02 November 2013

A Lesson Learned from "Moulin Rouge"

Let's first get past any judgements that might be hurled my way for loving the movie Moulin Rouge.  I saw it with  my best friend Patti, and we were blown away by how they used contemporary music to tell the story, and how they did musical re-dux to make the songs relevant to the story.  And ok, I'll admit it, having Ewan McGregor as the male lead (and great eye candy) didn't hurt.  But, lately, I keep thinking of the sentence that is really at the core of the movie:

The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to Love
And be Loved in return.

Read the words.  No! Embrace the words.  Let them tumble in your mind and heart as you find multiple applications to your life.  To the people you know and love.  To the people you should know and love. To yourself.  To Heavenly Father.  And the Savior.

So right now,  I am going to expose my deepest thoughts, and tell you  one of the secret challenges that has vexed me since I was a young girl.  I have always had, and to a great extent, even now, a fear of the afterlife. It's not really a fear of dying, per se, but rather a fear of what is unknown.  To my fellow Latter-day Saint (Mormon) friends, this will come more as a shock, because we have been taught so many things about what awaits us in the afterlife.  But, I can rehearse it all back to you and still, because of my finite mortal brain (which likes beginnings, middles and endings)  I get hung up at the abstract concepts of "no beginning" and 'no end" and "one eternal round".  I know that I should expect to feel peace being back in the presence of our loving Father in Heaven, but that isn't what makes me uncertain.  I get stuck with the transition part as we go from the mortal realm to an eternal realm, and how my brain will have to reconcile concepts that are not easy for this mortal brain to process.  I'll not go on in detail here, but, I think you get the idea.

About 20 years ago, I was talking about my fear to my friend, Anne, and she gave me a book to read written by someone who had a "life after life" experience.  It's called Embraced by the Light.  It was very helpful.  Not too long after that another friend gave me a book called Life after Life, and it added additional insight upon what I had recently read.

The thing that really struck me is that in both books, the reason that these individuals weren't kept in the Spirit World, was because they were instructed to go back and work on specific relationships in their lives.  There was so much talk of LOVE and it's power.  (Hmm, sounds like the name of my BLOG.)

I came from both readings with the exact same global message.  The purpose of this life it to come to really Love one another.  Not just family and friends, but love everyone.  This is Christ-like charity.  And the comfort that helps me now, when I start thinking about the other side, is that since then, I have really tried to change how I feel about every person that crosses my path.  Every person.  I want to show them compassion, or joy or kindness or what ever I am impressed to do so that when they walk away, they feel better about themselves, or in short... they feel LOVED!

So, 10 years later, when I saw the film Moulin Rouge with one of the people who I know actually exemplifies this behavior naturally, I felt like I had heard this message before.  And, I had - from those books I read and from the scriptures.  Isn't love thy neighbor as thyself the second of the great commandments?  And wasn't the parable of the Good Samaritan the model that he gave to help us understand what that commandment means?

The first words the main character types: The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to LOVE.  It starts with you showing love through all the ways the Savior set as the supreme example.  The second part he types: and be loved in return -- that will most assuredly be the consequence of your efforts as you do the former. People love people who love them first.  It has always been that way.

Sometimes we are given "out of the ordinary" opportunities to practice.   In August of 2012, when I was called to be the Relief Society President at church, I was given a great opportunity. This was a daunting responsibility.  I wanted so much to come to  personally love  each sister in the ward and not just a 'love everyone collectively', which, of course, I did at first.  But, I wanted to come to know enough about each sister from my own personal experience with them so that I could truly love them for who they are.  This was my favorite part of my calling.  I could feel my heart grow and grow each week as I would go and visit with sisters individually.  And that was done as I woke up each morning and asked the Lord in prayer, who needed me to come see them that day.  There was always at least one name swirling around in my mind and heart.  And then when I would visit with them, I knew exactly why I needed to see them that day.  They needed to feel loved.  Relevant.  Not invisible.  

Sometimes, I would tell the Lord who I thought I should see, and he would guide me to someone else.  Those were difficult, because, I knew things about some of those sisters and I though a visit from me could really help them.  But, I would always follow  His will, and of course, He was always right on the money!

Now, I have been given the "out of the ordinary" opportunity to expand my ability to love as I go to the Cancer Center each week and learn about and come to love all my oncology nurses. Already, I don't need a name tag to know their names.  I am learning about them and  their families.   They treat me with such kindness and compassion.  I love these very special woman from all ages and experiences.  Oh!  It is wonderful.

And, it is happening each week as many of you come to visit and I get to know you. 

Here's what I am trying to express to you.  I am grateful for the opportunity this illness gives me to bump up my game, as it were.  I think that this would be a wasted opportunity of growth if I didn't try to develop more deeply the Christlike attribute of true Charity and to come to understand that if my relationships on earth have been richly developed, that my fear of passing over into Heavenly Father's world will be calmed and I will feel comforted.

