Losing a Child

March 7, 2004 | 28 comments
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On March 5, 1987, my son Neill Earl Smith was born. Three months later, he died of pneumonia. He was a victim of a rare neurological disorder known as Werdnig-Hoffman Syndrome. He would be 17 years old now. My wife and I have had five other children, but I still miss him.

The pediatrician knew from the very first time he saw Neill that something was wrong because Neill was a “floppy baby.” Neill looked perfectly normal to the untrained eye, but he couldn’t move his arms and legs like a normal baby. Unfortunately, the doctor wouldn’t tell us what he suspected. He wanted to do some tests. Then more tests. My wife began suspecting that the tests were not all about Neill’s welfare when multiple doctors at the University of Utah were invited to the examination room each visit. They seemed a little too interested in his symptoms and not enough interested in his life. Finally, when the doctors requested a muscle biopsy, we took Neill to a trusted friend, who recognized the problem immediately. We were told that Neill had almost no hope of surviving his first year.

We decided that Neill would beat the odds. He would be a miracle. We fasted. We prayed. We gave priesthood blessings. We sheltered him, and we loved him.

Then he caught a cold. Not a big deal for most babies, but Neill was a floppy baby. He was unable to cough up the mucus. His lungs filled with fluid. We fed him with a syringe, and he lost weight. Then, one evening, while Sue and I ate dinner in the next room, Neill stopped breathing as he lay on the couch. We didn’t hear anything unusual, but after I finished my dinner, I found him. We rushed him to the emergency room, but there was nothing that anyone could do.

I had never attended a funeral before I buried my son. It was a hot day in June. We dedicated the grave — the first and last time I have performed that priesthood ordinance — and we cried. Family and friends tried to comfort us, but we needed space to sort things out. Immediately after the funeral, Sue and I got into an old pickup truck and started driving. Destination: unknown.

Leaving from Salt Lake City, we made it to Provo by sundown. Sue suggested that we stop at the home of my mission president, Ed Morrell. We must have looked awful on his doorstep. When he answered the door, I said simply, “Neill died.” Sue burst into tears. He hugged her, and said, “You’ll have other children.” For some reason, this seemed to comfort us. President and Sister Morrell had lost a daughter of their own. They knew what we were feeling, and we talked for several hours. Fortunately, given our horrible emotional state, they insisted that we stay the night rather than driving on.

The next morning, we set out for the Utah desert. We drove to Bryce and Zion … St. George … Las Vegas … San Diego. We stopped because we hit the ocean, and because Sue’s sister lived there. We stayed for a day or two, then started back for Utah. While we drove, we talked and cried. I cannot remember most of what we said, but I remember alternating between bitterness and gratitude. When we arrived back at our apartment in Salt Lake City, my knees buckled. The first thing we saw when we opened the door was Neill’s bassinet. Although I thought that I had no more tears, I cried again.

Some people who have lost children take comfort in the idea that “families are forever.” Certainly, the Church’s teachings on infants in the eternities are inspiring to grieving parents. Still, the eternities can seem distant, almost to the point of irrelevance, when the present is filled with pain.

Now removed by many years from those events, I recall feeling that God was with me in the Utah desert and in the weeks and months that followed. When I expressed doubts, He assured me. Nevertheless, the pain receded slowly. We returned to Church in our home ward on Father’s Day. The Primary children sang, “I’m So Glad When Daddy Comes Home.” To me it seemed like a cruel joke. A few months later, sitting in a new apartment in Chicago, we read about a woman who had abandoned her healthy baby in a garbage dumpster. What kind of world is this?

Then, everything changed dramatically in the spring of 1988, when my daughter was born. A few minutes after delivery, Sue placed her index finger in Laura’s little palm, and the tiny baby fingers closed quickly and tightly in response. We knew immediately that Laura was healthy. We cried. Suddenly, the world seemed orderly again.

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28 Responses to Losing a Child

  1. ronin on March 7, 2004 at 10:20 am

    Very moving- reinforces the lesson that Heavenly Father always makes things right even though at times it might seem that our trials and tribulations are just too much. I felt totally hopeless when I found I had a very serious illness, and wasnt given much of a chance, but, through prayer, fasting , and steadfast faith in Heavenly Father, I have recovered my health.

