As part of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, each of us will experience difficult times in our lifetime. These trials are a part of life, but with the help of the Lord we can endure all things and find peace, hope and happiness.
In August of 2008, my precious niece, Sarah, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Sarah passed away four months later in December, just a few weeks before her third birthday. I recall the deep sadness our family felt over the loss of sweet little Sarah. My identical twin sister, Christine, was eight months pregnant when she was given the news that her daughter would soon die of brain cancer. She recalled the overwhelming shock and sadness upon receiving this horrible news. At the end of a long and difficult day of medical tests, Christine returned home from the hospital, exhausted and in need of heavenly help. She prayed for comfort and instruction from the Holy Ghost. A calming comfort came immediately and she was given the help and strength she needed to carry on. The final few months of Sarah’s life were spent in their home as the family lovingly cared for Sarah and treasured the time they had with her. The next several years were intense with grief for the family as they have tried to move forward without precious Sarah. Amid the sorrow and pain, their hearts have been filled with peace and comfort. They have turned to our Savior for help and have been blessed with an abundance of hope and happiness. After all, it is because of love that such loss is felt.
After Sarah’s Passing, Christine and her family traveled to Utah for a family memorial service and to bury Sarah in the Provo cemetery. I cannot imagine the hurt my sister felt as her beautiful child was buried. I recall the feelings I had as I looked at my little niece one last time. I was reminded of God’s eternal plan of happiness and that I will be able to live, play and sing with Sarah again. On our way home from the memorial service the beautiful yellow sun caught my eye from the car window. It looked as though it had one bright ray beaming from it, nearly reaching the ground. It was a tender mercy, a visual reminder that Sarah was now with her Creator, her Father in Heaven.
A few years ago I asked if she could share some specific things she did to endure the many months of sadness and once again find happiness and joy in life. As she prayed for help and direction, the answers came through the Holy Ghost. She trusted in her Father in Heaven and acted on these promptings.
1. Power comes from daily scripture study. Christine found peace as she set aside time each day to read from the scriptures. As she studied and read she was reminded of God’s love for her and his eternal plan of happiness.
2. Prayer will strengthen and sustain us. She depended on the power of prayer to receive daily strength and comfort.
One especially difficult morning as Christine was overwhelmed with responsibilities in caring for a new baby and a very sick child. Her husband, Brian, recognized her need for help and offered a tender prayer before leaving for work. He prayed that ministering angels would help bring their family relief and love. At the noon hour, she recorded in her journal all that had transpired since the family prayer. From thoughtful phone calls, friends caring for her other children, to surprises on the doorstep and a warm family dinner brought in, she feel asleep with a heart full of thanks to a Father in Heaven who answered her prayers.
3. We can find hope in the restored Gospel. In the month following Sarah’s passing, Christine was filled with deep sorrow because she could no longer hold or care for Sarah. She recognized that she had to do something to overcome despair. The thought came to her to study the Atonement of Christ in depth. For several days she read everything she could find concerning the Savior’s sacrifice. As she read she recognized that the atonement of Christ had the power to mend her broken heart. She trusted the Savior and prayed that the atonement would help take away her pain. Everything we feel that is unfair in our life will be made right through the Atonement. She felt His love for her and overtime the pains softened and her heart began to heal.
4. Physical activity and proper rest help our body and spirit. Christine found that as she took the time to rest, eat regular well-balanced meals and exercise, she felt happier. I have found this to be true in my own life.
5. As Latter Day Saints we believe in being hopeful. The 13th Article of Faith states: “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men, indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” Each day Christine tried to make a conscience choice to be hopeful. As members of the Church we should remain the most hopeful, positive thinking people amid adversity and trial. What a blessing to have the knowledge of Jesus Christ, our true source of peace, helping us overcome and endure all things. As we trust in the Lord and pray to our Father in Heaven we will be given the help we need.
What I learned from Sarah
It was December 8th, 2009. My twin sister, Christine, like any other day, was busy taking care of Sarah’s needs. Sarah was lying next to her newborn sister on the couch and Christine was in the kitchen baking her favorite cookies. She gave one to Sarah with some milk. She could hardly eat or swallow anything at this point. Talking and even breathing at this point was a challenge – mostly speaking in a whisper, quiet and weak. Christine was cleaning the kitchen up and from the family room she could hear Sarah singing the Primary song, “I am A Child of God.” At not quite three years of age it was evident she knew four important things:
She knew she was a child of God.
She knew that He had a plan for her.
She knew that she would be returning home to Him.
We must gain a sure knowledge of the same doctrines. January 16th, 2013 would have been Sarah’s 7th Birthday. Christine had many of Sarah’s things displayed on the table, from pictures to some of her favorite things –to help the family celebrate her life throughout the day. At one point in the day she observed Caroline, who was a newborn when Sarah passed, looking through the items on the table and singing, “I am a Child of God.” I have no doubt Sarah has sung this to her little sister more than just that one time laying on the couch together the day before she left her physical body and returned to her Heavenly Father.
Elder Merrill J. Bateman has said, “Death teaches that we do not experience a fullness of joy in mortality and that everlasting joy can be achieved only with the assistance of the Master. If grieving parents and loved ones have faith in the Savior and His plan, death’s sting is softened as Jesus bears the believers’ grief and comforts them through the Holy Spirit. Through Christ, broken hearts are mended and peace replaces anxiety and sorrow (Merrill J. Bateman, Power to Heal, New Era, April 2003, 42).” I add my testimony to his. Because of our Savior, Jesus Christ, those feelings of sorrow, loneliness, and despair will one day be swallowed up in a fullness of joy. Instead of looking backward with sadness, may we look forward to the future with a “brightness of hope (2 Nephi 31:20).”
Class Sharing Activity: Ask the class members to share their questions, fears or thoughts on death. Provide the following printed quote cards and have them search for the answers to their questions. Allow time for sharing of feelings and appropriate personal experiences. (Quotations taken from Elder Russell M. Nelson’s Conference Address, “Doors of Death”).