Friday, August 7, 2009

exits and entrances, we walk by faith

The cloud that has hung over ld and I this past week has not lifted. On Sunday we learned a member of our Stake passed away suddenly from a brief illness. Ld had worked with him closely in the Stake Presidency for nearly 8 years. He was a phenomenal and inspiring man in so many ways. The mood around here has been sober as the reality of life’s tenuousness hits home. If death can take one so respected, loved, and so full of life and personality then the bell really does toll for thee and most assuredly, me, too.

As always such events prompt a lot of introspection and as ld put it, ‘it really brings your faith into play’. It does indeed and even though I am settled in my views and testimony, the last couple of days have found me reviewing the ‘terrible questions*’ Nibley so often wrote and spoke about.

My thoughts go round and round. I don’t think this shows a weak faith. My own mother, a woman of great spiritual strength but one who certainly had lots of reasons to work her thoughts, once asked me, “Tell me again, the other side of the veil is just as real, right?” It was heartbreaking and frightening for me to see her fear of the unknown and I think no less of her for feeling and expressing what we all face. It’s remarkable to me that in the depths of her vulnerability her faith and courage saw her through.

Today my mood has caused me to remember this little gem, and for many reasons it has found resonance. (I apologize to ld in advance, for when I read it aloud to him was convinced it came from the sappy Especially for Mormons series. It didn’t but I acknowledge it's sappiness). Still. The analogy is apt. The faith required coming into and leaving this life is a given.

Parable of the Twin Fetuses

Once upon a time, twins were conceived in the same womb. Seconds and minutes and hours passed by as the two dormant lives developed. The spark of life glowed until it fanned fire with the formation of their embryonic brains. And with their simple brains came feeling. And with feeling came perception. A perception of surroundings, of each other, and of self. When they perceived the life of the other and their own life, they knew that life was good. And the fetuses laughed and rejoiced, the one saying: “Lucky are we to have been conceived and to have this world.” And the other fetus chimed in, “Blessed be the mother who gave us life and each other.” Each budded and grew arms and fingers, lean legs and stubby toes. They stretched their lungs and churned and turned in their new found world. They explored their new world, and in it found the life cord. They found the life cord that gave them life from the precious mother. And so they sang, “How great is the love of the mother that she shares all she has with us.” And they were pleased and they were satisfied with their lot. But weeks passed into months, and with the advent of each new month, they noticed that they were changing. They noticed that they were growing older. And each began to see a change in themselves and one said: “We are changing. We are growing. What can this mean?” “It means,” replied the other, “that we are drawing near to our birth.” And then a chill suddenly crept over the two, and they were both afraid. For they knew that birth meant the leaving their secure world behind. Said the one, “Were it up to me, I would live here forever. I would stay in this womb forever because I know its safe here.” “We must be born,” said the other. “It has happened to others who were here before us.” For indeed, there was evidence of life there before, that the mother had born others. “But might not there be life after birth?” said the one. “Well, how can there be life after birth?” cried the other. “Do we not shed our life cord and also the blood tissues? And have you ever talked to anyone who has been born? Has anyone ever reentered the womb after birth? No!” He fell into despair and in despair, he moaned, “If the purpose of conception and all growth is that it is to be ended in birth, then truly, life must be absurd!” Resigned to despair, the one stabbed the darkness with his unseeing eyes and he clutched his precious life cord to his chest and said: “If this is so, if I must be born, life is absurd and there must be no mother after all.” “But there is a mother,” protested the other. “Who else gave us nourishment in our world?” “Oh, we get our own nourishment and our world has always been here. And if there is a mother, where is she? Have you ever seen her? Does she ever talk to you? No. We invented the mother because it satisfied a need in us. It made us feel secure and happy.” Thus, while one raved and despaired, the other resigned himself to birth. He placed his hands in the trust of the mother. Well, hours passed into days and days fell into weeks, and it came time for them to be born. And both knew that their birth was at hand. And both feared what they did not know. And as the one was the first to be conceived, so he was the first to be born. The other followed after. And they cried as they were born out into the light. They coughed up fluid, and they gasped the dry air; and when they were sure that they had been born, they opened up their eyes and they found themselves cradled in the warm love of the mother. They lay open mouthed, awestruck at the beauty of the mother that they had never seen before.” (AGAPE magazine)

My faith teaches me that death is "a birth into a world that we on Earth can only try to imagine."

*the terrible questions consisting of where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. See his Temple and Cosmos book, for a great read.


Lacy E. (as in Eloise, formerly Lee) said...

I'm so sorry your friend died. And I also liked the story, though I might cringe to hear it read over the pulpit.

I just bought Nibley's Approaching Zion and am very excited to read it, as the only thing I've read of his is some letters to his mother written while he was at war. Which of his books is your favorite?

cs said...

You're right, Lacy. The story is not conventional mormon fare:)
My fav Nibley read is Approaching Zion by far. It should be canonized.