closer than I normally allow myself to get to someone. She knows my deepest darkest fears (I rarely let anyone know that because I more comfortable working the confident/strong persona...I don't want anyone to think I'm insecure or incapable in any way). I can confide in her and I trust her judgment and value her advice. She shares with me her frustrations. I tell her when she's being ridiculous and that she should let it go. She tells me when to feel more rather than trying to push the experience away.
We also laugh a lot together.
When Jodilyn welcomed me in, I became a part of her family. I was a regular in her home and at her family functions.
Jodilyn has two sets of children: her own and her husband's. Although with as much love as she has, you would never know the difference. I was invited to attend birthday parties of her children. When she and her husband were sealed in the Temple, I volunteered to babysit the grandkids so that everyone else could attend. It was then that I first met her husband's children: Andrea, Toby, and Brynn and their families. My admiration for them was immediate. I've been fortunate to have subsequent interactions with them both in St. George as well as in their homes in Utah County.
Toby is a mother of four children. She is one of the most loving mothers I have ever been able to witness. She is self-sacrificing, a noble exemplar, a patient teacher, and a loving wife. She also has Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Toby was diagnosed with MS at 21. She was a new wife and a young mother. The diagnosis didn't stop her from living. As difficult as it may have been, she is true to her family, true to her faith, and true to her life. She now has four children, her oldest just graduated from kindergarten.
Her own diagnosis hasn't been the only medical trial she has been forced to endure. Two of her children have significant health issues, her son, Chandler, has had 16 surgeries in his short life.
She says on her blog, "I had given up on those dreams [of having a healthy future and growing old with my amazing husband] and I figured I would just make the most of what time I did have."
One of the ways in which she has attempted to make the most of the time she has is to research options for treatment. She placed herself on waiting lists for surgeons in other countries who were performing procedures that were alleviating major symptoms of MS. Of course, these waiting lists are very long and the cost for the procedures are thousands of dollars (plus travel expenses).
Just recently, she received word that a surgeon in Costa Rica would be able to fit her into his schedule for Liberation treatment on June 24.
This is exciting news!
Yet it does come with a financial burden that Toby's young and growing family is not quite prepared to bear. I'm sharing this, because they need our help. Toby's siblings have set up a paypal account (and a Wells Fargo account) to collect donations. Please donate if you can and link to her blog to help spread the word.
Toby already has made a beautiful impact on this world. I can imagine the marvelous things she'll be able to do with increased energy and time here on earth.