Sunday, October 18, 2009

What to say about death?

The past two weeks I have heard of three deaths that have happened in my current ward or in my home ward across town. I admit, I find myself a bit shaken up and thinking about it often. But my thoughts on death began before that. One Sunday evening my family gathered at my parents house to celebrate my father's birthday. Paul and I arrived early, took my uncle to the airport, and still returned before the rest of the extended relatives came. With time to burn, Dad asked if I wanted to swing with him in the backyard. As we drifted back and forth in the metal porch swing and my Sunday heals drilled holes in the dirt my dad mentioned a book he'd been reading about near death experiences. He remembered stories where people died, vital signs failed, but they came back to life moments later. And in those moments they were given a choice. Nie nie relates her experience while in a coma from a devastating plain crash: "[I was] with somebody who told me that I could choose to live and have a hard life, you know, embarrassing at times and painful. Or, I could just stay there, and there's lots of work I could do there too."

I know a big part of why we're here is to make choices. We fought a war for agency long ago. Satan would have the world fear death. He makes it seem to final, painful, and dark. He wouldn't want God's children knowing that we have choice in that as well. He wants us to feel as powerless as possible. For me, knowing people have been given a choice only strengthened my testimony of the principle of moral agency and the power that comes with righteous choices. And I have to express my admiration for those who have chose to stay because I simply don't know if I could make that choice in the condition they were in.

But then I heard of a death on Friday that shook me to the core. I can't describe the confusion I felt by the loss of my new theory of choice and death. I don't think that 32 year old father of six beautiful girls and one gorgeous wife would choose to leave them. We must not always get a choice in death. . . maybe getting a choice is the exception. I was frustrated that I couldn't explain to myself what had happened. I just didn't understand. I still don't.

But I know one thing: the peace the Lord brought me in all my musings was sweet and real. The confirmation he gave to me that temple marriage is eternal was powerful and calming. Because Christ atoned for our sins, hung on the cross, and raised from the tomb we, too, can overcome death and be with our loved ones again. Sometimes, that's all we need to know.

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