(2013) In Which We Take Care of Each Other
Recently Seth and I were talking about his mom, Susan, who has been gone for 8 years now, but whose influence will always remain. Each time we left the house she would always say the same thing: "Take care of each other". They were also the last words she ever said to us. Simple words that left a big impact.
In the last few weeks I have heard more bad news from and about people I love than in the last two years combined. My dearest childhood friends and their family are struggling as their mom (and absolute inspiration, role model and kindred spirit to me) is battling the final stages of cancer she had triumphed over a few years ago. Another friend just suffered a miscarriage after being completely shocked to find herself pregnant following years of fertility treatments, losses and the difficult pregnancies and births of her two children. My sister is currently fighting an unknown illness that no one can diagnose (House, where are you in real life?!) A friend of ours with three little boys is still reeling from the shocking diagnosis of stage three breast cancer at age 34. Our other friends find themselves unemployed and wondering how much longer this stage of limbo can last. The sweet woman I visit teach just lost her 40 year old daughter to cancer while dealing with her own cancer diagnosis. In this life-- tragedy, heartache and suffering will touch each of us, but it seems like it's touched the lives of so many people I know and love lately that I feel overwhelmed with the feeling of helplessness as I watch them navigate their way through their trials.
This morning as I read scriptures with the kids, we found ourselves in Mosiah--reading about the covenant of baptism, and the promises we make when we're baptized. I read this very familiar passage, but understood it in a very different way.
"....and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light: Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn: yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God"
Instead of using the words "one another" and "they" and "those", I substituted the names of all the people I know right now who are struggling--so it read like this: "Willing to bear Meredith's burdens, that they may be light"..... "willing to mourn with JoAnn"....and "comfort Liz who stands in need of comfort". It definitely made my role in other people's suffering very clear: I may be helpless to change the circumstances, but I am not helpless to ease the burden.
One of the most powerful lessons I learned after having my miscarriage was the blessing it is to receive. It was such a sad time, and the friendship and kindness of others absolutely buoyed me up. I learned that the simplest gestures made me feel loved, watched over and not alone. I learned that people sometimes don't say or do anything because they don't know what TO say or do--and that it's unintentionally very hurtful. Having gone through my own suffering has helped me know how to help someone else when they are suffering. Feeling like someone cares, and that you are not alone is universally important to someone who is struggling. Being able to use that experience to help someone else gives meaning and purpose to the suffering we've gone through.
I'm not sure what else I could possibly say on the matter that hasn't been said by so many before me. I guess I just had this amazing moment when I realized for the umpteenth time that this is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. We are here to help each other get through the tough times. He made the way possible for us to return to him...but getting there requires the love, help and support of all of us. And for every bitterness we endure, it makes the sweet that much sweeter.
Susan's words are an echo of the Savior's. "Take care of each other" is the legacy she left for us, and it's the legacy I hope to leave for my children.