  2. Russell Arben Fox on March 7, 2004 at 5:01 pm

    Thank you Gordon. Melissa and I were both touched by your and Sue’s and little Neill’s story.

    Today, in elder’s quorum, I taught the fifth lesson from the Heber J. Grant manual, titled “Comfort in the Hour of Death.” I felt both inadequate to the lesson, and that the lesson itself (as presented in the manual) was inadequate to the material. Two grandparents passing away after long illnesses, an uncle (who I barely knew) dying in an automobile accident; that’s about my record: I have little knowledge and less experience when it comes to death. When I thought about President Grant’s experience–never knowing his father, his wife dying at age 34, both of his sons dying when still children, I felt as though there was nothing I could draw upon for this topic; Grant’s insight and wisdom came from a place that you and your wife have traversed, a place I happily admit I hope never to go through. And the manual itself didn’t make things any better: asking questions like “How have you been comforted when you have lost loved ones?” As if experiences like the one you have just related, experiences like President Grant spoke of when he described comforting a distraught daughter who wanted her father to use his priesthood power call their mother back to life, can be produced and related on a whim! I did the best I could, but felt facile and foolish. In one of Elder Packer’s great sermons, he spoke of death as a moment when (hopefully) we may feel the “peace which passeth understanding” that Paul described. Surely such peace, if it is to be found–and like the spirit itself, it will probably come and go like the wind–will not be the product of desultory reading and talking about death, but by confronting it. Which means, of course, as great a spiritual gift as it may be, I hope it is one I need never seek. Given the way of this mortal world, that is a foolish hope, but nonetheless an earnest one.

    Thanks again. And happy birthday to Neill, who is yours forever.

  3. sid on March 7, 2004 at 8:10 pm

    Gordon , you ought to check out http://www.tonywoodlief.com , and scroll down and on the left side of the screen, there is his story about Caroline, the daughter he lost to a brain tumor. It si probably one of the most moving tributes I have ever read.

  4. Sean on March 8, 2004 at 4:04 pm

    Gordon,

    I remember the darkness that you and Sue seemed to live in when you moved to Chicago. I didn’t understand it and kept expecting you to “come out of it.”

    Then (ten years ago) my sister died.

    I don’t suppose that the death of even someone as close as a sister would ever show me what the death of a child might be like, but I no longer wonder at the darkness you walked in following Neill’s death.

    Sean

  5. Gordon Smith on March 8, 2004 at 5:12 pm

    Hey Sean. I am sorry to hear about your sister. When I am in a noble mood about this, I tend to think that Sue and I got off easy. After all, we didn’t know Neill that well before he left us. I can imagine losing a sibling or a parent being pretty horrible, too. And how about people who lose older children? The bottom line is that life can throw some pretty wicked curves, and I suspect that each of us has some pretty stiff trials.

    I still talk about Neill’s death, usually around his birthday. Sometimes I mention it to my students as an exercise in perspective building, but my primary purpose in talking about it is to remind people, including myself, how precious children are. In addition, I have found that people who have recently lost a child appreciate hearing the story of someone who has survived that experience.

    For those who are peeking in on this reunion, you might be interested in checking out this: http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000352.html Note the parenthetical: “For me law school was all-consuming, and I did my best to remain only marginally active in a ward that needed more from me. (There is much more to this story, but not now.)” As Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story.

  6. greg.org on March 9, 2004 at 12:06 am

    My brother Benjamin was also a “floppy baby,” and died after nine months of intermittent illnesses and hospital stays. I was ten at the time and the oldest child. It turns out to be one of the most powerful yet quietest defining events in my life. I’ve found my brother and his death serve as a kind of touchpoint, or an anchor of sorts, even 25 years later.

    With Benjamin, the doctors were never able to precisely diagnose his condition. Not that it mattered at all to us in remembering him or being saddened by our loss. But his condition has been in the front of my mind for the duration of my wife’s pregnancy and my own (healthy) daughter’s birth.

  7. Adam Greenwood on March 9, 2004 at 10:56 am

    Thank you, Gordon.
    No doubt there are many reasons God led you to post this now, but I am one of them. Thank you.

