Good Man Gone

Rayaccountability, Beatitudes, burdens, Charity, death, eternity, faith, families, Happiness, love, marriage, Peace, plan of salvation, questioning, righteousness, salvation, Sermon on the Mount, spirituality, temple, testimony 15 Comments

A week ago, I attended the viewing and funeral of a man in our stake who died of an unexpected heart attack.  He was in his 50’s, had just been to the doctor and been pronounced fit as a fiddle, was losing weight and feeling great.

He was the Bishop of his ward, and his wife had been cancer free for just over a year.  His son flew home for the weekend, after which he returned to finish his mission. I spoke with his wife briefly at the viewing, and something she said has been weighing on my mind ever since.  She said, essentially:

He lost his mother about six weeks ago, and his aunt passed away five days later.  We had reached peace with death and were focused on life. I know it will be hard in a couple of weeks when everyone gets back to their own lives and I am alone to deal with not having him here, but I believe in the Atonement, the Plan of Salvation and the promises of the temple.  It will be hard, but I will be OK.

What I want to share from this experience is not related directly to those things she mentioned at the end (the Atonement, Plan and temples), but what she said at the beginning – being at peace.

As much as anything else, when I die I want to be at peace with death – but I also want to be at peace with life.  I don’t want to be bitter or angry or upset before I die – and I don’t want to live in that state, either; I want to be at peace.

I believe that is up to me – that it is my responsibility.  The natural man inclination is to blame others for our feelings – for whether or not we are at peace.  I understand the necessity for anger, grief and/or cognitive dissonance when certainty is shattered, ambiguity accelerates and testimony is tried.  I really do get that need.  However, I believe reconciliation of some kind that leads to peace and charity is critical.

I wish I had an easy answer.  I wish I had a universal, practical method that I knew would work for every individual.  The only answer I have is that there is peace in letting go – that there is peace in cutting others slack – there is peace in real charity – there is peace in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There isn’t always peace in the human organizations in which that Gospel is interpreted and taught, just as there isn’t always peace in even the most ideal families, but the peace the Gospel brings can influence and strengthen the peace that then can be brought individually into the Church – the community of spiritual family.

I hope I or my wife never has to deal with what this good Bishop’s wife is experiencing right now and in the near future.  I hope we die together, at a ripe old age.  More than that, however, I hope that when either of us dies, the other is at peace – because she or I simply has become a peaceful person.

As I strive to be a peacemaker and, thereby, to be called a child of God, I understand that the first peace I must influence and create is within my own heart and soul – that I can’t spread peace externally unless I am at peace internally.  For those who now are NOT at peace, I hope they can look for peace even before understanding.  That might seem counter-intuitive at first, but I believe peace can bring understanding – and that understanding, in and of itself, rarely brings peace – largely because the quest for understanding never ends.  Peace, on the other hand, can last and endure even during circumstances that cannot be understood – like the unexpected death of a good Bishop.

God bless you, Denny.  You will be missed.

Comments 15

  1. You have “nailed” it on the true “head” Ray. I have lived long enough to lose both parents. I did not have peace with the sudden and unexpected death of my father who died rapidly after 10 days of moving to retire and live with my husband and me in a new state. I DID however, have great peace when my mother “graduated” after cancer 30 years later. What made the difference?
    In my mind and heart…..both were fully involved in accepting and dealing with the realities of death and losing loved ones…inside the difference was not only having a sure testimony of the other side of the veil, but in the SURETY and connection I had developed over the years, the relationship I had developed with God the Father. A sweet one-on-one which so DEEPLY grabbed my being with TRUST ! As an only child and in a marriage twisted by hateful deceptive in-laws (married to a twin who is co-dependent upon other twin) and mostly abandoned emotionally by MY only child and ONLY grandchild….I was virtually cradled and nurtured through the death at the latter time…with merciful personal revelation that it WAS the perfect time, that the calling to the other side was the best in our lives part of the plan for our family.
    I HAD AN ULTIMATE PEACE…even though I was very deeply co-dependent upon my mother (alpha dominant). Like the dear sister married to the Bishop I knew it was going to be alright.
    PEACE is a gift from GOD and we always ask for it if we “LET GO AND LET GOD” do His PERFECT work in our lives.
    The ‘nail’ you used so perfectly….the goal we ALL need today every moment of this rough tough life PEACE comes from our HEAD and only from our HEAD. Thanks for your posting gift as well Ray. May your heart be healed and filled with grace and peace with the loss of Denny. May we all find internal PEACE no matter what, who or when. Love to you all.

  2. What a beautiful talk this would make at a funeral! Ray, you have nailed what is the essential beauty of the gospel and the plan of salvation, the knowledge we have of the various stages of our existance.

    Coming from a non-church, non-christian background, I have watched members of my family suffer over the death of loved ones. Because they did not know what happens to us when we die and that we will see each other again. This alone brings great peace. Not to mention the loving arms of the savior where we can also find comfort and rest.

    I have to teach the Plan of Salvation lesson in SS this week. I am wondering if I can share your post with my class? I was concerned about how to present the lesson, but now I have an idea based on your post. Do you mind? Thanks for sharing this.

  3. The terrible tragedy is that these people appeared to have died without the true Jesus of the Bible – for assuredly the Devil’s brother of Mormonism could not and cannot save . [Andrew, this is Jesus you are mocking and deriding. It is the Lord you claim to worship. Even if our views of Him are different, it is Jesus himself to whom your comment applies. It is blasphemy of the highest order, and I pray you will be able to understand why that is so and not blaspheme Him in this manner in the future.] May it be that those who read this blgg who are caught up in the cult of Mormonism find salvation as other Mormons already have.

