I woke up the other morning with this horrible feeling; it was a feeling of complete dread. The stark reality that David was dead just loomed over me, it was like I had been dreaming it before and some how his death was just all a dream. But that morning I woke up with this harsh reality that he wasn’t coming back. It’s hard to explain, I have felt a lot of feelings and emotions but this one was just intense and unsettling. I am sure it is common for those who have lost someone to have these feelings; I just wasn’t prepared for it. Honestly, I thought the toughest and hardest feelings had past.
I have weighed many times in my mind the blessings I have received compared to the pain and loss I have suffered. I have to say, though the pain and suffering have been horrible, the many tender mercies and blessings have simply out weighed the other. I have learned for myself that we are not alone; we never travel this mortal path alone. We are loved and we are watched over. That is something I know for sure.
I want to tell a story about something that was very positive and has had a huge impact on me. Today I was speaking in a Ward (congregation) and tried to explain to them how since David’s death there are just things that I have come to know. I may have believed them or had faith in them before, however, now I simply Know them. I know them as if they are part of my DNA, as if they have always been there. I used the analogy of the dews of heaven. It is as if these things I have come to know simply came to me as the dews of heaven. There wasn’t necessarily a moment or teaching time in which I received these things, I just, Know them. I am grateful for that knowledge and see it as another Tender Mercy that the Lord has given me. Maybe he gives these kinds of things to those who have such loses to help balance things out. I am not sure, but I am grateful nonetheless.
Here is a story about a time when insight was given but it was taught to me. It was taught to me in a way that I have never experienced to that point in my life.
After David died, one of the things that weighed heavy on my mind was that he had not received his endowment in the Temple.
For LDS members, we work toward attending the Temple and participating in what we call the Endowment. Like the name implies it is a time when we make covenants with the Lord and in return are promised blessings, great and marvelous blessings. Missionaries before leaving for their mission typically go to the Temple and receive their endowment. It is an important step to us and in our eternal progression.
It bothered me that he was in the spirit world and had not had his initiatory work or endowment completed. I longed for this sweet boy to make those covenants and to have the blessings that come from having his endowment. The Sunday before David died he had met with the Bishop and received his Temple Recommend.
I read the leadership manual on the death of someone like David who had his mission call but had not been to the Temple yet. It said that with the permission of the Bishop, Stake President and a letter to the Temple President it could be done before the typical one-year waiting period. I was as a father who had just lost his precious son desperate to get this work done and allow my son to have those blessings and to move on in his progression. I asked the Bishop about it, he said he would talk to the Stake President. I saw the Stake President at Church on Sunday. As we were talking about it, he said he wanted to call SLC and the Missionary department to see what they said. He also wanted to talk tot he Temple president. A week went by and I had not heard anything. I then realized that we might have to wait the year for David’s endowment. I wanted to prepare myself then for the possibility of that answer. It would be disappointing and a little hurtful to me if the answer were to wait. However, I knew that the adversary would try and use this to drive a wedge into my life. I did not want that to happen. So, I prayed that I might be accepting of whatever the answer would be. After a parents day at early morning seminary we saw the Stake President and indeed he told me to do the work would constitute an exception. David had his recommend yes however, he didn’t feel like there was any need to make an exception at that time. I was surprised that I didn’t have any emotions around his announcement. I was at ease. I told him how I felt. That it would be of some comfort to the family to have it done. However, we would follow our leaders and do what they advised. Over the next couple of days I pondered more on the decision. I thought to myself, what difference does it make to the Church if his work is done now or in a year. What is the downside to doing it early? It could only bring us as a family peace and comfort. We were planning to go to Nashville for Christmas and all of the family would be there. It would be a perfect time to do David’s work when all the family was together. Surely the President would understand this and make the exception to have the work done then. I tucked these thoughts away in my mind. I was still determined to do what our leaders advised, however, was convinced when they hear my reasoning they would see the wisdom and concede. The next Friday night was Temple night for the Valley Vista Ward, the ward I am over as a High Councilor. I was going to attend with them to show support. It happened to be our Wards Temple night as well, it was also the night that Chris Edwards one of David’s close friends was going through the Temple for his endowment. He received his mission call to Arkansas Little Rock mission