SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, I’d like to address the tragic death of three young missionaries this weekend, Sister Nancy Vea, 19, of West Jordan, Elder Connor Benjamin Thredgold, of the Springville Utah West Stake, and Elder Yu Peng Xiong, of the Kaohsiung Taiwan West Stake.
(This has hit close to home for me, since Connor’s father is a dear friend, a Claritypoint coach and even a co-contributor to this column.)
My heart is aching for these families, as I am sure your's is, so I’d like to address some ideas that may help us make sense of it all, find a place of trust and peace, and if possible, let this tragedy change us for the better.
First, always remember the objective of life is to learn to love. As I always say, "Life is a Classroom," and every experience you have is to teach you to love yourself and other people at a deeper level. You do not go through painful experiences for nothing. There are no accidents, and everything happens for a reason to serve us, but some of these lessons are so extremely painful, and the loss of a child is one of the worst.
Sometimes when tragedy strikes we can see the meaning or purpose in the experience, but other times we can’t. It will always provide some measure of comfort though, if we choose to trust God that there is a reason, even if we can’t see it. We can trust that nothing will happen unless it will serve us or mankind in some way. I trust God has a reason that these three young people were called home so early. Though this doesn’t remove the pain, it can help a little.
I felt these same feelings after the Sandy Hook shooting, and I wondered what good children dying could possibly serve in the world. One thing I noticed in the days following that tragedy was a heightened sense of love for the people around me, and I noticed almost everyone was feeling it.
We were all holding our children a little closer and had a greater appreciation for our family and friends. The experience of loss was changing us. It was bringing strong feelings of love to the surface.
When tragedy strikes, we are reminded of the connection we share with all our fellow human beings. We gain heightened... We all experience a deeper love for each other when tragic things happen. Could this be part of the reason?
Along with the pain, during times of grieving, we also experience amazing, tender feelings of love, both toward the people who are gone and just toward the people around us. You might find your feelings of love for family and friends will be stronger than what you usually feel. This heightened sense of love, which always follows loss, is an amazing and beautiful thing.
You may even find it is easier to forgive old offenses or grievances while you are experiencing the unique love associated with loss. Things that mattered before may not seem to matter anymore. People may seem more important than issues, and it may seem easier to see the good than the bad.
When tragedy strikes, we are reminded of the connection we share with all our fellow human beings. We gain heightened levels of empathy and compassion for others. Think back to the months following 9/11. Do you remember how connected you felt to your fellow Americans? Do you remember how suddenly our differences seemed smaller and the things we had in common seemed bigger?
We all experience a deeper love for each other when tragic things happen. Could this be part of the reason?
When the loss is personal or has happened to someone you know, you will experience amazing feelings of love toward that person you didn’t realize you had at that depth. If this loss hadn’t happened, you may never have discovered the depth of your love. You may be curious as to what this poignant emotion is all about. Just sit with it and understand it is showing you the size of the love inside of you. Pay attention to this feeling. Remember that the pain of loss is inseparably tied to the wonder of love.
If you didn’t love so deeply, it wouldn’t hurt this much.
Take time when you feel pain for these young people and their families to remember the pain is tied to the love we have for each other as human beings, a community and families. Celebrate the fact that you can experience profound love this way. Isn’t it amazing to feel that you would gladly carry this pain for them if you could. Your love is amazing!
The power of our combined love and heightened sense of connection can create an amazing energy that will help to heal us. This is always felt at funerals as we gather together in loss. Also notice, in each moment, that you can focus on the pain or you can focus on the love. As much as you can, choose to focus on love and understand that the pain makes the depth of love possible.
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We often get so busy with the duties and obligations of life, we forget about this deep love that connects us. It often gets set aside. Tragedy, though terrible and painful, can bring these feelings of love back into your life. My suggestion, in this time of tragedy, is simply this: Focus on the feelings of love and live them. Love everyone in your life, in whatever way you can. Treasure every moment you are alive and able to love. Make sure everyone in your life knows how you feel about them.
In honor of those whose lives have been cut short this week, let’s make the most of ours and fill the world with love on their behalf.
Honor them by showing a deeper appreciation for your spouse, children, friends and neighbors. Speak out against injustice and cruelty more often. Love people more passionately and take more action to alleviate suffering wherever you can.
Let this loss make us better, kinder, wiser and more loving.
Aron Moss wrote a wonderful article on this topic in which he explains, ”We don't really want answers, we don't want explanations, and we don't want closure. … We want an end to suffering … but we shouldn't leave it up to God to alleviate suffering. … He is waiting for us to do it. That's what we are here for.”
Honor the memory of those we have lost by being a force for love in this world. Perform more random acts of kindness, pay it forward more often and love the strangers all around you. Don’t wait for someone to ask for help, see the need and step in without being asked. Reach out to those who are suffering even if all you can offer is a hug.
You can do this — and we can do it together.