This past weekend, a young girl from our ward was hit by a car and killed. It has been a devastating shock to everyone who knew and loved her and her family. At the same time, Sunday was one of the most spiritually uplifting days I have had in my life.
Because of General Conference next week, we had Fast and Testimony meeting. The members shared their testimonies of the Plan of Salvation, the truth of the Resurrection, the love of the Saviour, and the peace and comfort of the Holy Ghost. It was a very beautiful meeting. Later, I was able to share my testimony with the Primary children. I was amazed at how cheerfully they answered questions about the gospel and how they could apply it to their lives at this time. I realized, more than ever before, how much truth can dispel fear and sorrow.
I have been especially grateful for my blessings the past few days. I have hugged my kids a little harder and longer. I have talked with them about the reality of death and the hope we have in Christ. Over and over I have been stunned by how much peace and comfort I have felt in the knowledge of the gospel. It seems strange that I can feel this way when someone I care for is suffering such a great loss.
I am reminded of Lehi's teachings about opposition.
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.(2 Ne 2:11)Without the dark, bitter moments of life, we can not appreciate the light and happiness. As tragic as this has been, I know there is a lot of good that will come from this.
I have thought a lot about a Mormon Messages video called "The Tender Mercies of the Lord".
I watched it again and realized just how much this has been happening the past few days.
I would like to share my experience with you. The day of the accident, our Relief Society President posted on Facebook that there had been and accident and they were going to Vanderbilt Regional Medical Center in Nashville. As soon as I saw the news I felt panic and fear. The mother of this young girl is a sister that I have come to admire and love in the few months we have been here. She is the most cheerful and optimistic person I have ever met. The thought of her going through this tragedy sent a wave of nausea through me.
I felt an intense need to pray. After a few minutes of pacing and hand wringing, I called the children in and told them what I knew about their friend. I told them we needed to pray for her. As we bowed our heads and I spoke the first words of prayer, I was overcome with the Spirit. Tears streamed from my eyes. I knew instantly that no amount of prayer would save our dear sweet Courtney. In that same moment, I knew she was okay. She was in the Lord's hands. I knew that her family needed our prayers more than she did. I prayed that they would be comforted. Because I had told the children we were praying for Courtney, I prayed that she would receive the best care possible and closed the prayer.
We got the news that she was on life-support a few hours later. The next morning we learned that she had passed away. I had spent a sleepless night of worry and concern, in part for the family and in part for the children of the ward. I was teaching Sharing Time. I spent much of the night rehearsing what I would say to those grieving children.
I was doing Sharing Time for the whole month and I had switched the topics so the lesson would be "Prophets testify of Jesus Christ". I had intended to encourage them to listen to conference and see if they were able to hear the prophet bear his testimony of Jesus. I actually did do that. I asked the "Why do prophets testify of Christ?" I was so amazed at how easily the lesson I had planned fit with the words of comfort I wanted to share with them.
We read Isaiah 53: 3-4 and talked about how Christ can heal our sadness. I explained to them that when we get hurt, a cut or scrape, we have to take care of our injury or it won't heal. I told them that we can take care of our emotional wounds by praying. Just as a physical injury doesn't heal right away our sadness will take time to heal, too. But we have to keep applying the Atonement through prayer and study.
As I thought of this analogy, I thought "well, their pain will go away with time anyway." Then I was reminded of something my mother had shared with me a few years ago.
When she was about 12, one of her classmates accidentally shot herself and died. Because of the social attitudes at the time, the kids were not counseled or comforted much at all. My mom said that she had found a lot of peace when she joined the church. Years later, she ran into a former classmate from that time. As they talked, the woman said that she was still trying to understand and accept what had happened some 40 years ago to their friend. She was in counseling and had tried several different churches but nothing had helped. She was still suffering.
As I thought of this woman, I realized how important the Atonement is in our lives. I had not really thought much about it in this context. The Spirit confirmed to me that all the relief we feel from the pains of life are because of the Savior's sacrifice. If we don't turn to him for relief, we will not find it anywhere else.
I know this may sound strange, but I feel tremendously honored to be in this ward at this time working with these children. I know that the next few months and years may be hard but also a time of amazing growth for all of us. I am eager and humbled to be part of their lives as they learn about the Savior and build strong testimonies. I hope I am able to fulfill my roll in their growth.