My beloved mother, Elizabeth Cantu Lopez, passed from this life in July of 1976, and it came as a welcome release, for she had suffered much. When she was first hospitalized, to me was delegated the duty of informing mother that she had but six months to live. The cancer had spread. I was a bit choked up. We all were. If we had expected the same from mother, we were wrong. “Children,” she proclaimed with a smile, “don’t weep. I’ve lived a good life, and I’m ready. I’m going to graduate!”
Throughout her life mother taught by noble example. She was a touching example of charity, which is the pure love of Jesus Christ. Always, always, those who were suffering were recipients of her special attention. There was the poor young girl, a complete stranger, sobbing alone in the park sometime around 1950, because her husband was dying in a hospital miles away. She wept because she had no way to go to where her companion was ebbing out his life in his last days. Mother observed, mother stopped, and mother listened. And then, in that merciful sweetness so characteristic of her, assured that poor soul that there was a way. With mother, there was always a way! She would drive her! And she did, each and every day, until that young husband was finally laid to rest. At the funeral, mother stood at the side of the young widow, extending much needed comfort.
I was made aware of this because the lady, and not my mother, informed me of it, years after my mother’s passing. Over the years, others have recounted similar stories of mother. I did not know regarding many of her deeds of kindness, because mother was a firm believer in, “when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth…” (1)
She graduated from this life with honors, for hers was a clear conscience. Whatever faults she may have possessed were miniscule. She had known many trials in her lifetime, and accepted each without complaint, for in God was her trust. “Thy will, and not mine be done…” was in her every invocation. Nor was it ever in her to speak ill of another, for malice had no place in her. Her mission was rather to uplift and edify others with tender words, with that mercy and compassion which filled her soul.
If I, and my children, and my grandchildren after them for generations to come, can learn anything from my mother’s passing, it is this, we must not put aside our preparations for leaving this life. If we would meet the date of our departure with the clear conscience mother had when she left, the time for any needed repentance is now.
Listen to the words of a prophet of God: “This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God…Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance.” In our heart of hearts, we must determine to make changes now. The warning continues: “Ye cannot say…that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will…possess your body in that eternal world.” (2)
My physical body and yours, is but the house occupied by our spirits, as a glove fits over a hand. One day our spirit will leave the body, to go to a place of waiting, until the resurrection, when the spirit will be reunited with the body. That place of waiting will be a joyful place for those who have lived worthily. For those who have not done so, it will be a place of regret and anguish. Regret? Can there be any regret greater than knowing that we did not live up to our eternal potential, that we wasted the time of our probation climbing the wrong ladder, and that we could have merited more, much, much, more? Yes, there are eternal consequences for unrepented actions!
Our greatest work in this life then, is to ascertain that our spirit is in control, and not the appetites of the body. Therefore, our greatest act of discipline is to control our thoughts, for the thought precedes the deed. Tragically, the vices, habits, and addictions people do not repent of will consume their thoughts, and go with them into eternity. Yes, our thoughts go with us when we cross into that eternal world.
Yes, “he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still.” (3) He who is filthy will be akin to the man with an invitation to a grand ball, whose car has bogged down in the mud. He gets out and walks, crossing a field to the ball, and looking in sees the elegant dancers on the polished ballroom floor. He cannot, he will not, enter with his mud caked shoes and clothes. Too late, he realizes, “Behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is…too late.” (4)
Not so with mother. Each and every day mother sought opportunities to serve, for she was dedicated to serving others, in the knowledge that in so doing, she was serving her beloved Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Great were the physical trials of her last days upon earth, for cancer is a mean and cruel tyrant. But as she saw it, these were trials she needed to bear. (There is a price to be paid for sanctification.) However much she suffered, however excruciating and unbearable her pain, no matter the agony, no price to be paid was too high. Her slate was clean, and hers is a sure reward. She graduated with honors.
(1) Matthew 6:3)
(2) Alma 34: 32-34 The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ (3) i bid, Mormon 9:14 (4) ibid, Helaman 38:13