Thursday, March 15, 2007

Death and Harley

This week I received a call from my wife informing me that our daughter's beta fish, affectionately named Harley, passed away. His death was not pretty - the result of our daughter's desire to take a bath with her fishy friend.

As my wife put our weeping baby girl on the phone my heart broke as I heard her say, "I don’t want Harley to die. I don't want him to leave."

In her three years of innocence our daughter was having her first experience with the dark and mysterious part of life known as death.

To console her, my wife decided to have a funeral for Harley. She took a rock from outside and with our daughter's help painted it. The painted rock included the name of the fish and a bright rainbow. My wife than dug a hole outside where she placed the fish, and held a short service in which our daughter was able to express her feelings about this loved and missed beta.

Later that evening as my daughter and I sat on the couch she asked me if Harley was going to come back. Searching for answers I responded, "Harley will always be with you." I pointed to her heart and let her know that this is where Harley is now.

As poetic and wonderful as my comforting advice may have sounded I couldn't help but wonder why I told her this. Do I really believe that pets (fish even!) have spirits, and that these spirits continue to have an influence on our lives after they are gone? As one co-worker joked after I told him about my advice, can pets we treat poorly haunt us?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But what I believe I was doing was trying to comfort our daughter by sharing my beliefs and what has consoled me when I have lost someone close.

I know through my personal trials and spiritual experiences that death is not the end of the soul. It is only the beginning of the next stage of our eternity. While we are separated by the veil of mortality and death, I believe we can still be influenced and assisted by our loved ones that have passed on.

As a great prophet once taught:

"Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death. The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time...” -Alma 11:42,43
This Resurrection is made possible by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Said he:
"...I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die..." -Gospel of John 11:25-26

As a Latter-day Saint, not only do I believe in eternal life, but I believe that eternal life with our families is possible and what God desires for all of His children.

Lately I have witnessed a lot of friends and acquaintances lose family members. While I am blessed to not be dealing with the direct loss, it has caused me great pain as I ponder how I would handle losing a close loved one - my spouse, a parent, a sibling, even a child. I have dealt with death in the past, but it's effects have not weakened with time.

While I feel strong in my knowledge and testimony of eternal life am I strong enough to overcome the trial of uncertainty and despair in the shadow of death? Will I be able to stay in control of my emotions and feelings as my faith is tested? Can I look down at my loved one who is gone and know that I will be with them again?

While our daughter still brings up Harley, with the passing of time and her parent's words her wounds have healed. I hope that I can have as much strength in the words of the Savior, as my daughter has in mine.


Jeremy said...

That is so sad. I don't know what I would have said to my son/daughter if that happened. I guess I will call you up and ask you what to say. Ha ha!

Tonya said...

Well, the second time it was even easier to get over. No more fish for awhile. I think that would be a good idea