I joined the Church in 1977 and became anxiously engaged in family history research. It was wonderful learning more about my ancestors, many of whom I had not met, that had influenced generations in our family.
In 1985, my dad passed away at the young age of 63. At that time, I lived in California, and my parents were in Arizona. Mom called to tell me dad’s kidneys had failed, and he only had about a week to live and was scared about dying. As a believer in eternal families and a testimony of eternal life, I desperately wanted to go and comfort him but couldn’t go until that weekend. I pleaded with Heavenly Father to keep my dad alive until I arrived. But on Wednesday of that week, I realized that it wasn’t up to me, it was up to Father, and He would find ways to comfort my dad. So, I finally asked that His will be done. My dad died that night.
In 1989 my husband and I began doing proxy work for my ancestors. Since my dad passed away several years before, his was some of the first work we performed. Over the years we did the work of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great-grandparents and even great-great-grandparents. But because I was a convert and my mom was still alive, I was not able to be sealed to my parents—yet.
Due to health issues, I had the privilege of caring for my mom in our home for her final nine years. Our relationship evolved over the years, and I was grateful for the softness that was between us. I’ll never forget our last two-way conversation just four days before she passed away.
I had just said prayers with her and was stroking her brow and told her it was okay to go to sleep and not wake up. That’s we’d all be okay, and I’d see her on the other side.
She opened her eyes, gave me a weak smile, and said, “Promise?”
I tearfully promised her and testified that I knew without a doubt that I’d be with her and see her again.
I didn’t realize at the time, but it was a special gift from my Heavenly Parents to be able to reassure my earthly mom that I’d see her again. I hadn’t been able to do that with my dad, but it was indeed a sacred experience with my mom.
That evening, due to the medication and the deterioration of her health, she never spoke again. She passed away on March 27, 2023, with my sister and I holding her hands and talking about our favorite family vacations and Christmases. My heart ached at her passing, yet I was also grateful she was free of the pains and sorrows of this life.
Elder Russell M. Nelson gave a tender talk in April 1992 general conference that I could deeply relate to, “The Doors of Death.”
“Irrespective of age, we mourn for those loved and lost. Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love.”
As I went through the process of mourning, I prepared to perform mom’s temple work. It was a sweet answer to the anguish of loss.
A short 32 days later, I was able to perform all her temple ordinances. We did her sacred work all in one day which culminated with me being sealed to my mom and dad. At long last, I had received an ordinance I’d been waiting 46 years for—sealed to my parents!
In his talk, Elder Nelson continued:
“To us and to you, our loved ones may be just as close as the next room—separated only by the doors of death.”
I also realized that I was finally connected to the hundreds of ancestors I’d done the work for all those years. The joy in that sealing room was overwhelming, it was as if generations were all rejoicing at once for the connection that tied us all together.
Our Days are Known to the Lord
Although my experience was tender and had moments of sorrow, it is a very different experience for those whose loved one passes unexpectedly or tragically. Then the anguish of loss runs deeper and is not as easily consoled.
Recently, our dear, faith-filled, family friends back in Texas experienced the unexpected loss of their 19-year-old daughter due to a previously unknown health issue. With this tragic loss came immeasurable pain, sorrow, and anguish.
Our friend shared with us:
“This has been a devastating few days. Our daughter has always been my little warrior princess. At times it feels like a horrible dream. Sleep has been hard to find. During the first night of anguish, I was struggling with thoughts of what I should have done more or different. The Lord revealed to me that it didn’t matter anything we did, the Lord called her home. Her days were known and regardless of our actions she would have returned home.”
What comforting revelation from a Father in Heaven who understands the pain of loss.
I love Elder Nelson’s insight on this painful separation:
“We can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.”
Thus, it’s no surprise this sorrow runs deep because love runs deeply as well. The price of love isn’t too steep when we remember that the eternal reunions now and, in the future, will be filled with inexplicable joy.
Elder Nelson explained that:
“Our limited perspective would be enlarged if we could witness the reunion on the other side of the veil, when doors of death open to those returning home.”
Navigating the Path of Grief
So, what of the anguish and joy of death—how do we navigate this path where we only see one side of the door and must have faith regarding the other side of the door?
Our friend was comforted by wise and inspired counsel from a Church leader:
“He shared with me the blessings of those who wait upon the Lord. And revelation and remembering.“
The grieving process of losing a loved one is uniquely lived by each of Father’s children. But be assured, our Savior has broken the bands of death, and eventually, there will be joy in the morning. A joy that is more deeply seen from the other side of the door of death.
Beth Young is a convert of 46 years; served a mission in North Carolina; has been married for 36 years to her sweetheart, Bob; has five adult children and two grandchildren. She raised her family in Texas for 25 years where she served in various capacities in church and in her community. She moved to Utah five years ago and loves writing, teaching, and inspiring others to make changes to their physical, mental, and spiritual health. Beth serves as the written content manager at Leading Saints, and is a master gardener.