A few weeks ago I was in an emergency room with a friend of mine who was my missionary companion. As missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are supposed to stay with our companion at all times. He was in some serious pain, and they were running tests to find out what was going on with him. As some of these tests were pretty serious, I was asked to stand out in the hallway outside the door, doing my best to stay as close as I could in the situation we were in. We were in the hospital for most of that day, somewhere around 14-15 hours. Alone time is something you don't get a lot of as a missionary; but as I spent a good part of those 14 hours standing or sitting in a hallway, alone, I had a lot of time to think, read the scriptures, and watch the happenings and bustle of the Emergency Room. I have never needed to go to an ER before then, so I was captivated watching the diverse variety of people coming in and out, bringing with them a host of seemingly endless problems and concerns. Every so often a team of paramedics would arrive with an ambulance, burst through the door, and move with practiced efficiency as they went about their duty of maintaining life.
Then something happened that forever changed my outlook on life. During my stay there in the hallways of that hospital, I watched as two people left this life. I had seen death before, but never in this setting. As I watched these two individuals slip from mortality, I could see the effect of their departure on those around them.
The first person was an older woman, who appeared to be on a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) basis. As the heart rate monitor flat-lined, several nurses rushed to the room only to quietly exit a few moments later to give the small group of what must have been loved ones and friends that stood near the bed their privacy; their heads bowed in quiet reverence as they shed tears of grief.
The second was a young boy, probably no older than 6 or 7. As his small form went limp and still, I watched a young couple who must have been his parents slip into a desperation-fueled frenzy of sorrow. The mother fell to her knees, screaming, desperately trying to wake her son from his final rest. His father turned and begged the doctors and nurses who stood nearby to do something, anything to bring him back. The doctor confessed that there was nothing that he or anyone else could do.
Though the older woman appeared to have been ill for a while and her passing seemed to be more expected than the young boy's, the loss of a loved one is always difficult. When that loved one is a child, it can be one of the most tragic things that happens here on this earth. But why was there such a difference in the reactions of these families? As I observed and thought about it more and more, some realizations came to me. The parents of the young boy had no hope. To them, their son was gone forever. As they watched him slip away, all their hopes and dreams went with him; and they were left with nothing but their regrets and their pain. As I watched them from a distance, I too started to feel that pain. That crushing, soul-tearing, sense of vulnerability.
The other group, though they too were mourning, had a… light about them. They had hope. They knew that death was not the end of life, but yet another step in the path our Father in Heaven has established for us. Through the darkness of the sorrow in their hearts, the glorious light of hope burst into a brighter day. That hope is what keeps us going when there appears to be no way to continue, what saves us from drowning in our misery and gives us the energy and power to overcome.
That hope is found in Christ, “our Saviour, [the] Lord Jesus Christ [who] is our hope" (1 Timothy 1:1). Through Him, all our trials can be overcome. Death, sin, and hell itself were defeated by our Heavenly King. Because of His atoning sacrifice, we can have hope. The perfect love of Christ enables us to endure the trials and challenges we face in this life, and to do so with the knowledge and assurance that we will be with the ones we love again.
As this new year commences, may we all remember the cry of the angels to the shepherds: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord… Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:10-11, 14) God be thanked for the glorious gift of His Son!
Elder Duvall is a full-time LDS missionary serving in the Texas Houston Mission but originally hails from Cache Valley in Northern Utah.