Saturday, December 29, 2018

Of Distraction, Death, and Driving

The title of this post might sound like a PSA about distracted driving. A worthy topic, however, this post is about things of more eternal significance.

Today I was driving home from Arkansas, my childhood home state, where I attended the funeral of my beloved Aunt Shirley. This post isn't really about her, although her life would also be a worthy topic. This post is about more about how when people die we tend to remember better. Driving a long distance (5 hours) gives you a lot of time to contemplate life and the important parts of it. Especially after a funeral, and especially when you listen to General Conference talks the entire trip.

These three things together, the funeral for my aunt, the long drive, and listening to the general conference talks, allowed me to refocus and refine my life. It was a transformative five hours. Hence this essay.

My Aunt is an amazing woman. She left a wonderful legacy here on earth, and is joining an equally fantastic legacy among our ancestors in Heaven. What struck me this weekend is how easy it is to become distracted. I haven't thought a lot about my Aunt's life recently. Honestly, until she traveled to Houston to have heart surgery I hadn't really even though much about her. Not that I don't care, but I have been caught up in raising my own family, tending to my own life. Granted, many of my actions and choices are affected by the influence of my Aunt and her children, even if I am not consciously thinking about the cause and effect relationship that exists between my Aunt and my actions and choices.

As I sat with family and friends this weekend to celebrate the amazing miracle that my Aunt has been, I was reminded of so many gospel principles. The greatest principle I was reminded of was faith. My Aunt was a woman of fierce faith. When she endured radiation for Hodgkin's disease in the 70's, doctors told her that she would not be able to bear children. She said, "We'll see" and proceeded to fast and pray and fast and pray, and eventually had four amazing children who today are my heroes in every way.

My Aunt has endured several health challenges, in spite of her impeccably healthy lifestyle. She had breast cancer, diabetes, defective heart valves (all of these were most likely complications from the massive amounts of radiation she endured in the 70s). But through all of these health challenges she has maintained a patient, faithful, joyful outlook on life, and lived a life of selfless service to her children, nieces and nephews, and anyone else who cross her path. She did not make excuses, and she had good reason to make excuses.

I was humbled this weekend with a self-realization of the excuse making in which I engage. I make a lot of excuses for why this that or the other thing is hard for me to do. A lot of "if onlys"...

I always have some kind of excuse for why I don't do more than I am doing. I have an excuse for why I don't study the gospel like I did before. I make excuses for why I don't attend the temple as regularly, I have excuses for why I don't have patience with my husband and my children. Some of them are pretty good excuses.

But what I realized after this weekend is that none of them are valid excuses. There are no valid excuses.

The Savior of the world suffered body, mind, and soul so that there would have to be no excuses. Because of Him and through Him I can be more than I am, and I can do more than I can. Not because I will be amazing or I will work hard, but because through faith in Jesus Christ I can do all things.

I have been distracted from faith these past several years. Maybe the last decade. It is so easy to become distracted from the things that really matter. Faith, endurance, charity, compassion. There are so many things in life that we think are important, and then when someone dies, we have the opportunity to contemplate our lives and our choices and we realize that all of the other things do not matter and what really matters was so simple, and we tried to make it so complicated in the name of philosophy, or deep thinking, or intellectual conversation.

What really matters really is very simple. Christ taught us that. It is in the scriptures. Let's go back to the scriptures and soak up the simple brilliance of the gospel and please let us let go of all the complicated processes that distract us from what really matters.

What things have distracted you from the simple parts of the gospel? What events or things in your life help bring you back to remembrance? How do you remember things without having to go to a funeral?
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