This Life is Not The End
By Ken K. Gourdin
Note – I posted this on Dan Peterson’s blog at Patheos.com today in response to a post about death, and how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deal with it. While it is quite short, I thought it worth reposting here. (The thoughts, while intended to reflect accurately the teachings of the Church, are mine. In the event of any conflict between them and the actual teachings of the Church, I encourage my readers to defer to the latter.)
One of the paradoxes of Mormonism is that it provides an indispensable perspective that this life is merely The Second Act. [The “First Act” occurred when we lived with God, our Father in Heaven, in the premortal life1, and the “Third Act” begins when we depart this mortal life2]: it is not THE end, so we can face the prospect of its end with that comfort; on the other hand, it also makes life and relationships with loved ones that much deeper and richer, meaning that the separation from loved ones (however temporary) often is more difficult. It’s worth remembering, however, that for every sorrowful parting that occurs on this side of the veil, there is at least one joyful reunion that occurs on the other side of the veil.
Condolences to all affected by the loss. While it may take time, may you, eventually, find the sweet peace the Gospel brings.
Update, June 18, 2014 – More Thoughts Along The Same Lines: Another Condolence Post – Mere words, of course, do not suffice. I have relatively little acquaintance with the kind of grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one – much less, of course, with the kind which comes at the loss of a child, and still less with the kind which comes at the loss of an infant. Notwithstanding the perspective which the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ provides, grief, of course, is inevitable; there is no way around it – only through it. But Christ not only is there to encourage us, He helps us carry our burdens by being yoked with us. He truly is “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” It’s what makes them possible – often it’s the only thing that makes them possible – to bear.
I’ve written before in a comment elsewhere on your blog that the paradox of the Gospel is that, in a way, it may heighten our grief at the loss of loved ones because it makes our earthly relationships with them that much deeper and richer, thus making separation from them (even though we know it’s only temporary) that much more difficult. We weep, especially, for the loss of the very young – for growth, and milestones, and experiences foregone with them.
Yet there is growth and there are milestones and experiences taking place elsewhere, in the company of other loved ones who have passed on, too: this is cold comfort to those left behind, perhaps, because our perception of these things is much more opaque than that which we experience with our loved ones here; the veil, however thin, often is difficult to see through – still. As “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” even Christ wept with – and wept for – Mary and Martha, even though He knew what was coming.
One of life’s greatest injustices, it seems, is that the more time is necessary to heal a wound, the slower it seems to move. Still, there will be healing: perhaps not today or tomorrow, or next week or next month, but it will come.
Sincere condolences, and the best to you and yours on your journey toward it.
Update, 29 July 2014: Understandably, the person at whom the foregoing post is directed is still grieving the loss of his precious infant granddaughter. Although I originally intended to post the foregoing on his Blog, I figured it’s probably in poor form to throw what might be perceived as nothing more than a “Pity Party” on someone else’s blog. (That’s the trouble with Pity Parties: The guest list usually is very small (seldom numbering more than one) because no one else wants to come). Regardless whether they spring from pity or not, however, these feelings are genuine; so, I thought I would post them here:
I don’t know why some of us are long for the earth and some of us … aren’t. That’s especially puzzling to me because I was a preemie, in an era in which (although I never went there) Utah’s first Neonatal Intensive Care Unit debuted the year before I was born, and in an era well before babies who are much smaller than I was are being saved. For more than a few years now, I have been frustrated because it seems that I’m doing far less than fulfilling the measure of whatever purpose I was “saved” for.)
I want to believe that there’s a Cosmic Purpose to it all, in an “If-thou-canst-do-no-more-than-desire-to-believe” and “Lord-I-believe-help-thou-mine-unbelief” sense. I want to have faith that He, who notes a sparrow’s fall, is mindful of me, too. I want to have faith that “all flesh is in [His] hand.” Alas, I “see through a glass, darkly.” The truth is, I never thought I would reach this stage of my life still wondering where, in so many ways, I’m supposed to fit in: occupationally, with respect to the prospect of having a family of my own, and more. In some ways, I would be glad to trade places with your granddaughter.
|1.||For more on the LDS belief regarding premortal life, see the following link, last accessed today:https://www.lds.org/manual/doctrines-of-the-gospel-student-manual/chapter-6-our-premortal-life?lang=enghttps://www.lds.org/topics/plan-of-salvation?lang=eng|
|2.||Joseph Smith taught: “. . . [T]hat same sociality which exists among us here [in mortal life] will exist among us there [in the next life, after death], only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy” (Doctrine & Covenants 130:2).|
|3.||See “Sweet is the Peace the Gospel Brings,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985) no. 14; see also, e.g., nos. 292 (“O, My Father”), 293 (“Each Life That Touches Ours For Good”), and 300 (“Families Can Be Together Forever”) in that same volume, as well as associated scriptures accompanying those texts, available here (last accessed today): https://www.lds.org/music/library/hymns?lang=eng.|