Last year at this time, both Steve and I were nervously preparing our Easter Sunday talks for church. I found it to be such a huge blessing to spend so much time studying the life of our Savior the weeks leading up to Easter. In this talk, I shared an experience that truly changed me (You will also see why we named our third child Bennett). I don’t typically put things like this on the blog, but it’s Easter and I wanted to share:
Elder Franklin D Richards stated: “Easter time is indeed a forceful reminder that the human spirit cannot be confined. It does not deny the reality of death, but it offers us an assurance that God has preserved life beyond the grave.”
Life beyond the grave is possible by the act of the resurrection. For many, the idea of the resurrection is difficult to explain and even harder to believe. Even those that were taught about the resurrection by the Savior himself didn’t fully comprehend the scope and magnitude of the resurrection and blessings associated with it. In Mark we read about the Savior teaching his disciples, Chapter 9 v. 31, “The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying and were afraid to ask him.” I think of his disciples and followers and how hard it must have been to see the Savior crucified without a sure knowledge that he would rise again. That made for a very dark Friday. Elder Wirthlin stated, “I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest.”
On that Friday, Jesus Christ was mocked, ridiculed and humiliated and found himself at the mercy of wicked men.
He was spit upon and was whipped.
He was crucified.
The earth shook, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, the graves were opened.
Evil felt victorious as the righteous mourned the loss of their king.
It was a Friday consumed with sorrow, and aching pain for those that worshipped the Son of God. It was indeed a very dark Friday. A Friday that would never be duplicated again in the world’s history.
And although that particular Friday has come and gone, each of us will have our own dark Fridays – Elder Wirthlin describes these Fridays that each of us will have. “Those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.”
I’m sure many here today have experienced such Fridays and can relate to the description that Elder Wirthlin offered.
I want to share with you an experience of one such Friday. We were living in Milwaukee and we had just had our second child Hunter. My friend Angie from our ward found out she was expecting their first child, and as most of you can imagine they were overjoyed with their news. At her 20-week appointment, it was discovered that their firstborn child had a rare chromosomal defect and would most likely die prior to delivery. This was devastating news and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her as I held my own healthy baby in my arms.
Weeks passed and weekly checkups showed the baby healthy as can be for the circumstances and the anticipation of their baby’s death loomed over them. They had the option to terminate the pregnancy early. But something inside of this young mother knew better and she opted to carry it longer as she quite enjoyed the moments of movement she could feel within her.
As Angie’s due date drew closer, they scheduled an early induction in hopes of delivering the child alive. They arranged for a photography service to come in and take what would be the baby’s only photos. Being as prepared as possible, she approached me and asked me to be the back-up photographer, on the crazy chance that the others didn’t show up. I thought it to be a very slim chance and agreed. You can imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from her one afternoon. There was a slight panic in her voice that made my heart race fast. Their special baby boy Bennett indeed had been delivered alive and try as she may she could not get a hold of the photographers. I worked quickly to find a babysitter for my two little ones and raced off to the hospital. I knew his time was short and I half expected for him to pass before I would arrive. To my surprise I walked into their hospital room greeted by the most peaceful music and smiles all around. Both sets of grandparents had made the trip from Utah to be there and the parents were beaming. The spirit in that room was so strong and it testified to me that this child had just come from his father above, so tender and pure and absolutely perfect despite his deformed mortal body. I started to shoot the photos. I took some family photos and several baby close-ups – the mother never let go of him. I knew these were intimate moments for this family and after shooting for 30 minutes I thought to excuse myself so they could have their time. But she asked for me to stay longer and continue to shoot. So I did. Just minutes later, enveloped in his mothers arms, his dad’s hand on his chest, tears started rolling down his face as he quietly proclaimed that Bennett had stopped breathing.
The emotions in the room shifted immediately and I was overcome with grief for Angie and tears rolled down my face as I hid behind the camera. I knew it was time for me to leave, so again I approached Angie to say my goodbyes, but she was not ready to let this moment pass and asked me to keep shooting. I could not decline her request for I knew I was capturing the brief existence of their angel child.
I shot for another 30 minutes, numb and unaware of what my camera was capturing overcome with emotion. Bennett had returned to live with his father in heaven after a very short journey on earth. And I could see the pain in his mother’s eyes. I had unexpectedly witnessed a family’s dark Friday and it was what I can only describe as gut-wrenching.
I walked out of that hospital room different than when I walked in. This experience changed me and at the time I felt guilty for witnessing such raw emotion in someone else’s Friday. But I thank the Lord for granting me such a faith building experience. It strengthened my testimony of the plan of salvation and there was no doubt by anyone in that room that he would be resurrected in a perfect state and live again just as the Savior did.
There was a lot of sadness in that room, but there was also hope. Their testimony of the Saviors resurrection made their temporary mortal separation manageable as they held on to their belief of eternal families. Their Friday was extremely painful, but the most reassuring part of Fridays is that they end.
Elder Wirthlin said, “In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come. No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come.”
This young family had faith and knew with surety that Sunday would come for them just as it had for the Savior.
With permission, I share with you Angie’s thoughts:
I definitely felt the presence of angels in that hospital room and believe that at least part of the reason they were there was to strengthen him and me during the final hours of his mortal journey. It was extremely difficult to hold and watch my baby boy take his last breath, to die in my arms but I realized very quickly what a great opportunity and blessing that experience was and always would be for me. I would give anything to be able to experience that feeling of love and peace again. I’ve experienced the births of three of my children and each have been an amazing emotional and spiritual high. Yet, at no time in my life have I had what I can only describe as the total peace and love of God that filled that small hospital room as Bennett struggled to stay with us. I’m so thankful for a glimpse of what it will be like to be resurrected and in our Father’s presence again. I now understand the last verse of Come, Come Ye Saints where we sing; And should we die before our journey’s through, Happy Day, All is Well!
Our belief and conviction that Sunday will come gives us hope in our darkest hours. The people of Ammon in the Book of Mormon understood this well. In Alma 27:28 we read, “they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it.”
We have “lively hope” that death is not the end of our identity. Instead it is a necessary step as we transition to immortality and eternal life. What a difference in perspective this hope gives us towards our mortal life and mortal losses as death comes as an intruder and leaves a sting. But the sting of death can be swallowed up in Christ. Mormon 7:5, “Jesus Christ…is the son of God, …and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up.”
Our Savior Jesus Christ was resurrected which gives each and every one of us power over the grave.
I testify that Sunday has come and will come for every single one of us. In this life we will all experience those difficult moments of mortal loss, may we find strength in knowing that all of our losses will be made up to us in the resurrection provided we continue faithful as taught by Joseph Smith. May we find peace and hope in the phrase, “He is risen.”