  8. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 6, 2005 at 12:01 am

    Some people who have lost children take comfort in the idea that “families are forever.” Certainly, the Church’s teachings on infants in the eternities are inspiring to grieving parents. Still, the eternities can seem distant, almost to the point of irrelevance, when the present is filled with pain.

    Now removed by many years from those events, I recall feeling that God was with me in the Utah desert and in the weeks and months that followed. When I expressed doubts, He assured me. Nevertheless, the pain receded slowly. We returned to Church in our home ward on Father’s Day.

    I found Father’s Day and Fast & Testimony Meetings very hard. Even now I sometimes have a wall of resistance to them both that I have to overcome.

  9. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 6, 2005 at 12:07 am

    I’ve got to force myself to bed so I’m not intentionally avoiding getting up tomorrow. Too many memories stirred up today.

  10. annegb on March 6, 2005 at 10:06 am

    I’m so sorry, Gordon. I find after 31 years, I still can hear my son’s little voice.

    You know something someone said about wondering why you and your wife didn’t get over it made me think of my neighbor. She didn’t understand how I grieved so deeply over my son’s suicide, the anger, and the despair.

    Then, two years ago, her 16 year old daughter was killed in a car accident. We are now on the same page and she clung to me during that initial time because I could validate every feeling she had. She’s doing better.

    I have used the idea of losing a leg to explain to people who think I should get over it. When you first lose your leg, it’s terribly painful and shocking. But you heal and it gets not so painful physically. But you never forget your leg is gone. Your life is changed forever.

    I loved how you and your wife pulled together and went on that trip. I was alone both times in my grief. It made it harder.

  11. Stephan F on March 6, 2005 at 6:38 pm

    Five years ago this April will be the anniversary of the loss of our sweet daughter Martha.

    We had been trying hard to have a baby and had already suffered a miscarriage the year before so we were being careful of many things.

    We were traveling to Denver for our last morning as Temple Workers. My wife was 35 weeks pregnant and it was time to end that calling and finally take up the callings of Mother and Father.

    Then everything changed forever.

    A drunk driver jumped the median and hit us head-on.

    I woke up with a cool breeze on my face and the sun shining full on my face. We were facing East on Northbound i-25. The smashed remains of our car pinning us to our seats. I was looking down, my hands were broken, My first thought was, “This is bad.” Then I gave the shortest and sincerest prayer I have ever given. “Dear Father, Please send help.”

    Then I heard an off duty State Trooper calling in the accident on his radio. Detailing two dead on the scene. Then my wife woke up screaming in pain. We were still alive. I shouted to the Trooper that my wife was 35 weeks pregnant. That got us extra help from the nearest two towns and a Life-flight Helicopter.

    Even as I could hear him calling that in concerned citizens rallied around us but weren’t sure what to do, so I had them bring us blankets to keep us warm, all the windows had been shattered and it was still below freezing.

    In the Emergency Room, while they tended my injuries, I asked for updates on my wife and baby. They delivered Martha via Emergency C-Section, and then the Orthopedists got to work on my wife.

    Within hours my parents, my wife’s mother, my sister, the Stake President, the Temple President, our Bishop, and my parents Bishop where by our side. Our names were on the prayer rolls of a dozen temples and thousands of people were praying for us. For which we were so grateful. We were eyebrow deep in miracles.

    The next day they moved Martha to the regular nursery as she seemed to be fine. But it would not last before the week was out she started having seizures, she was bleeding into her brain.

    I was authorized to give her a Name and a Blessing, a task I did not feel equal to as I was still in the ICU, with 11 fractures and pumped full of pain killers, but the Lord made up my lack and a marvelous blessing was given.

    Just being near her was a wonderful expirence, she had a great spirit, it reminded me of those times when a General Authority would come into a room. LIke a warm light had been turned on just as they came in. And all the nurses loved her.

    But still Martha worsened. And after 9 days she died. Her body had failed but her spirit had not.

    She is a part of our family, she has a stocking for Christmas and pictures of here are around the house like any other child. We still confuse our two-year-olds name with hers. I am sure she is very busy in the Spirit World but we are doing what we can to be with her and God again some day.

    Martha is dead but she is not lost, the worst part of the experience was the grief literature, it is filled with the coping of people who believe that they have no hope of ever seeing their loved ones again. One of our most powerful messages is that families are forever.

