Brief Reflections on My Own Mortality
By Ken K. Gourdin
I just returned from the memorial service of a longtime friend of mine and my family’s. I went to school with her for quite a few years. In keeping with the spirit of my previous post, I hope I can be forgiven for simply hoping that someone shows up for my funeral. I can relate to her in the sense that she has the heart and soul of a poet and of an artist—with, perhaps, a mercurial temperament to match.
From what I understand, she overdosed on prescription medication, but the murky, ambiguous circumstances surrounding her passing make it unclear whether she did so deliberately or, forgetting she had already taken her most recent dose, simply took another.
In many ways, she seemed a tortured soul, ever in search of a peace that lay just outside her grasp in this life. To a certain extent, we have that in common, as well. Although a measure of peace is within my grasp, there are other things that seem to have eluded me in this life: things such as an occupational niche, modest material means, and a less opaque vision of my place in this world.
There are benefits of being reminded of one’s own mortality, but a part of me finds such reminders unpleasant—not because I fear death or because I lack faith in what purportedly comes after: I don’t fear death, nor do I lack faith in what purportedly comes after. It’s just that, as I mention in the foregoing paragraph, as much as I’d like to think I can bend the universe to my will (at least a tiny bit), it will only bend so far, if any at all. And frankly, a part of me asks, “If it won’t bend at all, what’s the point?”
At any rate, to borrow a phrase from Elder Joseph B. Wirthin, formerly of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whatever lies ahead, for however long mortality endures for me, “Come what may, and love it.” (Candidly, “come what may” is the easy part of that phrase; it’s the loving it that I have a problem with.)
As for a perhaps-untimely passing, and as for contemplating one’s own mortality, in the immortal words of Job, “Though skin worms destroy this body, I know that in my flesh I shall see God.” In the immortal words of Paul the Apostle, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
And part of our calling as members of the body of Christ, in the words of the prophet-king Benjamin in the Book of Mormon, is to “mourn with those that mourn,” and to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” And as the Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put it, “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” But, as the Psalmist wrote, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
I know not how long mortality may endure. The only thing I can do is labor in the garden as long as that day shall last.