I was at the podium in church that Sunday in November of 1984 when my father entered. Rather than sit in a pew, he found a chair and placed it in the aisle at the back of the chapel, where he could look directly at me. I was moved to emotion by the glow of the smile on his face. He was incredibly happy, as if going on a journey. So great was the love I felt for him, that I resolved to go and embrace him immediately after the meeting, (as if I would not see him again in this life). I was unable to reach him in the crowd. At the next meeting, I again took the podium. Again my father, again the chair, and again that beautiful smile, as if to say, “I’m so pleased in you, my son.” And once again, people got in the way, and he was gone. Immediately after church, I drove to his house, but he was not there, having left to pick up other elderly people in order to take them to eat, for this was his custom. Two days prior, he had put his arms around me. “It isn’t about gathering up earthly riches, son. People love you. I hear that often, and that pleases me so much, my dear son!”
Have you ever seen two grown men, a father and his son, cry?
That Sunday I longed to see him, but that was not to be, for the following night, he passed from this life. I had so wanted to see him again, but instead, he bade his final adieu from the chair placed in the middle aisle. Father to son, and son to father, we had expressed our goodbyes, even the deepest sentiments of the heart! My father, my beloved father, that most wonderful and gentlest of dads, was gone!
But I shall see him again, and I shall rejoice in that reunion. I know that. My tender little mother, who lovingly taught me at her knee, when yet I was a child, to love my Lord and Savior, she shall be there as well. Ah blessed day, for it shall be my privilege to take her into my arms again! There will be also, my beloved grandparents, and others as well, whose memory I have cherished in the deep recesses of my heart.
I have looked on and felt the joy of passengers disembarking from a plane after a long absence from loved ones. I have felt with them the joy felt there. It shall be no different, that reunion which awaits those who have lived worthy of such, save, to be many times magnified, even joy without end.
That then is the aim of a righteous life. Shall we not live worthy of so glorious a reunion? Is not this another witness, and a voice of warning? Ours then, is the agency to choose; to choose either a night of darkness, or, the glorious light of reunion with those we have loved.
This life then, “..is the day for men to perform their labors. And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.” (Alma 34: 32, 33 The Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ)
We recognize that in wickedness, that is, in disobedience to God’s commands, we alienate ourselves from Him. Said Paul, “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:13)
We are here but for a season, and then the Lord will call us home, for it would be a tragedy to be able to extend our lives indefinitely within this earthly existence of trials and tears. Well did the Psalmist declare, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalms 116:15)
With the thought that one day each of us must pass from this life, we would do well to correct our lives by applying the balm of repentance. There is no tragedy in death, save when we leave this life unrepented and therefore unclean, for no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” And then the caveat: The sting of death is sin…” (1 Corinthians 15: 55, 56) Following our departure from this life, we will sometime future be resurrected into a new beginning, to prepare us for judgement, for, “my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil…” (3 Nephi 27:14, The Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ).
Let us use our time well, mending fences where necessary, Then, the event we call “death” will be but a departure, through a celestial door to a joyous reunion with those we have loved, indeed a door to greater living. In righteousness then, shall we not rejoice in the inspired words of the poetess?
“OF all the thoughts of God that are
Borne inward unto souls afar,
Along the Psalmist’s music deep,
Now tell me if that any is,
For gift or grace, surpassing this–
‘He giveth His beloved, sleep’! ”
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)