Friday, February 15, 2008

A Season of Joy: The life of Candace Naomi Carroll

In the scriptures it is written: “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God…And if it so be that ye should labor all your days…and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (Doctrine & Covenants Section 18, verses 10, 15, and 16.)

Candace Naomi Carroll was born on February 13, 2007 and passed away the following afternoon. Though her life on earth spanned just a few hours and her time in her mother’s womb just nine months, her righteous spirit radiated powerful, everlasting joy. From the first moments of her development to her last living breath, this valiant daughter of God taught all who knew her about the true peace and happiness found in our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation. How wonderful it is to know that Candace now lives in peace and perfect health with her Heavenly Father and other close family members. Candace is survived by her parents, Jonathan and Krista Carroll, her older siblings, Shaylin (7), Zachary (5), and Hailey (3), and a large and loving extended family.

In the early weeks of her development in utero, Candace suffered a neural tube defect called anencephaly that prevented her skull and brain from developing normally. Her parents chose to allow the pregnancy to progress, fully aware that this condition would not allow Candace to live more than a few hours after birth. They believed fervently that the nine months Candace spent in her mother’s womb would fulfill her need to experience mortality.

Those months were tender for Candace’s parents and siblings. Her family celebrated every kick and wiggle. They cherished each ultrasound view of their baby girl. They mailed birth announcements to their family and friends, made burial clothes, stitched blankets, planted trees, and selected keepsakes. Although these actions were tinged with sadness, each opportunity to celebrate her life drew her family closer together. Through it all, they felt Candace’s gratitude for being allowed to experience a physical body, even for such a short time. All who witnessed the incredible, yet willing, sacrifice Krista made to carry Candace to term can testify of the love she felt for her special little daughter and for her Heavenly Father. Krista often shared that giving Candace the gift of life was an honor, and she spoke fondly of the thankful spirit Candace radiated. That warmth calmed fears, healed hearts, and offered hope for the future.

Once Candace’s amazing spirit comforted and blessed her family, it seems she set out to proclaim that her beautiful soul was not the only one worth saving. Countless others drew strength and testimony from her righteous parents, who showed implicit faith in the Plan of Salvation. Their every action affirmed their conviction that families exist eternally, that Candace will be their daughter forever. Jon and Krista had several opportunities to discuss their testimonies regarding the sanctity of life with friends of other faiths. A family who lost their father in an accident drew strength and peace from Jon and Krista’s belief in life after death and the eternal nature of families. The Carrolls rejoiced when they learned that their experience with Candace influenced another couple to feel joy in their unexpected pregnancy, thus allowing another choice spirit to experience life on Earth. On the day Candace was born, the mother of this family found herself in preterm labor and checked into the hospital down the hall from Krista. It seems these two little souls wanted to be close on Candace’s special day.

Other miracles happened as the spirit of the Lord worked mightily to bring Candace’s story to light. In the early months of her pregnancy, Krista yearned to write a song that shared her feelings about Candace’s life and death. Though she tried many times, the process was too emotional. She began praying that someone else could write the song of her heart. In September, not knowing Krista’s wishes, two special angels went to work. Julie Hancock first received the inspiration through whispered words in the temple. Later, Angie Liddell felt a flood of lyrics and heard melodies and accompaniments in her mind. After hours of composition and more than one sleepless night, the collaboration was complete. When Angie and Julie presented their music, entitled “One Tiny Miracle,” Krista knew her prayers had been answered. The song’s lyrics, which we will be privileged to hear in a few minutes, clearly share the deepest feelings of a mother and daughter bonded eternally.

Krista was blessed to meet Sister Bonnie Parkin, General Relief Society President of the Church, at a regional Relief Society meeting. During their brief greeting, Sister Parkin inquired about Krista’s family. She probed for information, sensing Krista’s hesitation to share the news of her unborn daughter, which was then very fresh. Upon hearing about Candace, Sister Parkin poured out a spirit of comfort and hope. She said that Candace’s short life would be a blessed and joyful time, despite the sorrow and pain. She promised the family would grow and their testimonies deepen because of this experience. Her perceptive, insightful comments offered great peace.

Just before Christmas, the church leaders overseeing Krista’s parents’ mission in Africa, including the mission president, the area authority, and Elder Henry B. Eyring, were inspired to grant Elder and Sister Flake an early release. Returning home two months early allowed them to enjoy the holiday season with their children and prepare for little Candace’s arrival. What a blessing it was for Candace to meet all four of her loving grandparents, as well as several aunts, uncles, and cousins. The way Heavenly Father watched over this family and made such an opportunity possible affirms His great love and the worth He attaches to one little soul.

Shortly after she was born on Tuesday evening, Jon gave his sweet baby daughter a name and a blessing. Jon and Krista selected Candace for its meaning, which is “flowing white; pure.” In addition to being a lovely biblical name, Naomi means pleasant and beautiful. These names truly describe such an angelic little girl. The veil separating this life from the next was very thin as Jon blessed Candace to have a peaceful, joyful experience during her short life and charged her to go forward with the mission Heavenly Father had prepared for her. Candace lived for nearly 24 glorious hours, giving her family precious time to hold her, love her, and talk to her. She passed away at 5:13 p.m., nestled in her mother’s loving arms and surrounded by her family.

1 Thessalonians 3:9 offers a fitting tribute for our little Candace this day. It reads: “For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your [sake] before our God.” Truly, we have joy for the miracle of Candace’s life. The short but intense mission Candace had on this earth was, in itself, a miracle. That she breathed, opened her eyes, cried, nursed, blew bubbles with her lips, and looked so pink and beautiful is a miracle. The way she touched so many lives is a miracle. The way she helped so many learn of and remember the true plan of happiness is a miracle. That this time of sadness has also been a time of celebration and peace is a miracle. Though her family and friends are very sad to not have the opportunity to know Candace now, we feel great joy and calm reassurance that Jesus Christ is real, that Heavenly Father is watching over us, and that Candace and her journey are all part of His eternal plan.

To Hailey, Zachary, Shaylin, Jon, and Krista: thank you for sharing her journey with us. We all find comfort in your endless faith, your firm testimony, and your incredible love. Your precious angel has touched our lives in so many ways. Candace reminded some that birth and life truly are miracles. She taught others to give freely of their time and talents. Candace taught all who knew her that Heavenly Father does love and listen to his children’s heavenly pleas. He answers prayers! Candace offered hope to those whose situations in life seem unbearable by reminding them to endure, have faith, and look to the future with joy.

As we celebrate her short earth life this day, let us embrace the reality and sacred nature of Heavenly Father’s love for us. As we move forward, let us all learn from Candace and find the joy in our own journeys.

Note: This life sketch was written and delivered with love by Heidi Bartle at Candace’s funeral on Saturday, February 17, 2007.


Dina said...

That is so beautiful. I had no idea; I was searching for the song and was thrilled to find the story. Now I've had a good cry. ;) I'm so thankful that this page remains on the internet, Candace's story is beautiful. God is good.

Roxanne said...

I was looking for the song lyrics and scripture reference for "if it so be that ye shall labor" ... via google..and came across this blog/story. OMG what a blessing. I am truly touched and in tears at the faith Candace's parents/family had and truly admire all the sacrafices made. God bless you alway and yes, Families Are Forever. I am hoping that one day I too can have an eternal family. You have now inspired me to get there. xoxoxo.... from San Jose, CA