    A couple of months ago a less-active sister in the ward learned that her unborn child had cancer. I am some other Elders gave her a blessing and I was able to help her work through the pain of the moment and to get ready for the coming times. She child was born and while the doctors were ready to operate immediately, they decided to wait and soon it became apparent that the tumor was going away and now he is fine.

    These are life-changing events and all I can do is trust in the Lord and know he is God.

  12. wendy on March 6, 2005 at 7:04 pm

    “One of our most powerful messages is that families are forever.”

    What about the doctrine that everyone who died without having a chance to accept or reject the gospel will have that chance on the other side? Perhaps a lost child will decide it is not for him or her, and your family (at least, as it includes him or her) will not be forever. Two of my mother’s children have rejected the church. Now she is in constant worry about her forever family. The forever family doctrine can be the cause of tremendous anxiety, no?

  13. Adam Greenwood on March 6, 2005 at 10:41 pm

    Familes are forever. Charity is refraining from using people’s grief as an occasion for debate. And parents are people who’d rather worry that their children won’t return to the strait path then feel sure that they’ve been snuffed out of existence.

    For shame, Wendy.

  14. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 6, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    #

    Familes are forever. Charity is refraining from using people’s grief as an occasion for debate. And parents are people who’d rather worry that their children won’t return to the strait path then feel sure that they’ve been snuffed out of existence.

    For shame, Wendy.

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — 3/6/2005 : 10:41 pm

    Amen.

  15. Jordan Fowles on March 6, 2005 at 11:23 pm

    Gordon-

    I am very grateful for posts like this which remind me that although my children may occasionally be annoying, they are super-precious, and I am glad they are still with me. It is very hard for me to imagine what I would do if one of these precious little ones were taken from their “earthly home” here with me. I gave each of my children an extra snuggle tonight after reading this. Thanks!

  16. Gordon Smith on March 6, 2005 at 11:57 pm

    Stephan F, That is a heartbreaking story, but I appreciate your taking the time to share it.

    Thanks for writing that, Jordan.

  17. Name Withheld to Protect the Guilty on March 7, 2005 at 5:09 pm

    As I read this posting, I thought about loosing my own 18 year-old son. Although without visible symptoms, he was diagnosed with acute leukemia. 10 weeks later, just before Christmas, he passed away.

    Unfortunately, we have many *wendy*s in our ward. No one in my ward spoke to me for three weeks after my son died. Two weeks after my son’s death, the bishop’s wife told my wife that she was glad to see he son grow to be a man. She went on to say that she was glad that she had three sons, so that if one died she would still have two left. My wife began to cry and went to the ladies room to cry alone. The bishop’s wife then began to tell the ward how my wife was having a nervous breakdown. She also told people that my son would not have lived if he had been living right. After a couple of weeks, one sister came over to see how my wife was really doing. My wife went to the bishop’s wife and told her that the gossiping was going to stop now.

    My home teacher didn’t come over for two months. When he finally talked to me, he asked if I was *over it yet*. It sounded to me as though he considered my grief as an illness that he was afraid that he would catch. I told him that I would be over it when I could hold my son in my arms again.

    The only one who proved to be a true Christian, to mourn with us and to comfort us, was an inactive friend of my son. He has multiple body piercings and tattoos. I understand now what Christ meant when he said that publicans and sinners will enter into the kingdom of heaven before the Pharisees. Members of this ward like to put down *Utah Mormons*, but I know we would have been treated better in any of the wards we attended in Utah.

    Given that history, I don’t dare share with my ward the pearls related to my son’s passing. He’s come back to visit several times. About a month after he passed, I dreamed that he was visiting our ancestors in the spirit world and introducing himself to them. Many of them were those that I had done the temple work for. I later found a quote by Wilford Woodruff that his son had died at a young age because his ancestors wanted someone to preach the gospel to them.

    A few weeks after that, he dropped by while I was praying to tell me that he was given his choice to either stay on earth or to serve a mission in the spirit world. He agreed to stay if he could serve as a guardian angel to his sisters, because he knew that the future would offer many trials.

