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Nothing about me is typical. I’m not your average American white woman. Your average mother and wife. Your average student. Your average Mormon.

I am so much more.

For our sociology class this semester, we were asked to put together a box which we would call our “culture chest”—a representation of all the elements of our backgrounds and our preferences that we think define us. In the box pictured above, you will find a cumulation of what makes me, me. Ironically enough, most of the items contained within—meant to relate the story of my 33 years—actually represent events which have happened only in the last few of them, beginning with one defining moment.

The day I almost died.

I couldn’t explain to you what it felt like to hold the pills in my hand. I couldn’t explain to you the sudden onset of panic as the entire handful of them slid down my throat. I couldn’t tell you the sensation of losing control of every muscle in my body, or what my husband said to me as I began to lose consciousness. Ultimately, I couldn’t tell you more than a small fraction of events that happened in the next few hours, or next few days, after being wheeled into the emergency room. But the one thing I do remember is a single line playing over and over again in my head: “They’re all better off without you.”

There are only two items inside this box that represent the struggle that was my life before that moment. First, is an envelope from a two-page letter I received when I was only 14. It is at that age of my faith—the faith which my family has been a part of since it began—that a member receives what is called a patriarchal blessing. Designed to be a guide for the person receiving it, a patriarchal blessing is the only blessing within the Church that is recorded.

It is a special message imparted on the receiver by one whose sole purpose within the Church is to relay such blessings. Within not much more than a few pages, it outlines, in vague detail, guidance on just what it is that that person is meant to do within their time on earth. It can contain information on everything from path to purpose, and for me, one line has stood out as an influence in nearly every decision I have ever made since that moment. “He has a great work for you to do while on the earth.”

No pressure, right?

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