My husband, John MacPhee, and I were married in Raymond, Alberta, in 1943. We had been high school sweethearts. John, though not a member of our church, attended meetings while we dated and continued to do so after our marriage.
For ten years, I enjoyed family life with a loving husband and father who worked tirelessly to build the Kingdom of God. During those years, I did not anticipate the events that would change our lives.
John was a fuel agent for Raymond and District. In early years, he hauled gas in 45 gallon barrels to the farmers. In time, the hard work of barrel rolling was replaced with a pump which transferred fuel from his truck to the farmers’ tanks.
Often, our family piled into the truck and drove with John to the farms. We would picnic and visit while the gas was pumped. These were great outings. John loved to lead as we sang together.
About this time, some of our friends talked John into taking flying lessons, so he earned his pilot’s license. On a bright, sunny Saturday in December, when John and his friend, Ray, started out on a flight around the countryside, a sudden, heavy snowstorm swept the area. By 6:00 p.m. they had not returned and it was now dark and stormy. I became terrified. Family members gathered at my home. Prayers were said and plans were made for my sisters to stay with me while the men organized a search. It was a dreadful time.
Hundreds of people searched through the deep snow for two days. When the storm cleared, a local farmer used his airplane to widen the search. He located the crash site, ten miles south of Raymond. Both men were dead, killed instantly on impact.
At age 28, I became a widow with five little girls to rear. The youngest was nine weeks old. Night after night I knelt, pleading to be strengthened through this burden and each morning I arose with a heavy heart. But there were many miracles.
After my husband’s body was taken to the mortuary, I was advised that perhaps there should be a sealed casket. I went to a room by myself, desperate and praying to the Lord that I could not go on if I didn't see John one more time. Finally, exhausted and beginning to accept the reality of my situation, I tearfully ended my prayers with the words, “Thy will be done, but please give me strength to endure.” As I did so, enfolding warmth flooded through me, comforted me and brought peace to my soul. My single thought was, “It really won’t matter if you don’t see John. Everything is all right. Things are going according to Heavenly Father’s plan and He will help you.” I knew this peace was from the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. It was the first time that I realized this vital role of the Holy Ghost. I had peace, knowing the Lord’s plan was in place. I was content to leave John’s casket closed and the terrible yearning to see him left me.
Within hours after the announcement of my husband’s death, Imperial Oil called to ask if I would be willing to take over his bulk fuel agency. No woman had ever been an agent at that time. It was 1953, when women in our area were just beginning to enter the workforce, though not in managerial positions. When the company official called, he explained that the firm would not have a woman agent. I needed to find a man to be agent in name only, but that I would be acting agent. My brother-in law agreed to act as agent and he became a steadying influence and wise advisor as I learned my way in the business world. I had not even had time to worry about how I would care for myself and our five children before the problem was solved. God knew my need before I had realized it, and He had a plan.
After John’s death, I had resisted going to the temple because it had been a place we had gone often together and I would feel alone without him. But I knew I should go to the temple because I had felt, ever since John’s death, that he was called to teach the gospel to his ancestors beyond the veil.
The first time I returned to the temple, I received a sacred witness that our temple sealing was a reality, that the plans of Heavenly Father are real, that John is near us, still loving and concerned about us and will be waiting for me and for our posterity on the other side. This witness, sent by an all-wise and loving Father, has given me peace and courage for my life’s challenges. Since my temple experience, that cloud of darkness has never assailed me again. I have great joy and peace in this life and a sure hope of better things beyond the veil.
For three years, I managed the Imperial Oil Agency. During that time, at the encouragement of my high school principal, I upgraded my high school credits and qualified to enter the University of Alberta to obtain a Bachelor of Education degree.
When it was time to sell the business, I had a difficult time finding someone to pay the price that I felt was needed. I became discouraged and considered reducing the asking price. Then my bishop counselled me not to sell the business until I could get enough money to pay for my plan go to university. I waited, praying always for help, and finally someone from the community bought the business at my asking price.
Who knew in the trying weeks of 1953 that life ahead would be so sweet and so fulfilling? I have it all because my Saviour, Jesus Christ, has watched over me and loved me.