    My son had a Sunday School teacher that he was especially close to. Three weeks after her non-member husband died, my son dropped by to ask me to tell his Sunday School teacher that he had been given permission to teach her husband in the spirit world. She was grateful to know that he had kept his promise. The week her husband died, he told her that it was time to take the missionary discussions and start attending church.

    By the way *wendy*, get your doctrine straight. Children who die before the age of eight are saved. Those of the age of accountability who die without law will be given a choice.

  18. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 7, 2005 at 6:36 pm

    My home teacher didn’t come over for two months. When he finally talked to me, he asked if I was *over it yet*.

    What can I say.

  19. annegb on March 7, 2005 at 6:53 pm

    You know, Stephen, don’t you find that people who haven’t lost a child do expect you to get over it sooner than you are ready? A 13 year old boy down the street shot himself last September and people thought she should be doing better (the mom) within months.

    But it’s like I said, and in Wendy’s defense, if you haven’t lost a child, you have no clue. I’ve learned to forgive and realize their time will come. Sorrow comes to everyone. I’m sure she didn’t mean offense.

    My friend did a complete 180 the day her daughter died and she’s never looked back. She regrets that she thought I should be stronger. She just did not understand. My own husband, my son’s stepfather, doesn’t understand.

    That’s why I sometimes ask people how soon they’d forget their leg was amputated.

  20. Sheri Lynn on March 7, 2005 at 7:49 pm

    Name Withheld–we did not have a billionth as much reason to do what we’ve done, but we no longer try to worship the Lord with a ward consistently mostly of pseudosaints. We were sorry to leave behind a few loving people, but the damage others were doing to our children and our own ability to stay active drove us away. We’re attending a Spanish-speaking branch. What a blessing this move has been! We may not understand everything that is going on yet, but we understand that we belong. We feel loved and cared for–and needed. Really needed. Our children feel needed. We have callings. There was a real hole there that we fill just as they are filling one for us. When we need something, there is someone there for us, whether it’s a cold wet washcloth for a migraine or a hug. It’s quite a contrast from a cold shoulder and a lot of harsh judgment. Oh! gosh, did the Lord tell Jairus to get over it? Absolutely not! And throughout all the parables there is a running theme: the love of a parent for a child is the most perfect earthly love there is…or should be. I couldn’t expect mourning the loss of a child to be anything less than the greatest possible lamentation, and how could it end? I can’t imagine. (How do atheists face it? I used to be one, but I never had to find out.)

    I’m omitting a bunch of stuff that’s mostly murmuring. Just as many of these stories made me cry and thank God that our children are alive and well, yours, Name Withheld, outraged me. I wish all true Saints could feel at home and loved in their wards. There are literally people losing their testimony because Mormon culture well rewards and supports a kind of personality that is NOT in line with Mormon doctrine!

    It would be nice if life were such that we always have sunshine in our hearts, but trials come, huge losses do breach the walls around our happiness–and when we’re mourning, we shouldn’t be judged or put on a timetable.

    (Please, please, brothers and sisters, let’s not continue using “wendy” that way? I understand why, and the meaning is so, unfortunately, clear, but wendy is a real human being and that was just one post. I would hate to be held accountable for every post I ever made, because sometimes I’m wrong, offensive, misspeak, or otherwise not my best and truest self.)

  21. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 8, 2005 at 12:07 am

    I’m glad you found a good ward, Sherri.

    Yes, annegb, it is a constant in my life, those I have known and in grief literature that people expect you to get “well” much faster than is humanly possible.

    BTW, having seen many funerals where the sermons weren’t what I would have liked, I wrote my own, for my own death. I’ll need to update it, but you might find it interesting, maybe I should have submitted it as a guest post for T&S (I know by common consent wouldn’t take it):

    http://adrr.com/living/ss_1.htm

    Healing the Spirit

    Introduction

    I was asked to give this talk on the healing of the spirit to share my belief in God and to allow me to explain my hope that I and others could be made whole through the mercy and blessing of God regardless of the pain and grief we feel.

    I have been asked: how could you have faith with all the pain and grief in the world? After all, there is unfairness and injustice everywhere to be seen.

