Yesterday I received a call that was special and moving. A mother wanted to help her cousin who had just lost a child to chronic illness on Christmas Day. She wanted to get an idea of what might be supportive to her cousin at such a difficult time. I asked about her cousin and her cousin's little girl. I was humbled that this sweet mother trusted me to share what my experiences have been. I was also humbled that I might be able to help someone in such a painful time. The question that came up has come up time and time again. I feel this question deep in my heart. The answer is so sacred to parents who have lost children (and really to anyone who has experienced difficult losses of people in their lives). All parents who have lost, have all wondered in our hearts and out loud, "Is my child ok?" "Where are they?" and "Will I ever be able to 'feel' them or hear them again?"
In the evening of December 10th, 2015, the day we lost our son to mental illness, I found myself saying, "I now know what it feels like to want to literally be in two places at the same time". I found myself quieting down my mind and listening with my heart to "find" my son in any way that I could. The need for connection was like the craving for water after a very long, hot hike. I had to have it. But connection to what? What would I find? I had "felt" a connection to my Grandmother and to my Mother, both who had passed on years before but this was our son. He had always needed me as his mother. I needed to make sure he was ok and that he knew that I loved him and would try to be there for him still.
Eternal things. This life isn't the beginning or end of our existence. We were created by our creator who we call "God" or "Heavenly Father". We are spiritual beings first and always. We are here in this state to receive our bodies, experience life and opposition, and to find a way to be our very best selves. After our life experience here, we go to the spirit world which is just bodiless, really. Our spirits are still living, we just have had to leave our bodies which no longer work. We don't change after we die, at least not right away. We still have the same cravings, loves, emotions, connections, and characteristics that make us, us. We, because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, will all be resurrected-reuniting our resurrected bodies with our spirits at either the beginning of His return or at the end.
Before our children passed away this past year, I believed this. But after their deaths, I would put this to the test. I had always been told that the spirit world is around us and that we have the help of spirits who love us through the direction of the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit. So when I got to our son's body after my husband had found him, I spoke out loud. I told him that there was nothing to forgive. That I loved him and always would love him. My husband, his Dad, said the same. We openly spoke to comfort him knowing that he would wonder and worry because that was how our son was before he became mentally ill. Remember, Jonathan was and is still our son with all of the goodness and interests he had especially before his mental illness took over.
During the week after Jonathan's death, we had many independent experiences with him. 2 of his siblings did see him but the rest of us felt him distinctly. It was as real as if I closed my eyes with him in the room and could tell he was there. One thing that caught my attention and his aunt's attention was that he "felt" younger, like 17 or so (an age before his mental illness took over). It was almost as if that block of time was mercifully taken from him and he'd be given the chance to live and grow up now. When we were quiet and knew he was close, we found that he could tell us things or we could talk to him and know that he heard us. Sometimes we would wake up and know he was there. We knew he was with us during Christmas and New Years, at UK basketball games, at church, at home and on the farm. We had a strong love and connection before he became ill and tried to maintain that connection all through his illness. We think that because of that effort, we had a stronger sense of him as he came and went. I don't think we always know when Jonathan is with us but we try to be available to him.
We learned that he wanted to be in our home and with us. He wanted to be with his family. But he was also feeling the peace of not being stuck in the prison of his body that didn't work any more. He was free to move about doing good and feeling good. Our daughter, Kathryn, experienced the same thing after her passing. Kathryn's physical challenge was her many many allergies and asthma attacks. After her passing, she was seen dancing by several friends and family-at her gravesite, in the temple, backstage before a performance by her sweet dance friend. Personally, I "feel" her. She has that feeling of brightness and joy that just fills my heart and the room with a feeling of light. Several have seen that light.
For about 5 months, when I felt her around me I would just cry and cry. After 9 years of taking care of her so much, I could almost not stand the absence I felt. I still have those moments. It has only been 8 months since she had the asthma attack that put her in the hospital. Because I had experienced 5 months of connecting with our son in this new way, I knew that Kathryn would feel worry and sadness for my pain and in seeing my cry. So about a month after she had died, I said (in my head) when I felt her near, "Kathryn, I'm so sorry that I cry so much when you come around. I want you here so badly and I just hurt so much right now." Then I heard the most merciful words from her, "Mommy, it's ok. Jesus said that it would be a while." I have held that truth in my heart every day.
The Savior of the world doesn't force anything on us. When we are ready to journey with an eternal mindset that includes love, order, and mercy, He is standing there ready with all kinds of help-seen and unseen. For those of us who have lost children, the journey includes questions about how our children are doing, what they are doing and are they ok? I have learned that, yes, they are feeling peace and love and are very safe with the Savior and the loved ones who are loving and kind who have gone before us. But they are also very much themselves and they worry and care so much for us. They reach out to us and hug us as they can. They prompt us and try to help us as we look for goodness and as we help others. And they are with us so very often.
To the sweet, heartbroken parents struggling with a child's death, or several, we are all on that same journey and we have help. We are loved and supported. We are also, mercifully, given time to process our many emotions. Be gentle with yourselves and with your loved ones, who also suffer. Be kind to the God to loves you more than anyone ever will. And most of all make room for the love and presence of your sweet, lively, caring, smart, and happy angels. They are yours, after all. How sweet is that?
Published by Sherrill Moody