Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday, April 12, 2015

What I Said in Church Today

[Yesterday evening, at my ward's Passover Seder, one of the counselors in the Bishopric came and sat next to me and asked if I would be willing to share a brief, five-minute-ish testimony during church today. He said that maybe it could be about the Atonement, or Resurrection, or something. I knew what I had been through recently, and I thought to myself: am I going to be able to keep it together for something like that? And I thought, no, I am not. So I told him yes, but I think I'm likely to cry. He said, that's OK, that's often a part of peoples' experiences when they share their testimonies. I didn't trust myself not to cry even then, by explaining more, so I just went ahead the next day.

As advertised, I did indeed cry through much of this. On the other hand, it was kind of cathartic, and, if you think it's a good thing (it probably is, though I don't always love it) everyone in the ward is now aware of the saddest thing going on in my life right now. So.]

As I thought about what to say today, some personal experiences come to mind. I know that not everyone loves to hear about personal experiences, but the thing is, I was asked to share my testimony, and a testimony is about things you know, and I don't know anyone else's experiences better than I know my own. So I'm going to share them.

Several years ago, because I was living in the area where I had grown up, I ended up going to seven funerals in one year. That was kind of a rough year for me. I was talking to someone about it one day, and she suggested that I should keep a gratitude journal, so that I wouldn't focus on the negative so much. I thought to myself, "But this is my life!" But it was good advice, and I tried keeping a gratitude journal and I try even today to focus on gratitude, because it's a true principle, and it is helpful. I do think that it's appropriate to be sad when sad things happen in your life, though.

Nevertheless, after a while, it gets boring to only have one emotion, and I began to look for ways to be happier, even amid all my trouble. I tried to take Elder Faust's advice, to take happiness in the small things: to enjoy relationships, notice the trees and nature around me, to rejoice in even small victories and so on. And this was good advice, and I still try to do this, too.

But it was much later when I found the real answer. A couple of years ago, a man gave a talk in a ward I was in, in which he told a story from his mission in Russia. He was assigned to visit a very small branch-- and this branch would not be growing. It had once been bigger, but it was in an industrial area which was closing down, and so this one family was all that was left of the branch, and it was all there was going to be until they moved or died. The missionary who was visiting them was very surprised at how happy they were-- they were just very joyful in the Gospel. He asked them about it, and he found out that they were happy because they knew that they were doing what they should, and that was enough for them.

A year ago this Easter-- last Easter, in 2014-- I had kind of an odd day. I spent it in the company of a lady who was 103, and who happened to be dying that day. It was an odd Easter, but it was very satisfying.

Then, this Easter, I ended up spending the day with my dad, who is also kind of dying. He has lots of health problems: he has this bone marrow cancer, he keeps having strokes, and he has congestive heart failure. It's like his body is trying to kill him. He keeps saying he's ready to go, but I keep telling him that I'm not ready for him to go. I told my sister this, and she said that he kept telling her that he's ready to go, too, and she would say, "Well, Cornelia's getting here on Monday; can you wait 'til Monday?"

And he did. I flew in, and my younger sister very kindly picked me up at the airport, and she was going to drop me off at the train station, but I missed the train by, like four minutes, and it was going to be another hour to the next train, and it was like 10:30 at night, so we were sitting in the parking lot trying to figure out whether she could maybe take me halfway and then have my older sister pick me up or something. Then we got a call that Dad was having severe vomiting and he was blacking out, and they were taking him by ambulance to the hospital. We didn't know which hospital he was going to, but my sister had a feeling about which hospital he would be at, and she took me there, and she was right.

So I spent the first couple of days of my vacation with my dad in the hospital. The significance of the severe nausea is, he was just taken off of one chemo drug because of the side effects, and it's possible that the nausea is a reaction to the new drug, and if he is rejecting that one, then he is kind of out of options. I spent time with him during the week, and then on Easter Sunday, my sisters wanted to spend some time with me, but I said, "I don't know if I'll see Dad alive again," and I ended up spending most of the day with him. I mean, if he gets another year, I won't complain, but I just don't know. In some ways it might be a mercy for him and for us if he went quickly, but I'm going to take all the time I can get, for now.

Because of the strokes, his brain doesn't work like it used to, and he doesn't enjoy the strategy games he used to enjoy, like Clue or Pandemic, but I found one that he enjoys and is good at. [Population Bracketology, in case anyone is curious. It's been pretty fun for all but the very young.] We played it several times on Easter evening, and when I asked if he wanted to play it one more time, he said, no, he wanted to play it at least twice more. He enjoyed the game a lot, and he told me that it was the best day he had had in a long time, and thanked me for it. He also really likes opera, and I happened to have a CD out from the library with an operatic soprano on it. I put it on as he was going to sleep, and he really enjoyed that, too. And I was happy, because I felt like I had done what I could.

Every time I see a dead body in a coffin-- though it sounds macabre, and in our society, we don't like dead bodies, and we think they are scary-- but when I see one, I feel a strong sense that the resurrection is real. I know that the resurrection will happen because of Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus Christ took upon himself our sicknesses, and sorrows, and pain. He never says, "You're too sad." And even though God is bound by the rules of the Universe, and can't always give us the things we want Him to, he does want us to be happy, and he works for our happiness. In fact, he has done everything for our happiness.

And that is my testimony of the Atonement, and of the Resurrection. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[This is just my record-from-memory of what I said, as I remember it or, in a few small instances, as I wish I had said it.]

 [As of this afternoon: I just got off the phone with my mom, who went with Dad to his cancer doctor's appointment on Friday. His doctors think he has about a year left, maybe two.]