    That is true, yet when I consider the pain and grief in the world — all the unfairness and injustice, I am brought to remember that although God is just, our God saves us [Isaiah 45:21] even when we have been unjust or unfair. The pain and the grief in the world is the burden God bears because of His mercy and patience. In spite of His justice and our sins, God is unceasing in His efforts to save and redeem us [Isaiah 40:28]. God shows great patience with us. However, just as the Holy One shows patience with us, so God shows patience with others who wrong or harm us.

    Our part in this, according to the scriptures, is that only that as God has patience with us, so we should have patience with God [Psalm 130: 3-7].

    Patience

    Patience with God is essential in times of suffering, doubt and despair. Without patience we can not wait long enough. The world is unfair and as a result there will be suffering, doubt and despair — both earned and unearned. In the mists of confusing darkness that plague us, we need to always hold on firmly to patience in God. By our patience we give God opportunity, in this life or the next, to redeem us from those things which plague us. Patience allows for the healing of our spirits.

    To help us hold on to faith, God has given us commandments and scriptures to carry His word and for us to hold to. The Bible clearly warns that this life (by itself, without more) is unfair, that it is Christlike and acceptable to mourn or weep when we are afflicted, and that there is a consolation for those who suffer. The Bible says “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

    Life is Unfair

    The Book of Job (in general) and Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; 9:11, are very specific. Life is unfair and harsh. That is the nature of a fallen world filled with those who are allowed to choose to sin. God is justified not by what happens in this life but by the fact that “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

    Christ confirmed the Book of Job when he also noted that misfortune falls upon people without regard to sin or other “justification” acceptable to the natural man. As the scriptures reflect:

    “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him saying, Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

    John 9:1-3

    That is, misfortune often comes not because of the sins of our parents, or our own sins but because we live in a natural world. Misfortune comes because the natural world is full of trouble. God can allow the tribulations of the world to afflict us because God is able to, and intends through His works, to give us consolation and to restore us from the pain of the world. That is, though we fall and are bruised, though we are hurt and suffer, by God we shall be blessed and healed.

    Just because God promises to heal us, God does not expect us to embrace trouble or to be glad when we are afflicted. Christ taught men to pray:

    “And lead us not unto temptation, but deliver us from evil…”

    Matthew 6:13

    The Greek term used for evil in that sermon also means tribulation or misfortune. There is absolutely nothing wrong in desiring to escape the natural man’s tribulation or the natural world’s misfortune and we are permitted (and encouraged) to pray that we might be delivered from the bitter cup of suffering to the extent that it is possible. [Note the example of Matthew 26:39.]

    In this life is impossible for us to avoid misfortune. As long as we dwell within this fallen telestial world we will suffer pain and confusion. To help us, God has given us his word to provide patience and comfort. While we may suffer and know pain, it is the intent of God that we have hope.

    “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

    Romans 15:4

    There is more than this life.

    There is a special warning that our hope extends past this present world and life. Otherwise the gospel would make men miserable and would lead to despair.

    “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

    1 Corinthians 15:19 Note Isaiah 24:4-6

    The world is imperfect and it is only by going beyond this world that we can find a basis for hope and for comfort. Because of the imperfection of the world it is true that often things are worse than we know or can understand. Things are often much worse than we even can suspect.

    “…knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:”

    Rev. 3:17 Note 2 Corinthians 5:4-6

    In the Book of Hebrews Paul wrote the congregation in Jerusalem just before the prophecies in Matthew 24 were fulfilled with the Temple being defiled and the city overthrown. He had known pain and suffering, and attempted to prepare those he wrote to for what was to come.

    The pain of the present is real.

    “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees. Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you …”

    Hebrews 12:11,12,15

    “And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be of the consolation.”

    2 Corinthians 1:7 See also Isaiah 51:11 and Isaiah 61:2

    There is no suffering without consolation.

    There is not suffering without consolation. Yet, in spite of the promise of consolation, everyone suffers. The heavens mourn. Even the Savior knew sorrow, for it says:

    “Jesus wept.”

    John 11:35

    Christ wept even though he knew that his friend was with God and even though Christ had the power (and was about to use the power) to raise him from the dead. Even absolute knowledge and power do not prevent us from suffering or from being moved to weep.

    If Christ wept and felt grief, all the more we will weep and feel grief.

    To weep for those whom we love who are dead is a Christlike thing to do. We are blessed if we mourn properly. Note Luke 6:21.