A  dear friend shared this with me, when someone for whom she cares very much wrote about the recent passing of his mother.  She felt impressed to share it with me, not knowing ahead of time about my "little" fears.  It has helped me so much. 

"I don't know what she heard or how aware she was in those last hours, but she obviously conquered her fear of dying. I can only imagine what it must be like to pass through that veil, into the arms of a welcoming committee of loved ones, family and friends. There, as here, I can imagine the 'hour' or so of disorientation, the need to pause and reflect on loved ones recently left behind, and attempting to grasp what lies immediately ahead (there's probably a padded bench in a quiet place near the arrival point reserved for just such contemplation). I can imagine the feeling (or loss of the feeling) of the weighty body, the sudden absence of accumulated bodily aches and pains, fatigue, weariness. I can imagine that grief subsides as joy and excitement gradually pushes it out of the way, contemplating the wonders of the spirit world and the gospel work that must go on there at a frantic pace (a pace very familiar to Mom). I can imagine grief gradually, yet quickly, loosing it's hold as thoughts, confirmation, and testimony of the reality of the spirit world become real, very real. And the comfort of knowing that the family members left behind in the mortal world also have testimony of the reality of God, the existence of heaven, the continuation of Life after death, and the eternity of the Gospel plan, the certainty of family reunion, and the promise of a priesthood marriage sealing and all that portends. And most importantly, that  Love is --and has always been-- the very basis and purpose of every step of the Plan of Salvation, with it's multitude of cycles of death, birth, death, and re-birth, often separated by veils, yet ever progressing forward."

These words, penned by someone I have never met, penetrated my heart and I knew what he was writing was true.  Such beautiful imagery.  It brought me comfort and helps calm my mortal brain from thoughts that used to bring me fear.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out all fear...
he that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him because he first loved us. 
1 John 18-19

Addendum - added November 4th, 2013

Today, November 4th,  marks three years from the day my mother peacefully passed from this earthly world to our Father's world. I didn't know that the last conversation I had with her would be my last.  But, while she slept due to the heavy pain medication those four days, I would talk to her.  I would ask her if she would come to me in a dream or something and just tell me that everything would be all right and that I didn't need to be afraid.  That, it would all make perfect sense once I wasn't encumbered by this mortal shell.  It didn't seem a lot to ask. I was hopeful.

Years had gone by, and when I would tell someone the story of the night she went back home, they'd ask, "Did she do it?  Did she come in a dream?" And I'd say jokingly,  "No! She's holding out on me!"

Earlier this year, sometime in the spring, I had the most amazing thing happen.  It was early in the morning, and I guess you would describe it as the last dream of the 'night'.  Perhaps you have had one of these dreams that seem so real, so different from other dreams.  I saw myself sleeping in my bed, but it wasn't the same as my bed or bedroom as often dreams give obscured images than what is real, yet in the dream you know it is supposed to represent your room, your bed.  Slowly, the view of the bedroom wall was obstructed a layer of space was pealed away exposing a portal to another dimension.  It had those fuzzed out glowing edges like you would see in a dream sequence in a movie.  As the circle of another space and time came into focus, I saw the face of my mother.  Not as I had last known her face, but as I remembered she looked at about 35 years old.  Her jet black hair, flipped up at the edges.  Her skin so fresh and unworn by life's burdens and worries.  Her face was beaming the most beautiful peaceful smile I have ever seen.  I reached out my arms to her and I kept trying to call out to her, "Mom! mom!"  But it was as if my mouth was bound and I could not actually speak with my lips the words I was crying out in my mind.  I tried again and again, reaching with my arms but unable to articulate my call to her.  She just kept smiling and I felt my whole body burn inside, and I cried great tears the same as when you receive a deep and profound spiritual witness of truth.  Then that portal started to fade away as I was still reaching and calling for her until gradually I awoke to my reality, still reaching and sobbing real tears that obviously had started long before my awakening.  My bosom still burned inside of me with that same spiritual fire.  I will never forget how real it all was.

Although she never uttered the words I asked her to tell me, I knew this was my mother trying to convey the comfort I had been seeking.  I felt a peace and love emanating from her that pierced my heart and mind.

In retrospect, as I think about my current diagnosis, and how long this dreaded cancer must have been growing in my body, the timing of this experience that bridged the gap between my earthly world and the world that has no boundaries seems so merciful.  And, while I do not mean to imply that I have anything but hope, regarding the miracle for which we are all praying, I am grateful that Heavenly Father allowed this brief, yet profound connection to His world.  A seemingly small and simple way to help me overcome my fear.

Yes, I know Heavenly Father Loves Me!


Lisa said...

This is so beautifully written. It touches my heart. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

You're such a great writer, Sally. Thank you for sharing such personal precious moments. You're ever in my thoughts and prayers, dear lady.
Love you,
Pam Anderson

michelle said...

Very profound, Sally. You are a great writer. I hope you will continue to share your journey, it truely is inspiring. Btw,
I liked Moulin Rouge also... :)

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