This week is not even half over, yet it is already emotionally draining. I learned Sunday evening that the husband of my young niece suddenly passed away. Not even 48 hours passed before I learned this morning that a nephew is on life support and will be taken off of it by next Monday. We do not know when my nephew will pass away from his lung cancer and other health problems, but we know that it will be fairly soon.
As I pondered my niece’s situation – a young widow with three small children and a high-risk pregnancy – I thought of little else than how a husband’s death would affect any of my daughters. I felt great empathy for my niece and her little family, and I wanted to reach out to her in love and support to help her through this difficult experience.
Then a different thought came to me. Without taking anything away from this young widow or any other widows, I marveled at the difference in attitudes between this niece and one who recently filed for divorce. Each marriage started with a young couple deeply in love who went to the temple to have their marriage sealed for time and all eternity. In one case, the husband passed away. In the other case, the marriage died.
Without knowing any of the intimate details about either marriage, I believe that both young women are in similar circumstances and are desperately in need of ministering. However, this does not usually happen for a number of reasons. Family members are immediately alerted to a death, but a divorce takes place quietly without much notification. Both death and divorce leave behind much damage, but it is usually different kinds of damage.
Whatever the problems, the survivors of both death and divorce have need for love and support. This is not the first death or the first divorce in the family, but all of them have followed similar paths. Why is it that a divorce is a hushed up matter, but a death is a time of gathering and expressing love? Particularly since both death and divorce leave behind broken individuals and new paths to tread.
My thoughts went elsewhere today after learning of the expected death of my nephew. I pondered the circumstances surrounding the two deaths. One death was sudden and without warning, whereas the other one has been on the back burner for years. The first gave no opportunity for closure, whereas the second nephew has an opportunity to exchange affection and goodbyes with loved ones and friends. There are other differences in the two deaths that will have lasting effects on the survivors. Yet both widows will be surrounded by friends and family members as they move into the next phase of their lives.
I thought also of the difference in support offered to those people with physical illnesses and that proffered to those suffering from spiritual sickness. When we hear that a ward member or neighbor has been diagnosed with cancer, we are right on the spot with offers to provide transportation to doctor appointments or with a casserole. However, an acquaintance can die spiritually without many people taking notice. Why is it that we are so afraid to assist when a person is spiritually ill?
All this pondering has given me much to consider. I hope that I will be more kind and understanding to all those who lose spouses for whatever reason. I hope that I will be able to minister to them more and to do it without being judgmental. I also hope that I will be more sensitive to the difficulties of all people, whether they are suffering from the death of a loved one, a divorce, a physical illness, or a spiritual sickness. It does not really matter why people suffer because they still need love, support, and ministering.