Friday evening just as I was about to sign off of Facebook, I noticed that a post had been put up on our family group. Since posts tend to be few and far between, I decided to take a look. I learned that my husband's uncle had been in a bike accident and prayers were requested. It was later in the evening when my father-in-law called with the news. Uncle Mike had passed away. Details were limited, but he encouraged us to pray for Mike's family and patiently wait more information. I expressed condolences and promised to share the information with my husband when he got home as well as keep the family in our prayers.
It is hard to describe the emotions that went through me. After hanging up the phone, my children eagerly asked who I'd been talking to and who I said we'd pray for. It never gets easier, talking to children about the reality of death. I gently explained that it was Grandpa who'd called and that his older brother had passed away. "We're going to pray for his wife and children, for Grandpa because Uncle Mike is his brother, and for Grandma-Great."
My Gary's little nose wrinkled in confusion. "Why are we praying for Grandma-Great? Is she sick?"
"No, sweetie. But Uncle Mike was her baby just like you are my baby. It hurts when a parent loses their child."
"But Uncle Mike's not really lost. Families are forever!"
Oh to have the faith of a child! Yes, sweet Gary, families are indeed forever. Uncle Mike is not lost to us. Not now and not in eternity.
We talked for a while and after saying our prayers, Gary said, "You know, I bet Uncle Mike is up with Grandpa Gary watching over Grandma-Great and Grandpa and everybody in our whole family and even in the world."
I hugged this faithful, inspiring little boy and smiled through my tears. "Yes, Gary, I do believe you're right."
My word this year is rejoice and you might be wondering why I would share sad news with such a theme. I admittedly did not know Uncle Mike extremely well. We didn't see him often since we lived in different states, but when I did see him, Mike embodied the word rejoice.
Uncle Mike seemed to always be laughing. In fact, I'm not sure I ever personally witnessed him frown. Whether I saw him interacting with adults or playing with his grandchildren, joy and love radiated from him. He was the type of person you just couldn't help feeling good around. His love for his family was clear in everything I saw him say and do. And his faith in Christ and in the gospel was palpable. When he bore testimony, it was with power and conviction. He was a man with a commanding presence, and yet Uncle Mike was one of the most humble men I knew. I remember once, and I can't for the life of me remember where we were, hearing him say, "I'm the Hyrum to Mark's (my father-in-law) Joseph." He served those around him with love and kindness. I remember seeing him take grandchildren at reunions so their parents could eat unhampered. During one meal when I was holding my own sleeping child, he cut the meat on my plate since I couldn't cut it one-handed, let alone the fact that only my left hand was available.
In my eyes, Mike was a modern-day Sam. He quietly did what was needed with faith and determination. There will be some who feel that the world lost a great man Friday, and I suppose it is true. But I prefer to think that Heaven gained one. And as my son reminded me, families are forever. The joy of the gospel is that family units are eternal. It is one of the things that brings me the most peace at times like this. Though they are physically gone, they are not lost. I will surely miss Uncle Mike's laugh, his quiet strength, his joy and love at our next family reunion. I will miss seeing his eyes light up when he talks about the gospel or his children and grandchildren. But I know that in the end, we will see him again. We will see all our family again. And how sweet a reunion there was in Heaven tonight as Uncle Mike joined those who have gone before him!
Though my heart aches for his immediate family, I rejoice in the knowledge that his family will one day be reunited. What joy there is in knowing that those who go before us are not lost forever, but wait for us to rejoin them in the eternal realms above. There will be moments of sadness, of course. It is natural when we lose a loved one to grieve. And I would never suggest that you repress those feelings of grief. We must experience sorrow and difficulty in order to fully understand and appreciate joy and peace. But in our sorrow, we can find peace and joy in our faith. Faith in our Heavenly Father, in His plan for us, in His promise that families are eternal and that we can be reunited not only with Him but with all we love; this faith is what gives us the strength to rejoice in times of sorrow. This faith is what gives us hope for a brighter tomorrow. This faith is what reminds us that those who are gone are not lost to us.
Goodbye, Uncle Mike. God be with you until we meet again.
What are Love Notes?
When I was a high school freshman attending LDS seminary, my teacher taught us at the beginning of the year to pay close attention to scriptures and passages that stood out to us. "These," she said, "are God's love notes just for you."