Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lessons in Dying

Even at her funeral, my grandmother was teaching me.
We were blessed to hear from such speakers as my uncle Lee, my uncle Mark, and their Stake President Randy Jibson. Lee gave the eulogy and I learned a few things about her that I didn't know. I didn't know that she came from Scottish-Irish heritage, and while I knew she grew up on a Navaho Indian reservation, I did not know that she grew up accustomed to luxury and that her household included housekeepers, cooks, and servants. I also did not know that it was Uncle Delbert (grandpa's eldest brother) that converted her to the church.
Mark gave a wonderful talk about how her life was framed by the gospel and described how it was impossible to tell of her and her life without also bearing testimony. 
Their stake president told of his experience visiting her at the hospice where she was admitted. In a hospice, every patient admitted is there to die. As he walked through the halls, he passed many rooms that were silent with grief or filled with tears and sorrow. He said that you never know what you might find when you enter a patient's room, and it was with trepidation that he knocked on her door. What he found inside grandma's room was much different. Grandma lay unconscious, surrounded by those who loved her best, including grandpa, Denise, and Lee. There were tears and some sorrow, but also quiet laughter as memories were shared. Absent was the desperation that defined so many other rooms- instead, a more selfish mourning at our own losses. One of the things he said that I loved best was that had she known she was going to die shortly, she wouldn't have lived her life any differently in her last few days than she did. How remarkable. I can't imagine myself being a position that I wouldn't change anything, knowing my end was near. (Turns out however, she may have had an inkling. In the 2 weeks before she died she told grandpa that she didn't feel like she had very many days left. I just wished she had shared that with the rest of us.) It's true- so devoted and charitable was she that she lived her life in preparation for meeting her Savior. He challenged us to ask ourselves, 'What do I know?'- Regardless of what we did yesterday or last week, these times beg us to ask ourselves what we know to be true. This resonated with me as someone who has a testimony and knows the gospel to be true, but cannot say that I live my life in a state of readiness as did she. I hope that it resonated even more so in those present who cannot say what they know, or who may be prompted to challenge the beliefs they have.
She finished her visiting teaching days before she collapsed.
There were also a few lessons I learned that were not spoken, but rather prompted me specifically as things I probably need work on. Not surprisingly, one of these lessons had to do with charity. Grandma always had a way of loving those of us who are sometimes hard to love. Even in life, she was better at displaying a genuine unconditional love, but I know that in death she is more able of a perfect love. She is not confined by the judgments we mere mortals so often make. So I resolved to put an end to petty mocking or fault-finding with others. I don't have a particular struggle with this, but like anyone else I can occasionally be found guilty. I want to be the kind of person that only lifts others up, thinks the best of others, and makes those feel better in my presence.
It was also impressed upon me the knowledge that Christ died for us, but also for each one of us individually. He has said that he would die for even and only one of us. That means that everyone we encounter is as worthy of His sacrifice as we are. That He would die again even if it were only for the lowliest creature among us. That casts a new light on everyone I see and gives me pause before I may engage in any criticism.
So hopefully this has caused me to ask what it is I believe and I will remember these lessons she has taught me, even in death.
She will teach me, always.


michelle said...

This is beautiful, Jess. I especially loved your thoughts at the end. I know I need to be more charitable as well.

I never knew she had Scots-Irish heritage, either!

Denise said...

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Thank you.

Melissa Marilyn said...

Lovely, just like her. You have a remarkable way of expressing yourself and defining your feelings while paying tribute to one so many held dear.

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