21 September 2010

Heavenly Help and Family Ties

I was named after my grandmother's aunt, a good Christian woman of German descent who raised my grandmother and, later after my grandmother divorced my grandfather, raised my mother and her siblings while my grandmother worked multiple jobs to support her little family.

As her namesake, I have wondered what my Aunt thought of me and what I have done with her name. What does she think of me? Have I lived up to her expectations? I never had a chance to know her in this life (she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and entered a nursing home a few years after I was born and then died when I was 10), but I wish I had the chance to talk to her now, across the veil. What does she see from where she is? How does she feel about me? Is she happy? Is Uncle Jack, her beloved in this life, right there with her as I imagine him to be?

Me and my Aunt at my 1st birthday
My Aunt was not perfect, and since I did not personally experience her imperfections in this life, it is easier for me to romanticize what she is like now without the constraints of mortality, when she is able to be who she truly is without opposition. I like to think of her being her best self and working arduously on the other side of the veil, keeping our family together (a work she started on earth) and gathering the lost ones. I can imagine her reaching out to her younger sister, my great grandma, Bertie, and loving Bertie back into the family--something no one was able to do here on earth. If anyone can bring Bertie back, I think it would be my Aunt.

It's difficult to explain with words the connection I feel to my Aunt. Our names are the same and our dispositions are similar (I think my need for control is definitely genetic); I even think that part of me is looking for my own "Uncle Jack," some jovial, loving, Swedish soul who would complement me and balance my A-type personality with his playfulness as Uncle Jack did for my Aunt.

Whilst thinking about my Aunt, a quote by President Joseph F. Smith came to mind about how close we are to our ancestors (heavenly messengers and heavenly beings) even in our day-to-day life here on earth. I was happy to find the full text of the quote online (oh, how I love the Internet!). And once again, I remembered the cherished moments when I felt the veil was swept away and I could feel love for and from my ancestors, especially for and from my Aunt.

I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. We are not separate from them. We begin to realize more and more fully, as we become acquainted with the principles of the Gospel, as they have been revealed anew in this dispensation, that we are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors, to our friends and associates and co-laborers who have preceded us into the spirit world. We cannot forget them; we do not cease to love them; we always hold them in our hearts, in memory, and thus we are associated and united to them by ties that we can not break, that we can not dissolve or free ourselves from. If this is the case with us in our finite condition, surrounded by our mortal weaknesses, shortsightedness, lack of inspiration and wisdom from time to time, how much more certain it is and reasonable and consistent to believe that those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond and are still engaged in the work for the salvation of the souls of men, the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound and proclaiming liberty to the captives who can see us better than we can see them; that they know us better than we know them. They have advanced; we are advancing; we are growing as they have grown; we are reaching the goal that they have attained unto; and therefore, I claim that we live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; they can comprehend better than ever before, the weaknesses that are liable to mislead us into dark and forbidden paths. They see the temptations and the evils that beset us in life and the proneness of mortal beings to yield to temptation and to wrong doing; hence their solicitude for us and their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves. I thank God for the feeling that I possess and enjoy and for the realization that I have, that I stand, not only in the presence of Almighty God, my Maker and Father, but in the presence of His Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Savior of the world; and I stand in the presence of Peter and James, (and perhaps the eyes of John are also upon us and we know it not); and that I stand also in the presence of Joseph and Hyrum and Brigham and John, and those who have been valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ and faithful to their mission in the world, who have gone before. When I go I want to have the privilege of meeting them with the consciousness that I have followed their example, that I have carried out the mission in which they were engaged as they would have it carried out; that I have been as faithful in the discharge of duty committed to me and required at my hand as they were faithful in their time, and that when I meet them I shall meet them as I met them here, in love, in harmony, in unison and in perfect confidence that I have done my duty as they have done theirs.

-- Conference Report, April 1916, p.3, emphasis added.

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