-Henry Scott Holland
If you know me at all, then you know that I am at times a little preoccupied with death. I love the quote above as I know it to be true. Why is death so hard for me to accept even though I know this to be true? Us mortals tend to rely on the physical experience. We communicate through touch, sight and sound. Our spirits communicate differently and the separation caused by this difference, to me, is devastatingly painful and sad. I can't help myself from feeling this way.
There is no question. There is life after death. People who don't have this belief are in for a helluva surprise. Just sayin. I have a dear friend who is of the exact same faith as I. Even so, when her mother in law passed away I was surprised to hear her talk of just a hope and "exercising faith" that there really was life after this one. This caught me off guard, life after death is what us Mormons believe- is it not!? It is the whole reason we believe what we believe and do what we do. I'm grateful I have this knowledge.
Does it bother you I refer to it as such? Anyone can have this knowledge. Seek and ye shall find. Maybe you are wondering how I came to know of these things. Well, that's the purpose of this blog post. It's been in my heart a lot lately and you know what happens when I feel that feeling. I've got to write the whole thing down.
An experience I had thirteen years ago was the first time I really came to know. I passed from a state of hope to one of, okay, now I know. I was serving a mission in Costa Rica. I was new into my second area. Times had been very hard. Sob. I would have loved to come home. I was sitting on a 5 gallon bucket in the kitchen of a shabby apartment studying the gospel as missionaries do. All of the sudden and without any effort on my part I knew a close friend who had tragically passed away a few years earlier was there in the room with me. I did not see her. She stood behind me. I did not verbally speak with her. I felt her spiritual presence. It was as tangible as the feeling of my fingertips hitting the keyboard on this computer. The feelings and sentiments expressed between her and I that day are still, 13 years later, as vivid as any face to face conversation I have ever had. They are tender and sweet and led me to know that the continuity Henry Scott Holland spoke of is indeed absolute.
My little girl is now nine months old. Nine months in, nine months out! This has caused me to reflect on my pregnancy with her and her birth. My birth experience with her was somewhat marred and I have felt sad all this time about sweet moments stolen after her birth. I know that I never can recreate that special time when a baby is so new, so I am trying to make peace with it. I am so grateful for her and our health. We are so blessed. I know.
As always when I have had a baby the last thing I do before I leave for the hospital is receive a Priesthood blessing from my husband. When I had Jane it was business as usual, except Christian's blessing was not one that provided a whole lot of comfort. It provided knowledge that in the coming hours I would not be alone. I would be accompanied by many ancestors, grandmas, and loved ones that had passed on . Say what!? When he finished the blessing I did not feel peaceful at all. I was intrigued and, even a little worried. I reminded him that he didn't bless me that all would be well, and our little girl would be well and etc etc etc! He assured me that he had said the words the spirit had led him to say and we went on our way.
My c-section went as planned. During the surgery I felt at ease, and all was well. Normally we have visitors right there in recovery and it can get a little crazy. This time it was just Christian, me and our girl. Looking back I am so grateful for those moments of quiet. After an hour and half I was moved from recovery to my room. The boys, with my parents came to meet their little sister. Such a sweet moment!
Not long after they arrived the spinal anesthetic I had received just a few hours earlier was rapidly wearing off. Never had this happened with my previous c sections. Spinals have always provided a delightful numbness for me that lasts upwards of 12 hours giving me time to rest and enjoy precious & tender moments with my new baby. A well deserved experience! Not this time. Pain was setting in quickly and I was not happy about it. Christian took the boys to the cafeteria to get ice cream while my parents took a turn holding and cuddling Jane.
All the sudden I felt a massssive gush of blood leave my body. My crappy spinal became a huge blessing as I was able to know I was hemorrhaging from the moment it started. My room filled with medical staff immediately and they worked quickly and feverishly to get the bleeding under control. They whisked my sweet girl out of the room, that made me so sad. The pain was excruciating as the charge nurse exerted the entire weight of her body onto my abdomen that had just been cut, seared, stretched, stitched and stapled in an effort to get my uterus to contract. I felt soooo ill, and was in so much pain. I lack the words to even describe it. Awful. Horrendous. I was filled with dread and fear as blood kept pouring out of me. I do not believe I ever lost consciousness, I felt life leaving my body though. My palor was white as a ghost. Loss of blood and oxygen will do that to you! I turned my head to the side an clutched the rails on the hospital bed almost in an effort to separate myself from what was happening with my very own body. I remember seeing on the monitor that my systolic blood pressure was 42. Forty two. From that moment I didn't feel any more pain, the noise in the room became muffled and I felt so peaceful and quiet inside. I prayed and prayed. Now, this WAS NOT a near death experience, I was fully alive this whole time! My awareness of myself diminished is all. This experience leads me to believe that death no matter how it comes is a peaceful thing. The initial fear, pain, terror, dread or whatever physical experience you are having, in my opinion is replaced with feelings of peace, calm and serenity. This brought me a lot of comfort as I have often grieved over the thought of what some people may have suffered in their last moments.
I knew during all this I wasn't alone. I was keenly aware that the room was full of people. Not just with medical staff and my frightened, bewildered husband (who had been banished to the corner without further ado) but with my grandmothers, ones I knew in this life and ones I didn't, and others I loved. I was accompanied by loved ones and ancestors who were aware of me and the situation and were there to comfort, and sustain me that evening.
Heaven is real.
I don't think we have to die or nearly die, or even have an experience like I did where you think you're about to kick the can to know of our loved ones continued existence. They surely are not far from us. Lately I have really felt the work they do largely revolves around our well being, happiness and survival just as the work we in do in our temples revolves around theirs. We need each other. They push and pull, lift and comfort, and buoy us up more than I think we could ever imagine.
Artwork- Clark Kelley Price