about two weeks after David died. It was going to be a great night in the Temple. I sat in the chapel next to our Bishop as we waited for the session to start. He asked if I had spoken to the Stake President. I told him we had. I rehearsed to him our thoughts and process before talking to the President and what my thoughts were after talking to him. Making clear that I we would follow whatever our leaders advised. However, I did tell him all of my thoughts. He then said something to me that set me on a journey that night that would change everything. He said, Greg, I was the last to meet/interview David. David had a strong testimony; he was worthy to have a Temple recommend. However, he was not ready to go to the Temple and take out his endowment. He needed more time. He and David talked about it. He told me that David was not ready to take that step. My first reaction was to flinch in almost pain at that thought. Of course my son was ready. He was as ready as any of the other boys in the ward who had gotten their call. Wasn’t he? Because of the deep love our Bishop has for David and our family, I know he was telling me what was in his heart and meant nothing but love by it. So, I sat back and pondered what had been said. Bishop Wagner is such a good man. I have a deep love for him and our family will never forget him. As we entered the endowment room and sat I was staring at the seat in front of me and thinking about what he said. Then something happened that I will try to explain but do not have the intelligence to explain in words. The spirit began to have a conversation with me. It was different. I was hearing the words but I was feeling these words deep into my soul at the very same time. One word could communicate volumes to me. It was the most remarkable thing I had ever experienced. Time seem to stop. I was aware of what was going on but at the same time could continue to have this conversation with the Spirit. I have felt when David has been present in our home or near me. However I was very aware that this was not David and that this was a very different person communicating to me. It was someone of great wisdom, someone who knew my family in detail and was involved in David’s life now. The conversation went something like this.
Of course what the Bishop said makes since. David was progressing while in mortality. However, he still needed to grow and mature and use his agency in mortality to make the decision to accept the endowment. He was growing and progressing where he is. He was still learning line upon line and precept upon precept here in mortality. Why would it be any different in the world David now lived in? Death does not grant you a pass and allow you to skip the growth we need and death does not take you from point A to point Z just because you have passed into the spirit world. No, you are whom you are when you die. You still have to go through the steps of growth as you would here. The spirit gave me this comfort. In fact as it communicated this piece of information to me I perceived a smile on the persons face, a smile of comfort and assurance. It said to me, the blessing your son has now, is he will now have that opportunity for growth out of mortality. No temptation, no worldly cares; he will not have to fight the fight of mortality. He will still have to exercise his agency in his life where he is; it will just be so much easier. What a blessing your son will now have. He said to me that David needed this year and it would be ok. It was not a negative thing to have to wait. David was happy, he was engaged in the work and he was being watched over just like he was in this life. He was in a Quorum of priesthood holders that would love him, and take him into their bosoms and would love him on his journey. I also saw in my mind my father in-law who has been dead now for over 20 years. He would play an important part in helping David. Yes of course the Bishop was right. In a year we would go to the Temple and the experience will be sweet and we will know he was ready and would accept the work that was being done for him.
I sat in my chair and marveled that I could hear and learn all of this in the short time it takes for the introduction of the endowment. Last night I was taught in a way I have never been taught. We are so blessed for the love of our Lord and his continued tender mercies to our family. To a Father who longs for his son to have all the blessings available to him and for him to be happy and know how much he is loved. I know the Lord is in charge, he loves my son, and he has a plan for him. Because he loves him so much I have nothing to worry about. In fact, I should rejoice in the fact that David is where he is.
What a blessing to have a Temple so close where we can go and be taught by a loving Father and Savior that loves us unconditionally. I am a blessed man. I am grateful for local leaders who are in tune and are wiling to do the Lords will and not mans.
On a side note, we did go to Nashville for Christmas. The day before we left the Friday before Christmas, I got horribly sick. I was sick in bed the entire week; I wasn’t able to get out of bed until Christmas Eve. We left to come home on Christmas day. Even if we had received the exception to take David to the Temple it would not have been possible. I was way too sick. I wasn’t able to see any of my friends or to spend very much time with my family. Another testimony to me that there is a bigger plan.
I have learned that I am loved, that I am not alone in my journey and there is way more help available to me then I had ever thought before. That is what I know for sure.