When my oldest brother, Boyd, married his sweetheart, Nancy, I was still in grade school. I had never been to a wedding reception in the United States and was unfamiliar with its customs and, to me, its weird rituals. For example, after the multi-layered cake had been cut by the bride and groom, each holding onto the handle of a gilded knife as if each by himself or herself was incapable of performing the act alone, and it was almost time for the happy couple to depart the festivities, the groom, with great fanfare and to the delight of the partygoers gathered there, daintily removed a garter from the bride’s leg and prepared to launch it forth in the direction of a bevy of men and boys who seemed quite intent on competing with each other to pluck it from the air.
Now just prior to these strange goings-on, my new sister-in-law took me aside and told me in no uncertain terms that I was NOT to catch the garter! I got the impression that there was somebody out there whose turn it was to accomplish that feat—and it most assuredly was not I, a mere grade schooler. Well, I dutifully joined myself to the gaggle of male geese to await the toss and to see what was going to happen next.
My tuxedo-clad brother turned so his back was to his boisterous buddies, but not before surreptitiously ascertaining where each and every one was located, and ceremoniously sent the pretty little icon airborne—right into my chest.
Well, I didn’t know quite what to do. I clasped the offending article against my ribcage and then got hold of it between two fingers and…just looked at it in bewilderment. The men and boys burst into cheers, as apparently was the custom, while the ladies in the party looked a little embarrassed and clapped politely. My very pretty sister-in-law’s rosy red lips tightened and her face took on a certain stony demeanor but she said nothing—at least not to me.
Soon afterwards she tossed a bouquet of flowers in the air and it was caught, by design, by her very best friend. That seemed to make everybody happy and they soon forgot who had caught the garter—except for Nancy. From the moment I took that garter in my young fingertips, I had seemingly closed the doors on her affection. Oh, she was tolerantly polite after that, probably for Boyd’s sake, but from then on it became apparent to me that I was definitely NOT her favorite brother-in-law.
Well, the years went by—several more than fifty—and the enduring couple built a good life together surrounded by five children and many grandchildren. Not too long ago I called Nancy to wish her a happy birthday. At the time she was practically bed-ridden after a bout with ill health. In the course of the conversation, the subject of her wedding came up. “I know I got married,” she said, “because I have all the wedding pictures. But my memory of that day is totally lost. I don’t remember one thing about my very own wedding.”
In my little black heart I shouted, “Hooray!” “Perhaps,” I thought, “after all these years I am forgiven—or at least forgotten.” As the old saying goes, “Time heals all wounds.”
It was not long after that that Nancy was laid to rest. Two weeks later, to the day, my brother Boyd passed away very unexpectedly. I thought, “What a waste for the slightest ill will to exist between two people for such a seemingly insignificant incident.” And yet I know that it happens every day to many, many people who let small things separate them and keep them from basking in each other’s love.
It is written, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (D&C 64:10) I have decided that we are not given commandments to restrict us but to set us free. When we break them, we break ourselves against them. George Albert Smith made forgiving others one of his lifelong goals when he wrote in his personal creed: “I would not knowingly wound the feeling of any, not even one who may have wronged me, but would seek to do him good and make him my friend.”
I have decided that we are not given commandments to restrict us but rather to set us free. When we break the commandments of a loving Father in Heaven or of loving earthly parents, we only break ourselves against them. And, in the final analysis, it was I who should have sought Nancy’s forgiveness. After all, it was I who caught that danged little garter!