I’m sorry that I have not written for a while. Truth be told, I’ve started down this path a half a dozen times and have been unable to find my footing. So tonight I’m simply going to start walking and see where it leads.
On the Friday entering Memorial Day weekend my mother, Becky, passed away. She was 91. Having lived a full and blessed life, she was ready to move on to “what’s next.” The last year of her life wasn’t easy, given the gradual decline of her body, and she admitted that she would just as soon be done with it all. She told me, in fact, that she was curious to see what’s it’s like on the other side. (Me too.) So now she knows, and you and I are left to wonder.
I said she lived a blessed life, and I think it would be fair to say that she died a blessed death as well. She pretty much stayed away from the hospital, and since my father left her with sufficient savings she could afford to stay in her home where we could sit and visit and hold hands until the very end. We found a saintly woman to look after her most days, and when she couldn’t, my brother, sister, and equally saintly sister-in-law filled in the rest. On the day she passed away, my mother’s home was filled with laughter and love and many of the people she cared about most.
Just before she died, those of us who were with her circled her bed for a family prayer. It couldn’t have been more than five minutes later that she slipped away, so quietly that, even though we were right there beside her, we didn’t even notice at first. There was no drama. No trauma. She simply stopped breathing. It was very sweet.
If you had been at the funeral, you would have heard this recurring thought: My mother was the most unselfish person imaginable. Her life reflected an unwavering commitment to doing what would make other people happy—because that’s what made her happy as well. I think that’s what the Savior had in mind when He taught that she who loses her life shall find it (Matthew 10:39). She gave and gave until she had nothing left to give. And yet, as I think I have mentioned before (for example here and here and here), I continue to benefit from her many, many gifts.
The death of a loved one is one of those moments in which we are all forced to confront one of the central questions of all existence: Is that all? In that instant when her heart stopped pumping, did Becky Watkins cease to be? Or does life continue in some other form? Even for those of us who faithfully show up for Sunday School (and occasionally dash off letters like this one), we must consider whether or not we actually believe what we say.
So for the record: I do believe. I believe Jesus, who said: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). I believe Paul, who wrote: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). And I believe my mother, who taught me these things when I was a small boy and continued to reinforce them throughout my life. I have no doubt that my mother lives on and that we shall be reunited some day.
And so I do not mourn her passing. But do I miss her? Every single day.