Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Tribute to his son - Milton Chester Christensen

Milton, 1965, just before he passed away
If you looked for a complete family portrait for the Robert & Verda Mae Christensen Family, you can't find one.  I was born six months after my brother Milton passed away from aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder where your body stops producing enough red blood cells.  Milton was the third child in our family as you read in my father's tribute below, had a different approach to his life.  I learned a lot about him growing up and every year we paid respect to him at his grave site.  However I obviously never got to experience him first hand, but my mother tells a story about him during the last stage of his illness.  Milton was unable to speak and had to write conversation down on paper.  My mother was pregnant with me, wrote the following story in her autobiography:

That last night when he and I were alone, he wrote me another very special note:
"Is there someone else in this room?" it said.
And I responded, "Do you see someone?"
He nodded yes.
"Sometimes, when you're very sick," I said, "Heavenly Father sends special
messengers to comfort you, and this is probably whom you see."
I made out his next words. "Clayton's here, isn't he?" I had thought he might be seeing the spirit person so many people said came at the time of death. But Clayton was his next elder brother who was very much alive. So I dismissed the idea that he was seeing a spirit person at all. He was just delirious.
I had no sooner thought that than his next word came:
"You don't believe me."
I hurried to reassure him. "Oh yes, I do." Then it occurred to me that the person he was seeing might well be another family member from generations past, even my own father who had died when I was six and who looked a great deal like his grandson, Clayton.
Then Milton wrote another note. "Who is that in your lap?" it read.
"It's just a pillow," I said. And he said, "Oh."
But later on, I wondered. I was four months pregnant with our youngest child.
Who was it he saw in my lap?

I don't know if it was me, but I've always wondered.  Either way, I look forward to meeting him and was touched at the heart felt tribute that my father wrote, shortly after his death.  Fitting on this Father's day when we celebrate many happy moments and honors of being a father, but there are some heartbreaking moments as well and sometimes very difficult to pen.  I think like most parents, we don't entirely get over these kind of losses and while we do move on, they are tender moments with us forever.  I thought it appropriate to share my father's tribute to my brother Milton:

                No greater honor could be paid me at any time during my life, than to say I am Milton's father. For eleven wonderful years we played, worked, and worshipped together.  With Milton there were so many things in his life that did not fall into the usual pattern of a child's growing up.  Many things children normally do, Milton seemed less interested in. In other matters his interest was greater. He was so interested in some spiritual aspects of the Gospel: The visions of the prophets, death, the resurrection, the spirit world, and the three degrees of glory.
After an illness some years ago, on the way home from the hospital, Verda Mae remarked, "I wonder if we will be able to raise Milton to manhood?"
Milton delighted in the things of the Lord.  Every night he would ask me, "Daddy, tell me a story."  And in the hospital during those long weeks I told him ten times over the Church History and Missionary stories that he loved so well.  Through his bloody, swollen mouth, until the last day, he could still say, "Daddy, tell me a story."
His great love of going to work with me was a great source of happiness to him and me. In the hospital he would say to me, "Daddy, you had better get to work."  Or, "Daddy, you can go home now."  He always had a great concern for me.  He made simple cherished gifts for Father's Day, Birthdays, and Christmas.  This Father's Day on his hospital bed he wrote me his last love letter.
He was always delighted with a chance to serve someone in his own way.  He didn't want to be forced into doing things.  He didn't like the regimentation of a ball team, while a carefree ride on his bicycle filled his heart with gladness.
Milton was a beautiful child. He was always my Milty Boy. Many many times as I looked upon his sweet face as he played and worked and lay asleep, I wondered if , as he grew older, some evil  minded person could lead him astray into an unrighteous life, or some unholy teacher weaken or destroy his testimony  of the restored Gospel. As I had these thoughts I prayed diligently that this would never happen to him and that no person could have an evil influence upon him.
I have always so firmly believed the doctrine that children are heirs to the Celestial Kingdom.  For this Milton was fully prepared.  He had a beautiful body,  a saving knowledge and testimony of the gospel,  and in a few weeks he experienced more darkness,  sickness,  and pain than most men do in a lifetime.
During his illness the scriptures dealing with "Another Father's Son" kept going through my mind and took on great new meaning to me.
As I sat hour after hour, day after day,  wiping away his blood as it dripped from the pores of his body,  I knew what the Lord meant when he dripped "As it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. "
As I sat by his bed and watched him die, I was grateful for the privilege of watching and praying with him.  Many hours we prayed together as one before us, "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me except I drink it, Thy will be done."
The will of the father was to take him home.  After so many days of awful suffering increasing in intensity hour by hour,  bleeding and infection spreading black throughout his body,  he finally laid his head on his pillow and in two or three heavy breaths,  as though to say, "It is finished," he instantly departed from mortal life.
When Verda Mae reached the hospital and we viewed his lifeless body, all I could say was "Behold thy son."
Milton bore this illness like a man.  On his last day after the needle used in giving him the transfusions had been removed from his foot, he motioned to me to lift him up on the side of the bed so his feet could hang down.  He put his arms around my neck and cried as if to say, "Father, why has thou forsaken me?"   Through his pitiful mouth he made out the words, "Daddy, take me home!"
Now after Milton's great advancement from mortality into the kingdom of the righteous spirits, I plainly see him in the full stature of his magnificent spirit, gloriously endowed with the great knowledge he had in the pre-existent world, living and laboring with our great family who now lives there, sealed up to enter the Celestial kingdom when the Lord calls him.
For Mother, Elliott, Clayton, Maribeth, Spencer, Bradley, Nancy Ruth and me, his greatly blessed father, there remains the living of our lives in the way the Lord has directed us. We must not fail Milton's expectations of our being able to join him as we have promised.

-Robert: M. Christensen
Family portrait taken in the home where I currently live.  Milton is back row
on the left with Elliott and Clayton.
Middle row is my mother Verda Mae Fuller Christensen, sister Maribeth
and my father Robert M. Christensen
Front row is my brother Brad, my brother Spencer and my sister Nancy in
my father's lap.