Last night I sat down and watched the two hour episode of 20-20 about Heaven. I found it very interesting learning about what other faiths general beliefs and how they think that people get into Heaven. Most of the beliefs were very similar - you believe God and accept Him into your life and you get into Heaven. Some religions don't require a lot, while others you have to live a very Christ-like life to pass through the gates into Heaven after you die.
Thinking about Heaven and anything related to my faith and my religion has been both very comforting for me and also quite difficult at the exact same time since my husband passed away.
(PS... before we get too far into this, this is NOT a post pushing my beliefs on you, AT ALL. That's the very last thing I want. I'm just sharing my story and how I currently feel about my faith. I feel like much of this is NOT unique to my own religion (though parts are), but it is quite universal to anyone who has experienced loss... and now that we're clear on that, onward!)
Spencer was my rock when it came to my beliefs and my faith in the Mormon church. I grew up and was confirmed into the Methodist church, but I never really quite understood my beliefs and I always felt like something was missing. I never felt complete. I was constantly thinking that it was me and my fault that I felt such a void. I wondered if maybe I wasn't always doing something wrong to not feel the spirit. After a couple of years of investigation on several religions and then moving to Utah and trying to find a church that fit me -- I finally found beliefs that made sense to me. While looking into the LDS church and studying the scriptures I FINALLY felt the spirit -- something I had been longing to feel for years, and years. I was desperate for comfort, support, and the spirit while I was fighting hour by hour, day by day, for my husband's life. I needed understanding to come into my life so that I might be able to remain strong for not only Spencer, but for myself.
As I went through the missionary discussions and worked to find my way to baptism I had Spencer by my side. Along with the Mercers (the Senior Missionaries that taught me), Spencer was my missionary who explained concepts I didn't understand during discussions. Who helped guide me when I was lost. Who helped me understand the atonement as much as a human being could. Who provided the basis for my testimony and was helping me build my own, personal testimony. I went to Spencer for everything and I fully trusted his guidance when I was lost.
When my husband experienced the loss of his dad a week after we got married, as we learned of his mothers stage 4 cancer diagnosis shortly after, and as he grew sicker the closer it came to his death, his faith was greatly shaken. As one could imagine, he struggled to understand the depths of the reason behind why all of this was happening to him. To his family. To us. He started to question his beliefs and get angry with our Heavenly Father, especially when he realized that his time was growing significantly short. He couldn't even begin to fathom why he had to leave this Earth, his friends, his family, his new wife so early in his life and so soon after his marriage. He didn't feel like he lived to fulfill his purpose in life and was angry with not only our Heavenly Father, but himself because he wondered if he lived a worthy enough life to be where he wanted to be after he died.
I'm thankful that arrangements were made to get him ordained into the Melchizedek Priesthood when we did. I'm bummed that he wasn't fully aware of it and didn't exactly know what was going on, and I later learned that he didn't remember it at all, though I thought he was awake as he was responding a little bit -- but those who ordained him felt very strongly that it was the right thing to do since he had been taking the steps he needed to take to earn the full priesthood authority that he was about to gain.
I am deeply sad that my husband was never able to give me a blessing after this. He had always talked about the opportunity to bless me when I was sick, stressed, or struggling with something. He was excited to have a family and be able to give a fathers blessing to our children. This was something he very much looked forward to doing. I hate to know that he never got a chance on this Earth. That I never got to experience a blessing given by Spencer.
As Spencer continued to grow sicker and weaker I felt my faith shaking as well. I didn't read the scriptures. I didn't humbly pray like I should have. I begged and bargained like crazy like any person experiencing grief would, but very rarely doing anything that was as sincere as it should have been. Like Spencer, I was struggling to see the purpose in any of this. I still don't to this day, I have no idea why he was taken away so early. I was trying to understand what I could possibly gain from losing the one that I love most.
Sometimes I wondered if the reason Spencer wasn't getting better was because I wasn't devoting my life at that time to believing and praying and studying scriptures. I thought maybe somehow it was my fault. I found so many scriptures saying if we ask we will receive, if we talk to Him He will hear us, if we give him blessings he will recover. Little did I know at the time that it was if we ask according to HIS WILL, we will receive. It was not in His will do recover, for whatever reason that may be. Our Heavenly Father had different plans.
After Spencer passed away I felt horribly guilty. I felt like I had failed him. I had many people telling me that I should sit down with him and read the scriptures to him. I should sit down many times during the day and outwardly pray with him. I prayed with him at time, but mostly it was to myself. I rarely red the scriptures, and I never read them to him. I didn't even ask. I felt like it was MY responsibility to share His word with my husband and I let that responsibility down. He couldn't read for himself, and it was my job to do that. I should have been praying with him to ease Spencer's pain, suffering, and to bring him peace and understanding. I felt like I had let him down - and in turn myself down because, in my mind, had I done these things, Spencer might just be here with me, still.
