As a 12-year-old deacon, I was pleased to accompany the bishop to deliver Christmas baskets to the widows of our ward in Vernal, Utah. The backseat of his car was filled with baskets of grapefruit and oranges. This was during World War II, when grapefruit and oranges were scarce, so they were quite a treat. He waited in the car while I took a basket to each door and said, "The bishop asked me to give you this Christmas basket from the ward."
When we had delivered all the baskets but one, the bishop drove me home. There he handed me the last basket and said, "This is for your mother." Before I could reply, he drove away. (Dallin Oaks was 7 when his father passed away in June of 1940.)
I stood in front of our house, snowflakes falling on my face, holding the basket and wondering. We had been delivering baskets to widows, but I had never thought of my mother as a widow. I had never heard her refer to herself as a widow. I wondered why anyone would think my mother was a widow.
That Christmas experience was formative in my understanding of the eternal family and in my appreciation for the faith of my mother. She always taught us that we had a father and she had a husband and that we would always be a family because of their temple marriage.
I always felt that my father was away because the Lord had called him to another work. I knew that other boys had dads who took them hunting and fishing, and it hurt me that he wasn't there. But those were war years, so I just thought of myself as a boy whose father was away in the war. He would be away for a very long time, but I knew that someday we would all be together again.
I am grateful for temple marriage and for the assurance that we can be together as an eternal family.