Finding Joy in Death

Last week, a good friend of a good friend passed away. This young man had bravely and faithfully fought cancer for five exhausting years, almost since he and his wife had been married.

The news of his passing left us – virtual strangers to him – in tears. We mourned for his wife and 3-month old twin sons. We were shaken by the gap left by his singular life in the world.

It struck me how it was likely that this man and his family did not know how far he reached in impacting the lives of those around him. We knew him from our home Stake but had never personally been close to him. Still we knew his story. We had heard through various sources and mediums of his courage and humor and goodness in the face of pain and suffering and personal loss. He brought faith to a hopeless situation. It was undoubtedly what caused him to live long enough to see the birth of his little sons.

In contemplating more, a couple realizations struck me of tender mercies we experience through death.

1. Rarely do we admit it but the power is in each of us to have dramatic impact on others’ lives. The choice is not whether or not our lives leave a mark, but rather what kind of mark we allow them to leave. Do we leave the world bitter and indifferent at our passing? Or do we leave it rejoicing in the fact that we had lived?

We find joy in the passing of our loved ones when it becomes clear how their lives positively influenced others. This is their legacy. And we have been blessed with additional hours and days to build ours.

2. The beauty in death comes especially as we take that next step out of this world and into the arms of our Savior. In our sorrow, it took concerted effort to turn our minds to thoughts of this man’s reunion with a loving Savior.

“While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness.” Alma 28:12

What a meeting that must be – for us to finally fall at the feet of our Rock, the Being who made life for us not just endurable but exalting. I long for my opportunity to tell my Savior in person that whatever goodness I felt or helped others feel was all from Him. That if I had kept the faith and finished my course, it was all and only His doing.

3. Joy is found in death as we are released from sorrow, pain, and affliction by virtue of our Savior’s sacrifice. President Uchtdorf taught in this last General Conference that “…your death will be temporary. Your spirit one day will reunite with your body. This resurrected body will not be subject to death, and you will live in the eternities, free from pain and physical suffering.” There isn’t much room for our personal mourning when we contemplate how much we each carry through life as our burden and that we finally, through our passing, can lay it down at our Redeemer’s feet and say “It is finished”.

May we all build a legacy founded on and pointing to Christ, and retain a primary remembrance of the joys that come from the reunion we hope to have with our Savior; the knowledge that life is temporary – everlasting joy and happiness need not be. As we do, there can be no sting in death, our own or those of our righteous fellow disciples.