I still struggle with some of these thoughts, but they have sense gotten better. I realize that I was doing all that I possibly could within my emotional, physical, and mental capacity to do so. At that moment, I don't know if I COULD have done those things because I was so terribly weak myself. One thing I realized is that I did ask for blessings for him and I did seek help from specific people in regards to our faith at times when we needed it most, though we needed the help constantly throughout this struggle. I may not have done these things personally -- but hundreds of people around us, around the state, around the country, and even around the world were doing the thing that I felt most in my responsibility to do.
I mentioned that Spencer was my rock in my faith. This has played a huge factor in my struggles since I no longer have him near. I always relied upon him to help me understand the scriptures I was reading. To pray with me. To look up a verse relevant to our situation. I struggle to pray, I struggle to read the scriptures, I struggle to go to church. Church and my religion are closely tied to Spencer, and so when I get involved with these things, each and every time I have a very hard time with missing him and wishing that he was here. It's been SO hard for me to get back into it. I hate it. I feel terribly guilty about it. I know that now I should have more of a reason than EVER before to go back to church and to live this life as Christ-like as possible so that I can be with Spencer again. But even that doesn't seem to be enough to motivate me to go back.
I know that this is all part of the grieving process and it's something I'm going to have to work out -- with time it will all work out... but right now it's hard to deal with!
When Spencer passed I had many terribly overwhelming feelings of wanting to be in Heaven and I had such an overwhelming sense of jealousy of Spencer getting to be there. Just knowing that, as the words of someone in the show last night used, there are, "No tears, no moaning, no suffering... It's eternal joy and happiness". What a thought! Spencer is among that right now. Last night was the first time in awhile where I experienced that deep jealousy and intense longing to be with my husband again. Where I began to look at the days that have passed, not as one more day without him, but as one day closer to being reunited with him again.
One thing that Spencer was always looking forward to was entering the heavenly gate with no oxygen, no pain, no coughing, deep breathing, and free from all of his struggles -- it's very comforting to me to know that he is not experiencing that... but it doesn't hide the fact that it hurts that he's not here with me with the oxygen, the pain, the coughing, even though I know that is such a very selfish thought =/
One question that will always remain for a long time is whether I am going to go through with getting sealed to Spencer so that we can become husband and wife for all eternity. A decision that doesn't come lightly for me as I know that I will most likely find love again and have a family. I want to be sealed with my family. Yet I want to know I will be Spencer's wife for all eternity.
Spencer told me many times throughout our relationship and even just a couple of days before he passed away that he wanted me to find love again and he wanted me to have a family because he knew how badly I wanted to be a mom. Even though he wanted to be sealed to me -- he more-so wanted me to be sealed to my children and their father and so he told me not to rush into getting sealed to him because I am so young and I never know what might happen. It means more than you know to me that he said that and truly meant it. I definitely take what he said to heart.
Even though this sounds very backwards I'll write it anyway, but when he first passed away I was "okay" with everything that was going on. I was at peace with it and I was okay with knowing that there was a potential that I would find someone else and possibly be sealed to them later on in life. People were telling me that I just must get sealed to Spencer as soon as I could... but in the back of my mind I knew that I wouldn't for awhile because I didn't know how my life would ever turn out. It wasn't until several months later that I felt like I didn't ever want to become sealed to any other man aside from Spencer. He was the only one that I wanted to ever be sealed to so that I knew we could have eternity together. We could spent time together without him being sick. Doing whatever we wanted to without having to worry. That to me is SUCH an amazing thought and I still have a lot of moments where this is true and I ignore the rational side of me knowing that I will most likely have a family etc etc. There are times when I want to quickly be able to get my recommend so that I can hurry and get sealed and the decision will be made so that I don't have to think about it anymore... but I know that would be foolish. A decision like this doesn't come without lots of intense, sincere, and humble prayer.
That was just one of the many reasons that the day of our anniversary was difficult for me... I knew that on that day we were supposed to be getting sealed together for all eternity in the temple. And it hurts to this day knowing that I have to make such a huge decision "all by myself" and I don't have Spencer here to help me with knowing what the "right" thing is to do -- because, again, I always relied upon him and his opinions and words. I know that in the end everything will work out how it is meant to. For example, if we aren't sealed together then perhaps will will be the very best of friends, and in the afterlife I will be perfectly okay with this. We can never know, but one thing Spencer tried to tell me again and again is that everything will work itself out and be okay!
So anyway... The show last night definitely got me thinking about Heaven again. About my faith and my beliefs. It makes me want to continue on this path that I travel so that I will be able to see my husband again someday -- and my friends, and all the ones who have passed before me. I am excited to keep on taking the steps to be able to get my temple recommend so that I can take out my endowments and receive the many blessings that I am deserving of.