Death and Dying – by Rachael C. McKinnon
Editor’s note: We’re grateful to Rachael Carver McKinnon for today’s guest post. Rachael holds a BA in Humanities and an MBA from Brigham Young University. She currently lives in Draper, Utah with her husband, Greg. When she isn’t keeping up with one of her four children, she loves road biking and lap swimming.
At some point in our lives, we will all pass through the ripple effects of physical death. Whether this death is our own or watching a loved one pass away, the weight of the loss is universal. How does one overcome the grief and separation that comes about through death? How does one find strength to keep going when the burden sometimes feels so heavy?
Most often when death occurs, there is an immediate need to know if you will ever see them again. Where has that person gone and can I still feel close to them? As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called Mormons), I am so grateful to have answers to these questions.
Latter-day Saints believe in the same core Christian principles that teach in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through His atonement and His life, we come to understand that we also have the chance to live again with our families and loved ones. This life is not the end. There is infinitely more beyond the final veil of mortality and that death is only temporary.
Elder Robert D. Hales, an apostle in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has illustrated this with a story of a close acquaintance.
A few months ago I had the opportunity of visiting a man who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. As a devoted priesthood holder, he was confronted with the realities of mortality. He found strength, however, in the example of the Savior, who said, in the Lord’s Prayer, “After this manner therefore pray ye: … Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9–10).
My friend took courage in knowing that as Jesus was required to endure great pain and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane while completing the atoning sacrifice, He uttered the words, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matt. 26:42). My friend came to accept the phrase “Thy will be done” as he faced his own poignant trials and tribulations.
A more unique view of the LDS faith is the belief that families exist forever. The relationships you cultivate with siblings, parents and spouse has the potential to continue beyond this life. In Latter-day Saint temples, couples are married and families are blessed (often referred to as ‘sealed’) together so that death cannot take away the wonderful ties that are so lovingly created during our mortal existence. This knowledge has always provided a great deal of comfort for me.
When I was four years old, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She subsequently passed away three years later. It has been almost thirty years since her death, and yet I still live with a daily, peaceful reassurance that I will see her again. She is not far away and our relationship has not ended. In fact, throughout my life, there have been several choice moments where I have felt her nearby, encouraging and supporting me as I have made the good decisions and choices that will help us be reunited when life is over.
The scriptures often talk about those on the other side that we cannot see, but are still there regardless. When the Syrian were at the gates of Jerusalem and the King of Israel thought destruction was imminent, the prophet Elisha instructed him to look with better eyes on the hilltops. He said to him, “Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” (2 Kings 6:16) While this account refers to a great battle, I know for certain that those close to us who have passed on are just as active in our daily battles on our behalf as those spoken of in the Old Testament.
In the meantime, life can be incredibly hard and full of sorrow as we struggle through days of longing for the deceased person. It is comforting to know that God is mindful or our pain. In the Doctrine and Covenants (another book of scripture in the Mormon church), Jesus Christ declares, “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” (42: 45) How reassuring it is to have Him recognize that the love and bonds we create here on this earth can be eternal. God is happy when we ‘live together in love’ with each other and His plan is focused on keeping those relationships forever.
I have a very reassuring belief that my family will always be together. While circumstances in life might call upon us to be separated for a season – if one must face death before the other – it is consoling to know that it is not permanent. Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can live with our families and loved ones beyond this life. We can receive strength to endure those times of grief, knowing that loving reunions lay ahead.