    “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

    Matthew 5:4 See also Psalms 37:11; and John 14:18

    Christ came to comfort those who mourn, not to avoid all sorrow.

    Christ and the prophets came to comfort those who mourn.

    “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; … he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted … To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord … to comfort all that mourn.”

    Isaiah 61:1,2 See also 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 and Romans 12:15

    And God knows that to wait for his comfort tries us and strains our patience. It is not easy and God knows how hard it is for us.

    “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

    James 1:3 See also Hebrews 10:36 and Luke 21:19

    But we are promised that consolation will come.

    God wants us to know that we will have consolation, if we hold on to patience. He gave us His son that we might have faith, that we might flee unto him for refuge, that we may lay upon hope.

    “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.”

    Hebrews 6:18 See also 2 Thessalonians 2:16 and Romans 5:1ff

    The promise is not that we will be saved in this world, and not that we will avoid grief or sorrow or affliction. the promise God has given us is that we will find healing of our Spirits, after the time and troubles pass. In the world we will know pain and tribulation, but God has given us a promise that His Son has overcome the world.

    “For all flesh is as grass…”

    1 Peter 1:24

    “…by whose stripes we are healed…”

    1 Peter 2:24 Isaiah 53:5

    Further, Christ spoke:

    “These things I have spoken unto you, that you might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

    Gospel of John 17:33

    We need to live.

    The true message of the gospel, or “good word,” is that there is redemption. That while the world can be a terrible place, we should take joy in it and have hope in God’s ability and determination to restore and provide consolation because Christ has overcome the world.

    In my own life I take three things to heart from the scriptures. These three things are how I have applied the scriptures and faith to my own experiences. These are what I believe I have learned:

    First, that Christ knows our pain and views us with empathy and love. He is not untouched, but has suffered all that we suffer. [Hebrews 4:15; 2:17] Our pain is real and Christ feels it with us.

    Second, that from an eternal perspective, our pain is of a brief moment.

    In fact, I often view God as I would my own parents, who when as a little child I was certain I could not live with the normal pains of growing up, or that the pain of a bruise (either to the body or an ego) would never end, my parents knew better, but with love and patience held and comforted me.

    Third, that in the end, God will make the end greater than the beginning. That is, that God will redeem, heal and console us so that in the end we will be better off for the experience, having grown, learned — and — having in addition, been made whole. I have faith that Christ has overcome.

    I come to these conclusions after many hard experiences of my own.

    I have not sufferred as much as many, I have been very blessed. Yet, my life has not been free of hardship or sorrow. My spouse and I have buried three children (one at almost seven years of age, and one at twenty-two months) and been through three miscarriages. Our youngest child suffered severe cardiac problems and went through the Norwood Procedure at five days of age. She died a month and a half after she was released with a full recovery and was expected to live.

    Win and I have been through long and cripping pain, with terrible things happening just when we thought we were starting to heal.

    Like everyone, I could choose to find complaints about various employers, church leaders, teachers, and other authority figures in my life. I am like everyone, in that sometimes my life has not seemed as easy or as fair as I would have liked. Yet, I also know it could have been far worse.

    God has sustained me and renewed me. Through prayer and patience I have received answers to my prayers and the consolation of the Holy Ghost. God has enabled me to go on. Friends I never realized I had have supported me more than I can express. By being able to avoid bitterness, I have found joy in spite of the sorrow. Having known the bitter, I appreciate the sweet much, much more.

    I have also learned. It is important to God that we are allowed to be free. In order to let us be free, God must let us stumble and fall. If God lets us stumble and fall, God also allows others to stumble and fall. To allow us time to repent, God must allow us to commit wrongs without immediate destruction. If God allows others to repent as God allows us to repent, then they too must have time to repent and be allowed to commit wrongs that are not immediately righted.

    I have learned that to allow us faith, God must allow things to happen that are beyond the logic of this world. Thus things happen for which there are no simple answers, for which there is no immediate justification, for which we can only respond in faith that judgment comes not in this world, but in the next. But everything is proof of the infinite mercy of God.

    So in this world the rain falls on the just and the unjust. The sun shines on all. Sparrows fall. But nothing passes that God does not mark and that God will not account for and heal, if we but wait for Him.

