Grief and the “Sting of Death”

From my journal: 18 February 2014

I got an email from Aunt Carol today updating us on Grandpa.  Grandpa’s body is failing.  It’s been true for weeks.  He can’t get enough oxygen even with the O2 levels at 100%.  He’s being moved to a hospice center for rehab.  He has a clot in his lungs.  He sleeps most of the time and tires easily.

I think of Grandpa often these days.   I remember things like being pulled off my feet by his big hands placed over my ears: compress and lift!  I remember sports and newspapers.  I remember an underwhelmed reaction (to say the least) at his first and only viewing of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I remember a spiritual presence. Always…when I think of Grandpa’s life I think of constant, quiet service…”  Grandpa passed away 2 days later.

Another excerpt 13 August 2014

Yesterday I received a call midday from Anne [Brendan’s sister].  The police had called her.  Ben [Brendan’s brother] was found dead in his car by a self-inflicted gun shot.  Ben is dead…Anne wanted to talk to Brendan and was having trouble getting a hold of him.  I gave her his direct line and told her to tell them who she was and that it was an emergency concerning his brother.  She got through and I heard from Brendan a few minutes later.  Everyone’s reaction has been shock.  No one knew.  It seems no one ever knows with suicide.  So lonely.  So much despair that you feel the best option is death.  So difficult. … I pray for Ben.  I’m grateful for [the Grandparents] that are there to nurture Ben.  I’m grateful Heavenly Father knows all and takes into account the extraneous circumstances that lead us to despair.  I’m grateful for the Atonement which covers our griefs and sorrows.  I’m grateful for Mercy…

Another excerpt 03 January 2015

…Aunt Becky passed away the morning after Kev’s wedding.  Honestly, all I can feel is relief! For Becky!  For the first time her suffering mind will be at ease.  She’ll have her own thoughts and control over every single one!  She and Grandma can sit and chat in ways that were simply impossible during their lifetimes.  Uncle Bill spoke of Becky’s endurance of her trial in this life and how well she bore it.  I have to agree with Bill.  The imprisonment of schizophrenia is something I cannot fathom.  But for years (maybe 40?), with medication she lived in her own apartment at a living center, managed her own money, made some of her own meals, sewed her own clothes, took classes at the local community center and endured well!  I’m sad that Brendan and my kids never knew her as I knew her growing up.  My Dad pointed out that none of us ever really knew Becky except her Savior and Father in Heaven.  And now Grandma too.  That makes my heart happy. “Deep peace in Christ!”- A Gaelic Blessing Grandma’s favorite and what we sang at Grandma’s funeral a few years back.

One more excerpt  4 Januray 2015

Aunt Meg [Becky’s and my Dad’s sister] passed away this morning…my heart feels heavy.  I feel very tired.  At least Meg, Becky, and Grandma are having a glorious reunion.

My mind and my heart have been greatly weighed with grief in all sorts of ways.  I feel sorrow at Grandpa’s absence. I feel anger at the circumstances of Ben’s life that, in my grief, I am blaming for his death–there is no way to know whether this is true, but grief is not always rational or compassionate.  I feel relief for Becky and great sorrow for her dad, my still living Grandpa.  I feel weariness and sorrow at Aunt Meg’s passing.  Sorrow for Uncle Ken and my adult cousins.  I can’t imagine loosing my mother whom I still need so desperately even though I’m supposed to be a grown-up.  And great sorrow for Grandpa who lost two children in a week’s time.

I have spent a good deal of time studying my scriptures and contemplating death.  I hope to relay the impression I have felt as it has brought me peace and will carry me through my grief.

I have been particularly touched by this scripture “But there is a Resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ” (Mosiah 16:8)  The Atonement of Jesus Christ comprises two parts 1) an atoning for our sins-our spiritual death and 2) the conquering of death-The Resurrection-the restoration of our physical bodies, then perfected, with our spirits.  Both are essential to our eternal salvation.  Because Christ rose again and conquered death we will live again.  Grandpa will live again.  Ben will live again.  Becky will live again.  Meg will live again.  Their spirits will no longer be trapped by an imperfect body but liberated by a Celestial, physical body. They will be whole.

How can this not speak peace to my mind?  It brings me such peace and comfort in my grief.  Because let’s face it: death stings.  Death stings when you think of something you want to share with a loved one who is no longer there to call.  Death stings when you go to family gatherings and someone is missing.  Or there is an empty chair you know should be filled.  Death stings when you go to a wedding in the same place you were married and Grandpa isn’t there to perform the ceremony anymore.  Death stings when the family is singing in the living room and no one is jamming out a symphony on the piano. And no one is harmonizing.   Death stings when you have a question about your family heritage and the one with all the answers is now a part of that heritage.   It stings at the family reunion where the family patriarch is absent.  It stings when you put on your brothers tie for church on Sunday.

Death stings.  And I cannot express how grateful I am that “the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.”

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