It sounds childish, perhaps -- entitled might be a better word -- but cancer is one of those things that happens in headlines, to other people's families. Right? (Yeah, denial can feel like a mighty fine place -- except for the fact that it's a lie.) To have the c-word hit our family has taken off yet another layer of my resistance to this idea that we are all mortal. Life is fragile. We are subject to pain, illness, and eventually death. (And I look to heaven sometimes and say, "REALLY? THIS Is the plan?")
No really. My faith-driven self is so grateful for the plan. I love this amazing earth. I love the Atonement. I love God's work. Our bodies are truly miracles. But my fear-based self...well, suffice it to say that we wrestle a lot, my real self and that natural part of me.
That wrestle has increased in intensity as of late. Thursday night, I asked my husband for a blessing. It was a beautiful, powerful blessing for so many reasons, but what I remember most right now is that the Lord said that angels would be with my mom. He talked quite a bit about how earnestly involved our family members on the other side of the veil are. That they have authority to counsel together and act on our behalf. (I often look up at our family history wall and wonder who is assigned to me! :) I am wondering what they are planning to help my mom...to help my dad...to help us all.
There were things that happened at girl's camp that tie into this notion of angels being near.
My daughter had a sacred experience, and she paraphrased this scripture in her testimony:
"I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up" (Doctrine and Covenants 84:88).
Our bishop offered a second witness of the reality of angels. This pattern touched me; patterns are how I personally experience God and His presence and awareness of me.
I haven't had any experience with angels that I know of, so I wonder sometimes what it could mean to have angels attend us. As I pondered this, a talk came to mind. And wouldn't you know it? It's a talk given by a family member.
The first time Elder Richards (my mom's cousin) gave the talk ("The Atonement Covers all Pain"), I loved it. And then the Spirit called this talk to mind when I was waiting for my daughter's emergency surgery (she'd knelt on a needle, it broke in half, and it was deeply embedded behind her kneecap). My husband was on the other side of the country, and the truth about angels brought great comfort to me.
Re-reading this tender account from Elder Richard's talk last night brought tears to my eyes.
"Thirteen-year-old Sherrie underwent a 14-hour operation for a tumor on her spinal cord. As she regained consciousness in the intensive care unit, she said: 'Daddy, Aunt Cheryl is here, … and … Grandpa Norman … and Grandma Brown … are here. And Daddy, who is that standing beside you? … He looks like you, only taller. … He says he’s your brother, Jimmy.” Her uncle Jimmy had died at age 13 of cystic fibrosis.
“'For nearly an hour, Sherrie … described her visitors, all deceased family members. Exhausted, she then fell asleep.”
"Later she told her father, 'Daddy, all of the children here in the intensive care unit have angels helping them.'”
I have never seen angels, but I have faith in these beings who are usually not seen but are real. I believe in the doctrine of angels [no really, read this talk!]. I believe in the keys of the ministering of angels that are tied to the ordinances or baptism and the sacrament.
My faith in this doctrine was reinforced again tonight as I did some family history. This year, we will be celebrating my grandpa's 100th birthday. He died nearly 12 years ago, but we will be gathering as a family to honor and remember him, and to reinforce our faith in God's wonderful plan. As part of this celebration, we are using FamilySearch to gather stories and records and photos.
I was happy to see that my cousin had uploaded the transcript from Grandpa's funeral, and I was amazed to read this from Elder M. Russell Ballard (who lived in my grandparents' ward for decades) and was able to be in town for the funeral:
"If anything comes toward you in your life and you have a wonderment, or you have a cause to fear or concern, you turn your hearts to your grandfather and to your father or your great-grandfather and your grandmother. And rest on their faith and call down from their lives, their devotion and their affection and their witness and testimony of the truth. And as you do that, you will be able to face whatever life presents to you."
Here's one last quote from another forebear of mine.
“Now, this is the truth. We humble people, we who feel ourselves sometimes so worthless, so good-for-nothing, we are not so worthless as we think. There is not one of us but what God’s love has been expended upon. There is not one of us that He has not cared for and caressed. There is not one of us that He has not desired to save and that He has not devised means to save. There is not one of us that He has not given His angels charge concerning. We may be insignificant and contemptible in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, but the truth remains that we are the children of God and that He has actually given His angels–invisible beings of power and might–charge concerning us, and they watch over us and have us in their keeping.” (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, Vol. 1, p.2)