I've been thinking a lot lately about The Spirit World.
I'll begin by letting y'all in on a little experience I had just a few days ago.
There was a woman in my ward, Hermana Cuesta, who had been on death's doorstep for about 2 weeks, she was basically in a coma for about 12 days after they found her unconscious in her apartment. She was 87 and had been fighting all kind of illnesses for years and years. We received word on Tuesday morning that she had passed on. She was a sweet little old lady who LOVED it when I sang for her. And she would never let us leave when we visited. Haha. Because she was so ill and frail she didn't get to come to church very often, they had been taking the sacrament to her for years. But she was one of the most faithful members of our congregation, that's for sure.
On Thursday afternoon, after zone conference went over I went to un-silence our phone and saw that we had a million missed phone calls. They were pretty much all from our Bishop and Relief Society president... Several call backs later I found myself a little in shock and no time to really even stop and think about it. Turns out there was a big mix up with the mortuary/funeral home and they needed someone to go dress the dead body immediately. Yeah. Missions. They present ALL kinds of service opportunities.
First we had to run (literally) to her apartment and find her temple clothes. I don't know if you've ever been in the apartment of an 87 year old woman who has lived there, alone for 17 years. But it's SCARY. The woman was quite the "collector". Hoarder. To put it nicely. Haha. So my comp and I with the help of her poor non-member niece looked through her junk jungle of an apartment frantically. Her niece had no idea what it was she was looking for so I just told her to look for a bag with a lot of white clothes in it. We tore everything apart. I found about 40 purses/bags but none of them contained temple clothes. I called the relief society president 2nd councilor because I had no idea what to do. We needed to be at the funeral home in 20 minutes and we still had come up with nothing. She decided that she would just donate all of her own temple clothes to Hermana Cuesta.
Right after I hung up the phone the niece taps me on the shoulder and says, "This?"... By SOME MIRACLE she found the temple bag with everything folded perfectly ready to go! We gave her a big hug and thanked her for her help, we jumped in the car with the Relief Society president 2nd councilor and headed on our way. I walked in and let the funeral home director know what we were there for, and he was already expecting us. His name was Joe Jr. And he had a big thick New York accent. Anyone who has seen "While you were sleeping" should find that funny. Haha. Anyway.... So the funeral home looked like any regular funeral home... dimly lit, flowers everywhere, dark red carpets, cheap chandeliers, dark cherry wood furniture. However, as we went down several flights of stairs... things got a little more "ghetto" and dingy. We were lead down this dark hallway and through a casket storage room (CREEPY) into what I would compare to a frankenstein lab room. All cement walls, and slanted floors leading to a drain, "lab" tables everywhere... the embalming instruments, tubes, knives and tools laid out on the stained counter tops... my heart was kind of racing at this point. The body lay under a white sheet on a porcelain table. I took a deep breath (but not too
deep for fear that the smell of formaldehyde and who knows what else would make me pass out. Haha) I held her temple dress close to my heart and closed my eyes and said a short silent prayer asking for a little extra adrenaline. The mortician uncovered the body and I felt an indescribable calm come over me. I wasn't scared anymore. Which is super strange because I saw before me one of the more horrifying sights I've seen in a while. (She wasn't embalmed, or done up/ waxed up at all, because it was a closed casket funeral. She looked pretty
darn dead. If you know what I mean.) But seeing her body there without her spirit brought a new light to my
testimony of the Spirit World. I had never realized quite like I did in this moment how special our spirit's are. THE SPIRIT that inhabits the body is really what gives it LIFE. Our spirit is what communicates with our father in heaven. After she was all dressed up I could picture her sitting in the celestial room with a big smile. Finally at rest. And I felt honored to be able to do that last act of service for her. I was actually the last person to see her mortal body (besides the funeral directer who placed her in her casket, obviously). It will be a good little reunion when we're resurrected I imagine.
All of us missionaries went to the funeral services held in our church building on Saturday. None of her family members are members of the church. They all expressed a lot of gratitude to our church for never letting their mother/ grandmother/aunt go without care and friends. The stake patriarch who used to be the bishop of my ward (until the transfer I got to this ward, actually) gave a beautiful talk on the plan of salvation. Apparently he had gone over to visit her just weeks before she ended up on the hospital, unresponsive. Durning this visit she told him that she knew her time was coming to leave this earth. She made him promise that when her family had gathered for her funeral he would tell them about the plan that had brought her so much happiness. It made me even more grateful for my family and for the knowledge I have that I'll be with all those who have passed on into
the next life again. Me and my companion were asked to go to the graveside service at the cemetery. And I sang "Each Life that Touches Ours For Good" before the dedicatory prayer. It was such a very special moment. I felt so close to heaven. Not only did I feel close to her, but I felt close to all my loved ones who now live beyond the veil. I knew she was watching the whole thing with a big smile. Even after her Spirit had gone from this earth she was able to share the plan of happiness with her loved ones.
That night after having experienced all this I had a dream (for the second time on my mission) about my Grandma Jean R. Poulsen. She passed away when I was about 2 years old. I never actually got to know her before she died. But I've always felt extremely close to her. In this dream we were sitting in a room, I didn't recognize the room and I hardly remember anything about what it looked like... just that it was filled with sunlight. We were just talking, and laughing like good friends. I really don't remember what it was we were talking about or anything like that. I just remember her smile. And her face so full of light and life. I do, however, remember one detail that I will always remember and cherish. And that is that she was wearing a missionary tag just like me!
On several occasions during my mission I have often felt the presence of both my Grandpa and Grandma Poulsen. I take comfort in knowing that we have been serving together. Maybe in two different mission fields, but together, united in the same cause. During hard times I have remembered D&C 84: 88
"And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. 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."
"And mine angels round about you, to bear you up."I believe in angels. I believe in life after death. I believe there are missionaries preaching on the other side, so that ALL will have the opportunity to accept the gospel. And I know that families can be together forever through the plan of our loving Heavenly Father. Because of the Atonement of our Lord, Jesus Christ we can be free of guilt and sorrow in this life and have no fear in death. Christ came forth resurrected, His spirit reunited with his body once more... and so will we!