    Do not be mistaken. I would not willingly have entered into many of the sorrows that I have met. Yet, in spite of them I remember 1 Peter 1:7 and hope that in the end I may be like gold tried by fire, better and purer for the experience.

    2 Corinthians 1:4 puts my current hopes best:

    “[God] comforteth in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God.”

    I know the truth of that scripture from times past, and as God comforts and heals me again in my present sorrows, hope to prove the comfort of God in my life again. Trust in God is something I have learned from the heart, not the mind.

    Thus, in every time of sorrow I pray that I may be able to walk in the light [1 John 1:7], and to be comforted in God.

    We cannot avoid sorrow. As the Bible put it, we live in a “vale of tears.” As the result of things that seem unfair (and of things that often are unfair) we must mourn and know pain and grief. Yet, God has prepared a more excellent way for us, one that will help us in the difficult path of healing and of turning all things to the good and the glory of God.

    In this hope I pray that you may overcome the world, and be blessed of God, that though you mourn and know sorrow, you may find comfort and redemption. I pray that you may be healed in body and Spirit.

    Sincerely, and in the Name of Jesus Christ,

    Amen

  22. Sheri Lynn on March 8, 2005 at 12:51 am

    I am very grateful you posted that. I have saved it to study it. Heavenly Father has blessed my life through your testimony tonight.

  23. Name Withheld to Protect the Guilty on March 8, 2005 at 1:33 pm

    More thoughts. . .

    A sister in the ward lost her husband and I decided that she was not going to have to feel shunned. So, I visited her regularly. Heard her express faith in an ultimate reunion with her husband, anger at him for dying, and anger at God for taking him. She really needed a sympathetic ear.

    My son’s Sunday School teacher received the same visits and comfort after her husband’s death. We had an interesting conversation once. She told me that she thought that it would be far more difficult to loose a child and I told her I thought it was more difficult to loose a spouse. What we unknowingly expressed was sympathy and empathy.

    Too often we would rather bring a casserole to the funeral and assume that our duty is complete. We really need to lend an ear and a shoulder for an extended period of time. One sister in our ward said that she did not come to grips with her husband’s death for seven years. She had great HTs and VTs, caring RS pres and bishop, and adult children. What of the person who doesn’t have that support net?

    One sister in the ward lost a son. None of us had ever seen or met him because he lived with his father. When she came back from the funeral, I gave her a hug and told her that I understood. She said that was the best cry she had. That is one of the reasons why Christ suffered in Gethsemane. So that He can say to us, “I understand.” No matter what abuse was heaped on me or my family, Christ was always there to say, “I understand.”

  24. annegb on May 23, 2005 at 10:22 am

    God bless you, Paulette. I have lost a child, as well, there are others who post here who have, too.

    I asked the same question, and didn’t think I would ever recover, but it’s now been almost fourteen years, and I am beginning to live again. It happens.

    I am really sorry.

  25. Paulette Franks on May 22, 2005 at 1:14 pm

    on april 16th 1995 god gave us a perious little angle . she went through 11 operations in her short life. God took his Angel home on April16th 1905 If there is anyone who can give us advice on how to go on living even though we also have a 9yr. old (who is haveing alot of probems slso please let us know. [contact info removed to prevent abuse. please contact the T & S admins for this commenter's contact info].

  26. Talita Dingus on June 2, 2005 at 4:01 pm

    om june 4 1998 we had a beautiful baby girl named alliyah she was born with a heart defect and died 7 mmos later after 4 open heart surgeries .she never got to come home . this saturday she would have been 7 yrs old . i know how everyone feels who has lost a child .its gets a little easier but you never really get past the pain of losing a child.we just have to remember the joy they brought to us when they were here.

  27. annegb on June 2, 2005 at 6:46 pm

    You’re right, you don’t get past it, so sorry about your loss.

  28. m.j.hurley brant on September 21, 2005 at 9:04 pm

    My daughter, Katie Brant, died in 1999. She had brain tumors for 10 years and she was my hero. I’ve written a book and I have just begun sharing 5 chapters on-line. My other child, Richard, put it up for me. I hope we mothers and fathers can remember that while we will never be the same without our child we will go on and give that gift of living to them. See http://www.MJHB.net Thank you and let’s pray for each other.

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