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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended December 08, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 06Dec00

By Rosemary Pollock

Faith Amid Tragedy

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Barry and Trisha Topham, like most couples, have had their share of trials. With the sudden loss of their daughter, Susannah 23, who died after being struck by a car while riding her bike and the near-death of their son, Dan who three years ago was stung by a yellow jacket and left with an allergic reaction that caused severe brain damaged, they share the same grief but have come to terms with the tragedies in different ways. "I'm always the optimist and Barry's the pessimist," says Trisha. "This too shall not pass," said Barry turning a familiar comforting phrase upside down.

"For some people it's more hope than faith," Barry says. Barry and Trisha are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During the worst days of Dan's ordeal, their prayers were answered more than once. "I can look at those things and can lean on them for strength. Barry tends to forget those things when he's unhappy. His mind goes to the thing that raises questions, instead of the things that shores you up." Trisha adds.

"It's the unfulfilled promise of Susannah that haunts me," Barry said. "She was so sweet and bright and hard-working. Never did anything just halfway." One of Susannah's professors wrote of her, "In over 25 years of teaching here at Utah, as well as at the universities of Virginia and Michigan, she is one of the four or five best students I have been privileged to teach."

The anoxic encephalopathy caused by Dan's yellow jacket sting has left him with a "locked-in syndrome." He is unable to express himself or control his movements. "I think he is just floating most of the time," Trisha says.

Susannah and Dan are two of the Topham's six children. One son is serving a mission for the Mormon church and three of the other children and their spouses live close by. Barry is grateful for his family and good friends. He is currently putting the finishing touches on the Susannah Topham Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Utah. The fund will help provide financial assistance for students majoring in history.

"This Thanksgiving was especially hard this year," Barry said. "I couldn't say the prayer. I had to have my brother-in-law say it." Three months after Susannah's death, Barry lies in his dark bedroom and hears the questions that Job once heard, questions that stack up faith against unspeakable pain and sorrow. In spite of the pain, Barry will make breakfast and help Trisha with Dan's shower. After making it through another day, Barry will lie down next to Dan and ask him if he wants to say his prayers. "He'll say 'Yes" and then, 'Heavenly Father, bless our family to be healthy, safe and happy.'"


Faith and trial
Deseret News 2Dec00 P2
By Elaine Jarvik: Deseret News staff writer
Even shared tragedy is coped with individually


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