Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another Stage of Eternity - October 18, 2009

This morning my grandmother died. My father felt prompted to fly out from Chicago last night, so all three of her sons were there in the hospital, joined in prayer for her. Around 2:00, she slipped to the other side of the veil.
The viewing will be at 495 S State Street, the Sundberg Olpin Funeral Home in Orem on Wednesday evening from 6:00 to 8:00. There will be another viewing Thursday morning from 9:45 to 10:45 and then the funeral from 11:00 – 12:00 at the Edgemont North Stake Center – at the intersection of Canyon Road and Foothill Drive in Provo. The burial will be that afternoon in Logan.

Ever since I moved to Utah, I've spent time with Grandma. Before my mission, she would come pick me up from campus and always feed me – taking me out to dinner at a local restaurant when she was too tired to make a salad. Sometimes I dreaded coming to visit her because she made me eat so much. In the last few years we've gone to lunch each week at my uncle's house, and I've tried to get her to come out of the house to attend social events. She was the first person to experience the interactive scripts I was writing for work last year and she helped me brainstorm titles for my books. She gave me feedback on everything, and, even when I completely disagreed, I knew that she cared enough to listen. We are completely different... and there were definitely times when we disagreed... but as time has come and gone we learned to love each other in person (as opposed to at-a-distance). I've been with her in the hospital in the past, and while it has never been a great experience, each time she rallied and got well. When she entered the hospital this time, I thought she would be fine – just a few days ago she actually seemed like she was getting better. But her heart, lungs, and pancreas took a turn for the worse... and now she has gone on to the next stage of life.
Watching Grandma die has shown me that the events that surround death, and much of the emotions of death... are not really very relevant for the person who dies after all. An understanding of the gospel wipes away any tears that could ever fall for their sakes. They've passed the test and are finally moving on to better things. But we, here on earth, may lack that perspective... and grief comes when we have trouble letting go... thinking of all the conversations we now won't have... the times we won't be able to make them soup or talk over a homemade salad or wrap... how we won't be able to kiss them goodnight or talk about what we'll plant next year in the garden. But the Lord knows all that – and He has a plan for each of us. If we are doing what is right, everything in life is a blessing.

Years ago, I had recurring nightmares where I was together with my family on the expressway. Every time, we would swerve and fall off the on-ramp into a deep pool of water. My parents and siblings would die and leave me alone, floundering in the water. I had already gotten over my fears of dying; at the time, the thought of losing my family was the most horrific thing that could ever happen. As the dream continued... I realized that I had to deal with my feelings. I went through all the normal questions – Why would God allow my family to die? Why would He leave me alone, without anyone to understand me? And then, in the middle of a dream, my teenage self felt peace. And I realized if I would simply choose to do what was right, nothing else would matter. God would take care of me, and everything could somehow be a blessing in life – even the death of my loved ones. The nightmare stopped being a nightmare... and instead became a question – what would you do? Press forward with faith.

All of us will lose loved ones... or at least think that we have lost them. In reality, they have only been transferred to a different field of labor. Death is one of the things that is truly universal in the world. When loved ones of others have died, I've often wondered what to say. The only thing I really felt to be true – that it was a blessing for everyone and that we should turn our grief into a passion for becoming better – worked for me, but I wasn't sure if it would be as powerful for everyone else... and I didn't want to be trite. As death has taken those close to me, I realize that the message of the gospel is never trite. I know that the message of the gospel is true – it is the only way that we will be happy in this life... and it will support and sustain us no matter what happens.
I know that God loves us. He sent His Son to live for us, then to die for us. I know that each of us will rise in the Resurrection, and that we have the opportunity to live with our loved ones for eternity. The message of the gospel is one of peace and happiness!

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