Early childhood was a time of great challenge for me. My parents were divorced, and Mom worked full time to support us both. I felt so alone and somehow came to believe that there was something wrong with me because I did not fit into my world.
Then, when I was seven years old, Michael Landon married my mother and filled my world with unconditional love. He was my knight in shining armour and taught me to believe in myself and in the power of love. Dad sensed in me what he had faced most of his life - emotional darkness. At the time, I did not know that my new father had had an incredibly sad childhood, but we bonded immediately.
I learned to spread my wings and to trust. Dad filled the role of a spiritual teacher and was the best father I could ever have prayed would come into my life. He was a gift.
Like my mother, Dad was always there for me, and at age 19, I needed them more than I had ever before needed them. I was in a terrible car accident that left me in a coma. When my parents arrived at the hospital, I was in the ICU - so badly injured that they did not recognise me. They were told by the doctors that I probably would not live.
Mom and Dad did the only thing they knew to do : They prayed. During that prayer time, my father made a promise to God. When he and Mother returned to ICU, he began coaching me, telling me not to give up : "Fight, baby, fight!" Despite my lack of response, Dad continued to coach me. Mom and Dad held a vigil by my side until I awoke on the third day. I told Dad I had heard him calling me back while I was in the coma.
Dad's promise to God was a turning point for him. These are his own words : "I promised God that if he would let her live, I would do something useful with my life, something to make the world a little better because I'd been there. Cheryl lived, and I've tried to keep that promise ever since."
And Dad kept his promise to God by writing a universal message of spirituality into all his television series. His promise touched millions of lives. In every series he produced, including Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven, he expressed the things he most deeply believed. He believed in God, in family, in truth between people, and in the power of love. He believed that we really are created in God's image, and that God's spirit is within us all.
Twenty-one years after Dad made his promise, I was at his bedside. The doctors told him he had only three weeks to live. He said, "You know, Cheryl, I cannot die. Society is destroying itself, and I can make a difference." He had started a series called Us that was to address relationships and the power of love. Dad believed, as I do, that he had the potential to touch millions of people through this series.
Dad was too weak to get out of bed, so I lay down next to him, held his hand, and made a promise to him. He squeezed my hand when I told him I was going to carry on his message of love.
I had not yet read about his promise to God, but I would - in Life magazine - later that day. I think both our promises are about the power of love. I am a teacher and a writer, but I so believe that love can make our world a better place that I have become a speaker.
The greatest legacy parents can leave to their children is one of love, and that is the legacy my father and my mother gave to me. It caused me to reach out in love to people across the country and across the world.
Like Dad, I want people to believe in God and to have hope. We are all gifts of God. We are all miracles. Sometimes we just forget, and I am here to remind us that we are all message bearers. We all have the power of love within us, for we are all created in the love of God.
By : Cheryl Landon
(From : 'Daily Word' magazine by Silent Unity, a world wide prayer ministry)