On September 11, 2001, when terrorists killed almost 3,000 innocent people and caused over $50 billion of property damage, my wife and I were on a business trip to Washington DC. When the plane crashed into the Pentagon building, we were in our hotel, about 2 miles away.
My meetings were cancelled but we couldn’t get a return flight to the West Coast because all planes were grounded for the next 6 days. We watched the terrible replays on TV of the planes hitting the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and saw people jump to their deaths. We watched the broadcast of the touching memorial service at the National Cathedral.
It was very eerie to wander the deserted city of Washington DC and see armed soldiers with Humvees at all the major intersections. The nation was grieving, somber and unsure of the future. People did not know where to turn for peace. If you are old enough, you remember the feeling.
So it is when we face the death of someone who is dear to us. We grieve, we are somber, we are unsure of the future of loved ones and we yearn for peace.
As a parent, I want my children and grandchildren to understand what I consider to be of utmost importance when they have to deal with my death or the death of anyone else that is dear to them.
These are the 5 things I consider to be the most important facts about death:
- When Peter rushed to the Garden Tomb after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, he discovered something very important…it was empty. It was empty because Jesus Christ had resurrected; the first person on this earth to do so. More importantly, we all will resurrect because of Christ. Death is a just a temporary separation from our family and friends.
- Neal A. Maxwell was the former Executive Vice-President of the University of Utah and died of leukemia. He said this, “Death is a mere comma, not an exclamation point!” Since death is something that not even the most powerful and intelligent people on earth can control or adequately explain, death takes on a very sinister and mysterious aura. With greater understanding that life is eternal, we realize that death is just a door to another, better life. Death is not the most important event in our existence. It is inconsequential compared to how we lived our life.
- There is no doubt that death brings sorrow and pain for those who are left. Russell M Nelson (Former director of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and one of a team of doctors which created the first heart-lung machine) explains that, “The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.” If we look at the death of a loved one from this aspect, we mourn because we loved; and love is the most important thing of all.
- It is our solemn obligation to show our support for those who are left to mourn. Of course, we weep for the loss of them that die, we mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. We follow the example of Christ when he asked John to care for his mother, Mary, as he was being crucified. We must care for those who are unable to care for themselves upon the death of their support.
- When faced with death, there is no comfort without a belief in a benevolent creator. The separation is complete and permanent if there is no God. The song, “Where Can I Turn For Peace, by Emma Lou Thayne, explains the truth so well. These are a few very meaningful stanzas:
Where, when my aching grows,Where, when I languish,Where, in my need to know, where can I run?Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?Who, who can understand?He, only One.
Only in Jesus Christ can we find “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” (Phil 4:7) I also know from my own personal experience, as I was at death’s door, that God visits his people in their afflictions.
In conclusion, I end with my favorite poem on the subject:
I am grateful for my understanding of the Lord’s plan of salvation, which is a plan of happiness. Death is not a mysterious monster. It is the doorway to greater happiness. It gives me peace that, in the end, all will be right and I can enjoy the company of my family and friends for eternity – all because of Jesus Christ.