Thursday, February 9, 2012

On: Death and Dying

Warning: proceed with caution. I'm not gonna lie, this entry is not coming up roses. It's rather morose. It does have a happy ending...but even that's a little rocky. So. Just. Know that you're reading thought vomit. No impulse control went into this entry.

*Disclaimer: I am not depressed. I am quite happy. I love my life. Everyday is beautiful. It's just this one thing lately...this one...something...

Sometimes I can't figure out the right words. This is one of those times. There's this...something inside of me. It's just out of my grasp; just outside the boundaries of my ability to communicate it. It's an emotion, I think; it's a repetitive theme that's been swirling around lately. Death? Loss? The feeling associated with separation? Coming to terms with my own mortality? I can't quite put a finger on it.

All I know is that there are four facts I believe are responsible for this new-found irrational fear of loss and death and such:

1. It has been EVERYWHERE lately.
I don't know what's going on, but suddenly all of these tragic stories are popping up about children dying or old friends or people's grandparents or their spouses or THEMSELVES. (I watched "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch and let me tell you, it is fantastically uplifting and morbidly depressing all at the same time. I highly recommend it.) On Sunday in Relief Society we were having a lesson on women in church history. These women overcame things that I can't even begin to imagine. I know it was supposed to be inspiring and make us feel strong and capable as women, but it left me feeling absolutely broken-hearted for them instead. Which is weird for me. I usually tend to focus more on the uplifting parts of lessons like that. Some of it probably had to do with the fact that I was holding my precious, perfect, sleeping little boy while they read a story about a woman who's son was born while they were on their pilgrimage to the Salt Lake Valley. He was born in the summer, so he did alright for the first five months, but then they arrived in Utah and built a house just in time for winter. A month into that winter, the baby got sick and no matter how hard the mother and her sister tried to keep him from dying, he finally succumbed. Well. Awesome. So here I am with my sweet, sleeping five month old boy and I'm listening to this story about this mother fighting through the night to quiet her dying baby's cries. I literally had to leave the room I was sobbing so hard. And it wasn't the good kind of sobbing where you're having all of these realizations and spiritual epiphanies. This provides a good segue into reason number 2 that I'm struggling with this whole 'death' concept:

2. I'm entirely too empathetic.
I inherited this trait from my mother. When I say I feel your pain...I am not exaggerating. I FEEL your pain. I mean, granted, I don't claim to feel it to the degree that you are undoubtedly feeling it...but let me tell you, it will keep me up at night. I cry for mother's who have lost babies harder now that I have my own. I cry for widows harder now that I'm married. I feel that ache more profoundly than I ever have before which leads us to number three:

3. I love more deeply than I used to.
I've always been highly emotional. I think with my heart, not with my head. But ever since July of 2010 when I fell in love for the first time, I have started to experience a different level of love. Then, I welcomed a baby boy into my home and I can't even begin to describe how much it hurts to love that child. It's like you love so hard it breaks your heart. So if loving him hurts, can you imagine what losing him would feel like??

4. I've never done the loss thing.
My junior year, a friend of mine passed away. It was sudden. She was 17. We were best friends when I was 8 and 9. We used to have sleep-overs and slip n' slide parties and play Game-Boy together and sing together...all that good stuff. Then, I moved to Bakersfield and we sort of lost contact. Every once in a while I'd see her at dances and we'd chat. The last time I ever spoke to her, I told her I loved her name and I wanted to have a daughter with that name someday. She laughed. Then I danced away. The next time I heard her name, my mother was telling me she'd been in a car accident. Her funeral was one of the hardest things I've ever been to. But it wasn't because we were close. It was because of the look on her mother's face. It was grief I can't comprehend. It was like every part of her was shattered...her world had been taken from her...she couldn't function. Standing probably took every ounce of strength she had. I can't get that face out of my head. It hurts me when I see it. I don't ever want to look like that. I haven't had to yet. I haven't even lost a grandparent. Both sets are still alive. The closest encounters I have had with death have been experienced through people I am close with...and those about kill me.

