Sunday, February 5, 2012

"Their Souls Were Sitting Up"

Two years ago this week I was in snowy Romania. More specifically, two years ago today I was traveling to the capital city for a memorial service of two of the country's young missionaries. Two young men who were working hard and quietly to teach people the gospel of Christ passed away quietly in the night from a gas leak in their apartment. It was a surreal and sad day when we found out. And yet, it was an incredibly spiritual experience that brought us closer to God and softened the hearts of the Romanian people.

Besides the death of my great-grandmother when I was a young girl, this was the closest experience I have had with death. And both times, I can't imagine what it would be like to be the person left behind without a knowledge of God's plan for us. When I was a missionary, death was a topic that was asked about all the time, because death is something that is viewed so differently throughout the world. Some look at it with fear or dread, and some embrace it as part of life.

I believe in what Russell M. Nelson taught us about death when he spoke at the funeral for one of these missionaries:

"As mortals, we think of death as premature. But from McKay's heavenly perspective, death is not premature. It is not premature for one who is prepared to meet God. Death is only premature for one not prepared to meet God. Our existence in this period of mortality allows us to get a body, to develop faith and to prove ourselves. McKay has done that. While here we weep for the loss of this dear young man, on the other side of the veil, there are tears of joy."

I just read the novel The Book Thief this week, and I haven't stopped thinking about it, especially in relation to what I just wrote about. This book is narrated by Death, and the point of view that death takes was completely fascinating. At first Death seems to view his job as some kind of sneaky game. But as the book goes on, we realize that Death is exhausted, and he is haunted by humans and what they are put through in the world. (Mind you, the book takes place in Nazi Germany, so you can imagine how hard Death was working around the clock)

In order to not completely ruin the story for you, since I assume you will read it (please do!), I will leave out names of characters. But when Death visits one of the characters to take them with him, what he says about this character was beautiful:

"His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do---the best ones. The ones who rise up and say, 'I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.' Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places."

I love this view on death and how it ties in perfectly with what Elder Nelson said about death and being prepared to meet God. Death is hard to cope with, and even with this divine knowledge, it still is hard to comprehend. But for those who understand God's plan for them, death is never premature, even though sometimes it seems like that, especially to us left here on earth, with our imperfect knowledge and understanding.

John Donne the poet understood this. He wrote about it way back in 1610.

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

I consider myself blessed that I haven't had to lose anyone dear to me yet. It's not something I necessarily look forward to, but it's something that I am grateful for, because I know that death is not the end. And I'm happy that this life is about determining for ourselves that all of this is true. It's wonderful.


  1. This is so beautiful! Having said goodbye to so many in my life and feeling that each death was premature, I couldn't agree more with the words you have so eloquently shared. And I definitely want to get my hands on that book!

  2. Annie you write so beautifully!
    I'm definitely grateful that the Gospel helps us understand the plan of salvation and that we know that death is not the end. I'm glad you liked the book! It's one of my favorites for sure.

  3. I remember being so confused through most of that book because I couldn't tell from what perspective it was being written. It was very interesting though. I don't remember hearing about those sad. :(

  4. This is SO AWESOME Annie! I remember our giant take to the streets missionary effort right before the memorial service in Bucuresti and the chance we had to talk to so many Romanians that day about the life after this one and God's plan for us. One of the most positive and spiritually uplifting experiences I had the entire 18 months!