Keith and Teri lived down the street from us. They had four children close in age to our own. One time when our daughter, Sally, ran away from home, it was to Keith and Teri's house to live with their daughter Jodi. Our son Dale played with their boys, Jason and Justin. In fact, Justin, is the one who found the arrowhead by our back doorstep one day.

At any rate, during the time when I was working on the LDS Monument to Women in Nauvoo, Ill., one of the sculptures I proposed was of a mother and father teaching a child to walk. Keith and Teri had just had a new baby, Melissa. I asked them if they would model for the sculpture and they consented. We worked together for several weeks on the small model and even though Melissa was still too tiny to walk, we figured she would be taking her first steps about the time I would start working on the life-size sculpture.

But that isn't how it worked out. In the next few months, Keith and Teri began to notice that Melissa was not developing normally. They took her in for tests and discovered that she had cerebral palsy. They were told she would never walk and were advised to just take her home and love her because she probably wouldn't live very long.

At the time, those of us who were close to Keith and Teri felt tremendous empathy and tried to be as supportive as we could. But I'm sure none of us could totally understand what they were going through.

Needless to say, I felt very awkward about the sculpture we had been working on together. Up to this time, I had been mulling over a title for the sculpture, though I had not said anything to them about it. I had wanted to call it, "Melissa Walks."

But suddenly that image was filled with painful irony.

Though Keith and Teri were going through deep emotional struggles, their attitude on the surface was hopeful and determined. They were not going to let Melissa's condition make them think of her as different from any of their other children. And though the future was filled with uncertainty and difficulties even they could not begin to imagine at the time, their only course was to be as positive as possible.

I think in fact, their attitude is what prompted me to approach the situation the way I did. When it came time to work on the large sculpture, I had them come to the studio and bring Melissa with them. By this time, she had been outfitted with body braces just to hold up her head. Her muscles were becoming stiff and atrophied, and neighbors were coming in every day to help Teri with the physical therapy.

The air was filled with a terrible tenderness, and though I was hesitant about it, I went ahead and told them about the title I had wanted the sculpture to have. As with the other sculptures for the project, I knew that the Relief Society would want a more universal title, and this sculpture became known as "In The Family Circle."

But, I told Keith and Teri, for me it would always be "Melissa Walks."

That was 19 years ago, many years more than Keith and Teri had hoped for with Melissa, who in all that time has never walked. For a while, though, she scooted, on a boxlike rig that they would strap her to face-down on her stomach. With her feet barely touching the pavement, she would chase the kids around the carport, her countenance glowing in the exuberant smile that became her trademark.

This is also the story of a mother, who, despite the hopelessness of Melissa's condition, literally gave her life over to her, and of a father and brothers and sisters who were willing to take second place to that commitment.

As she grew older, caring for Melissa became more and more difficult. When she was 11, Keith and Teri finally consented to have her placed in the Utah Development Center in American Fork, while continuing to maintain guardianship.

Though it wasn't necessary, it was important for Teri to have Melissa's clothes brought home for washing each week. On purpose, she would have one of the kids pick up Melissa's things, so they be involved in her continuing care.

Rebecca, who was closest to Melissa in age, says that she would go out of her way to take a friend with her because she wanted them to know how proud she was of Melissa. When they would leave, her friends would often express a desire to go back again. There was something special about "Missy" as she came to be known by her second family at the development center. For though she never spoke a word (they had learned when she was still very young that she was completely deaf), her view of the world carried a brightness that most of us who have full possession of our bodies never attain.

For example, when she would attend Primary, they would place her wheelchair next to the piano. She loved to feel its vibrations.

Missy infected everyone she met with her brightness of spirit.

Last week when she died, a brilliant ray of light slowly faded in her mother's arms. Still, in that darkest of moments in her mother's life, I wonder if a new spark might have also been kindled in Teri's heart, the beginning of a glow of a new life and peace beyond the tragic beauty of Melissa.

And in some other realm, Melissa was finally able to stretch her legs. Free from the bondage of a body that held her captive and toughened by the struggles of her mortal years, the love she received from others and gave back again a hundred fold is finally open to new horizons.

Somewhere, at last, Melissa walks.