And here's the rub: I believe in an afterlife. Can you imagine the pain involved in loss if you DIDN'T believe in an afterlife??

I know that death is a part of this life. I know that it is a necessary step. My theology is very specific on the death subject. It's very hopeful. We are sealed together for time and all eternity; never to lose each other completely. What a beautiful doctrine! I know that doctrine is full of hope and truth and comfort, but lately I can't tap into that.

What about right now? What about that hurt that makes you feel like you can't move?

Someday soon, and again and again, I will learn how to move after a loss. I'm dreading it. I wish I knew when it was coming, or in what form it is coming. But I don't and that is part of death's power: fear of the unknown. It could come at any time to any one in any form. It could be fast. It could be slow and drawn out. It could be unexpected. It could be planned and prepared for. But however it comes (and come it will) it still leaves the living lonely. Someone's life is shattered everyday as they lose someone they love, but in that same moment, someone's lives are completed as they welcome new life or meet their 'one and only'. How can so much joy and so much grief be experienced simultaneously? How does the whole world not stop when someone leaves it or enters it?

I wish I could sit down with someone who has experienced this kind of loss and ask them how they wake up every morning and function. How do they move on? How do they keep their world from stopping? How can they experience joy after experiencing such profound pain? How do they not live everyday in fear that death will come again?

Is it because of the balance of joy and pain? Can they continue because there is a promise out there that life is not over yet? Maybe they know somewhere in the back of their minds that there is someone somewhere experiencing a joy that is equivalent to their pain and that someday, that will be them.

Life, love, laughter, fun, joy, happiness...they are all waiting for us. As is death. But that's the thing: death only lasts for a moment; joy is eternal. There is always hope for happiness. The Lord designed it that way because He loves us. And He wants us to be happy and optimistic. He wants us to experience the kind of love that is so profound that the idea of losing it causes us overwhelming sadness...because then we get to love that way. The way He loves. Unconditionally. Wholly. Desperately. And then we can understand how important it is to Him that we come back to Him. Because He loves us the way I love Luke. And more. So hard that the idea of losing us is unbearable. Maybe that is why I hurt like this for death I've not known that I can understand the way that Heavenly Father loves me and wants me back.


Thanks blogger, for allowing that thought vomit.
As always, it's been extremely therapeutic.


  1. You write so beautifully!! I am not keen on the whole reading thing. But when I see a post from you on your blog I can't wait to read it. Bravo!!

  2. Quite Simply, you're a Mom now. ;-)

  3. I think I may end up just being the most depressing commenter on your blog.

    I totally know how you feel. I remember a very difficult RS lesson about children dying a few years ago and thinking about my own tiny girls.

    The first death I really experienced was the death of my own child. I think somehow it did take the fear away. My grandfather died when I was younger and it never really affected me, then a classmate of mine died of cancer when we were in high school. That was as close as I ever really got to it.

    Now, I live in a really strange dichotomy. I know that death is sacred and as much a part of life as living it, but I do agonize a bit about my other children and husband because I know how quick and unexpected it can be.

    Having the knowledge that we will be reunite with the ones we have lost, make it a lot easier. I don't know how I would have survived the last two years without it.

    Becoming a parent definitely heightens your feelings about mortality. I think it is all part of how we become more like our Heavenly parents. All the love, worry and sacrifice are worth it, though. We can just barely begin to understand the depth of love and feeling our Father has for each of his children.

  4. Sandee- Thanks! That comment made my whole day. Not even exaggerating. =)

    Candace- SO true. It's amazing how your perspective shifts upon becoming responsible for a little life.

    Kathryn- I don't think your comment was the most depressing. I thought it was insightful and beautiful and I'm grateful that you shared it. I was thinking about you a lot as I wrote that entry.