Monday, April 25, 2011


So very much has happened lately.. and I have a few thoughts I want to share.  A couple weeks ago a friend of mine suffered the tragedy of losing her son.  He was seven.  His death is unexplainable... the question of why from the perspective of science may never be answered.  He was a healthy little boy one day and not the next.

I had an assignment to speak in her ward at church the day after he passed.  I have never prayed and studied so hard for a speaking assignment.  I didn't know what I should say... so many angles and approaches to view it from.  I felt such a weight.. a burden of responsibility that was exaggerated because I felt this was not by chance.. that I would be speaking there on that Sunday.  Me.  Me who knows death.  I have felt the sting and I have felt the peace.

I have never walked into an assignment having spent more time preparing but with so little clue as to what I would say. I wish I would have prioritized the time to write that day - to capture what I said... but I didn't.  I would like to capture a few thoughts on it here...

I know I began by talking about my own experiences with death.  I did not know death until my grandparents died in my mid to upper 20's.. just a year or two before Chris.  The sting of that death could not compare with what I felt when Chris passed.  I shared of the peace I felt and talked about the fact that we spend a lot of time coming to church.... learning of Christ and testifying of Christ.  But, it is not until you feel that sting of death that you really FEEL it.  You have to look at yourself in the mirror and ask, do I believe it?  Do I really believe it?  Because all of the sudden it REALLY matters.  I talked about that peace and joy of being able to feel Chris' presence after he passed.  Those moments... those tender gifts of his presence.  Where I could feel him holding me... talking to me.... sustaining me.  Tender mercies from God.

I talked about fear.  Peter when he walked on the water.  The storm came in quickly.  Life storms are like that.  We don't have any fancy 'tools' to measure when the storm is coming and how bad it will be... we just live everyday prepared.  And when the storm comes, our natural tendency is fear.  But, we need to realize that God is in control.  He is there to comfort and guide us always.  We must put our faith in Him.  

My storm in life began unexpectedly.  Unlike physical storms in nature that can often be predicted - we often can not predict the storm of life.  We must be prepared always.  Spiritually steadfast and armed with our faith in Christ.  Armed with confidence that we CAN DO hard things through Christ.  Armed with testimony and knowledge of His gospel.  We can walk on water. We can do what He wants us to do and be who He wants us to be.  Through my personal storm the Lord has been there for me.  My heart at times has felt to burst with gratitude for His ever watchful eye and love.  There were times that the storms felt so intense I could not see how I could possibly take another step. My "morning" and "night" prayers were not the same as I felt a constant line and continued communication with God.  I understood more than ever the concept of "praying always" and I felt the love of my Father in Heaven. 

He did not answer my pleas  for peace by calming the storm for a long time.  I felt often that, in contrast, it intensified.  But strength was given to me for every step I took. I felt like Peter on the water and I prayed for calm and was granted the ability to take another step.  The calm did come.... after a long, long storm and many many prayers and petitions for peace.  I distinctly remember receiving a priesthood blessing wherein the elements were commanded to calm.  Once that calming began, I suppose I felt much like one may feel following any treacherous storm.  I was grateful for peace.  There were still cloud covered skies - but I could begin the long and demanding course towards building new again.  The road was long... the work was hard.. but my spiritual muscles grew and eventually I felt I had come out of the clouds and could feel the soothing rays of sunshine. It reached my very core and I felt stillness. 

Despite all the faith we have in Christ... we still feel the pains of life.  He can shoulder much of that pain for us - but that does not mean we will not have bad days... that does not mean tomorrow we are better - never to feel the pain again... it means that we can have more good days than bad days.  It means we can hold on because we know "this too shall pass".

I then talked to the congregation about what they could do.  Henry B. Eyring said we "turn our feelings of sympathy into a decision to act on your covenants". I am confident that any member of that ward, given the opportunity to help or assist in some way, each would be willing.  I encouraged them that each of them would be willing and ready to be instruments in the Lord's hands to serve.   As each of us prayerfully turns to Lord and requests to know how we can be instruments in His hands.. he will guide us and direct us.  We should 'pre-determine' how He wants us to serve... just be humble to follow what inspiration comes, when it comes.  Sometimes that answer may be to serve someone else... we just need to follow what comes.  Continuing the thought of "what to do" I encouraged them to ask.. Know that when you say "let me know how I can help" - it is well meaning buy meaningless.  Ask specifically... "can I mow your lawn", "can I bring you a meal", "do you want to talk".  We should not be afraid to talk about death (the elephant in the room).  Understand if they don't want to see you (this is not about you... space may be needed... it does not reflect their love for you), and finally... memories.  My favorite card I received after Chris passed was from the Rhoton's.  In it Charlotte (their then teenage daughter) shared with me a list of memories she had of Chris.  Priceless.  No matter how trivial it may seem to you... memories are big to those who have lost. 

And when there are "to-do's" there are also "don't-do's"...  Don't try to make sense out of something that doesn't make sense.  Don't tell me God needed him more.  Don't think I deserve what I am going through.  Life happens to each of us.  I don't remember the positive things people said to me after Chris' passing... they just offered comfort.  Comfort from the love I felt in your reaching out.  But, I remember a few that were crazy comments.  I know the people meant well... but they were trying to make sense out of it... or trying to assure me God needed him.  I don't buy either.