    [As insensitive and blasphemous as it is, I will let this comment stand, as it has generated responses already. Please do not respond to it further.]

  4. “the Devil’s brother of Mormonism” – that’s a good one, but I have to wonder, is “Andrew Price” actually a sock puppet name that Mike Huckabee is using? 😉 Also, Andrew P, you may be pleased to know that there are many who read this “blgg” who are not caught up in the cult…. and those who are, are very smart about it.

    Great post Ray. Carry on all.

  5. Andrew, the terrible tragedy of your comment is your complete disrespect for others’ beliefs. We could get into a name calling merry go round, but I’ll turn the other cheek as the Savior would have me do. Perhaps you could learn to be a more generous Christian as you pretend to profess.

  6. MH, I left you speechless. Now I can die in total peace. 🙂

    Sharon, Thank you for sharing that. The intricacies of inter-personal relationships can be a huge help or hindrance to finding peace. I’m glad you were able to do so in the end.

    Stephen, what can I say to you, of all people? I’m glad that resonated.

    Jeff, I don’t mind at all. I am speaking on 1 Corinthians 15 in one of the branches in our stake on Sunday, and I’ve decided to ditch my prepared talk and use this topic instead.

    Andrew, God bless you and yours.

    Everyone else, please don’t respond to Andrew. It’s not worth the loss of peace that brings – especially since if he derails the post, he achieves part of what he wants to do. There is peace in letting go, after all.

  7. Ray, I agree, but it is sparking me with some ideas for future posts, one of which will be something like an open letter to fundamentalist Christians about how to convert me. I really think if they improved their strategy a little, they really could save more souls.

  8. Andrew,

    How unfortunate it is to read a comment like the one you left here – a man died and you are only concerned about promoting your own agenda. Is it that important for you to be right? Is your message so weak that you need to kick people while they are down? Obviously you are not concerned about sharing the love of Jesus – telling people that they are wrong and that people they care about are in Hell is only useful in promoting your narrow-minded view of reality, not sharing the gospel. You have the same mentality of a shoe salesman who ridicules the customer for wearing the shoes he walked in with and then expecting him to buy the product you are selling. Privately, I believe you are only concerned about bolstering your own position in order to convince yourself of the beliefs you hold to be true. Rather than sounding convinced – you appear unsure of your position. Indeed, if someone begged you to share your truth with them I think you would hesitate – you belong to a group that needs opposition to exist. If everyone accepted Jesus on your terms, your group would start purging your own members because without an enemy your ideology would have no foundation or purpose.

    Here is a quick story – There once was a tribe of people in New Guinea who were discovered by some well meaning missionaries. The missionaries wanted to share Jesus with the people because they were obviously lost, but first they decided that the tribe needed to improve their health because they were dying of Malaria and other water-born illnesses. So, they decided to install 3 wells in the area that would deliver freshwater to the tribe – sounds great, right? Well, the people were slow to accept the new magic of receiving water from a pump instead of drinking from streams, but finally, they learned how to use the new technology and people stopped dying of water-born illnesses. After several years the tribe adapted to their new way of life and their new religion, but there were still problems – members that converted to Jesus lost their old ways and their meaning in life – they lost their identity. Families that once lived in harmony were suddenly at war with each other because of an ideology. Instead of Jesus, the missionaries brought strife and discord – ironically, even the wells that the missionaries installed in the beginning yielding freshwater, also delivered arsenic, which resulted in 40% of the members of the tribe developing terminal cancer. Most of the tribe had developed immunity to the water-born viruses, but all were susceptible to the cancer. The moral of the story is – 1) make sure that you understand the ramifications of your actions – you are responsible!! 2) We are all sinners and as Paul says we all have a limited view of the truth 3) The ends do not justify the means! 4) Being right is about Pride not sharing the gospel 5) Do not be a jerk – sounds simple, but if you are living for Pride and not Jesus it feels nature to be a jerk.

    Go read the Posionwood Bible, spend twenty years loving people for Christ (find yourself in Christ) and then come back and witness to the “lost Mormons” – until then, you are simply hurting people, not sharing Christ. I will be praying for you.


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    Ron, I appreciate your comment as coming from someone who is not LDS – and because I agree with your central point. However, I have asked that no responses be written to Andrew’s comment. (I added a note to it within the comment itself, so that all who read it will see that request immediately – and realize that it is blasphemous to the core. Oh, the irony in that.)

    Everyone, since I have asked that this thread remain on the topics of death and peace during life, and since Denny was a wonderful man whose tribute should not be marred by religious wrangling, I will delete any more comments that are anti-Mormon in nature or that respond to such comments.

  10. Ray

    You are a wise person – I agree with you and I am sorry I missed your point the first time. I was just so enraged after talking with another member of this board that I had to comment. Thank you for rising above the fray.


  11. Great post Ray. I have been reflecting on the issue of death and peace all day. A gentleman recently commissioned me to paint his wife and her horse. Complications from an accident with the horse led, in part, to her death. He notified me this morning that she had passed away and asked about my experience painting his wife. She and her husband are humble disciples of Christ. I struggle with my in ability to communicate, but this is part of what I wrote:

    “I believe the good things that we strongly desire in this life are eternal in nature – relationships, beauty, peace, family and friends. I also believe that our stewardships continue into the next life. It appears that you and Leah have been good stewards of each other’s happiness and that the Grace of God will specifically bring you together again. I pray that His spirit will be with you this week and the reassurance of a future reunion will provide hope and peace.”

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