As a child growing up and most of my adult life, the word death always terrified me because of its sad connotation. I was taught that when we die that was the end of it, but depending how you lived your life you would either end up in hell or in heaven. Since there isn’t a seat for me on the dark side, I believed my spirit would somehow magically float to heaven. I was also taught that when we die, we no longer have any connection to our parents and family here on earth. So when that day comes when I arrive home, I will have no recollection of my great-grandmother who passed when I was eight or my grandmother who passed away when I was twelve. The picture painted in my head is one of a girl aimlessly walking around heaven in a state of unfamiliarity, even though the light in the background shines so bright and gloriously.
I grew up and carried those facts of wisdom with me, which enabled the grip my fear of death had on me well into adulthood. What did I know? I didn’t know any better. The media’s portrayal of death didn’t help dissuade or taint this knowledge either. How many movies have I seen where death has been cast as the end of the show and that no redemption of any kind is possible after the curtains have fallen? For example, in the movie Contagion, the main character (Matt Damon) loses his wife and son to a deadly airborne virus. The movie portrays him trying to hold on to his daughter at all cost because he doesn’t want to lose her as well; her life becomes very sheltered. Damon’s character is so caught up in the physical aspect of the world in which he lives that he doesn’t know that he has an opportunity to see his family again. Those instillations resonated with me, and that was my understanding of how death works.
As a child I was raised in an Anglican church until I was eleven years old. I pretty much drifted in and out of different denominations during my teenage years, but none of them held my attention. I was churchless for well over twenty years. Many years later, those teachings become ruffled when I met two ladies who talked about a better tomorrow that is promised to all in a lesson called the Plan of Salvation, and that in this plan, we will live after death and reunite with our earthly family. How could this be true, considering what I knew of death’s finality? Needless to say, that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and to echo the famous statement from the Jerry McGuire movie, their teachings had me at hello! To this day, these ladies and I have a friendship that I will treasure always. Oh, how grateful I am for what they taught me about our Savior, about what it means to return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father, about having eternal families, but most importantly, about the work I must put in before I can reap these rewards. This new knowledge has given me such a renewed outlook on life/ death, because despite the media and my family’s portrayal of death’s process, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a saint in Zion, I now know differently. I know that when I die I will have the opportunity to live with Jesus Christ, Heavenly Father, and my earthly family again.
While my family and I were visiting the town where I was born, I introduced my eldest daughter to a man who had been a staple in the community ever since I was a child. We recently learned of his passing, and I used that opportunity to explain to her what members of our faith believe. When her questions turned from what happened to him to, “Will I see you again when you die?” what a relief I felt. I could honestly and definitively say YES. I could see in her eyes that she was processing what I had just revealed and it felt so good to know that my words indeed were true.
The atonement of Jesus Christ has afforded all the opportunity to reunite with our loved ones after death. I’m so grateful for His love, sacrifice, and the promises made to me as long as I keep my covenants.