Saturday, July 7, 2007
Hey, That's My Cousin
This week I got the kind of news that most of us simply do not expect to get. One of my cousins, a returned missionary and an active Latter-day Saint, had been killed. Not just in an accident, or in combat, or by a sudden illness—any of those would have been difficult enough—but in an act of murder.
Fortunately, the alleged perpetrator was apprehended and taken into custody. He must have been mentally off-balance, and he had a gun and felt justified in using it. But that’s just not something you expect to happen among the faithful in any religion. That kind of thing’s only supposed to happen among the drug addicts and the other more carnally minded individuals. It’s supposed to happen to other people—right?
My cousin and I lived in different states and we didn’t visit very often. Case in point: I was surprised when I saw the photograph of him in the newspaper. Last time I remember seeing him, he had a full head of blond hair. The picture I see now is definitely his face, but the majority of his hair has, well, escaped. Shows how long it’s been since I’ve seen him.
But it still just makes you stop and think. Murder and death are things we encounter in the media on a regular basis, usually multiple times in a day if we have our TVs on much or if we follow the news. Often there are intriguing stories behind the murders we hear about. Upon learning about them, we might think briefly, “Oh, that’s too bad…” and feel glad that it didn’t happen to us or to anyone we know. And then we go on about our lives and forget about it.
Unless it strikes close to home.
This time the victim is my cousin. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around that one. He isn’t just an interesting story, I know him as an integral part of a good and faithful family who loves him. He was planning to marry a woman who loves him. He was a Sunday school teacher, and a college-educated working professional. A good guy who, like any of us, was just trying to do his best in the world.
I wonder if people swap stories in the next life of how they died. Kind of like how women swap childbirth stories here. It’s something almost all of us moms have gone through, so it’s a bond we share. Maybe it’s something people in the next life talk about: So, how did you die? Who met you when you crossed over to the other side of the veil? What do you remember about your premortal life now that you had forgotten while you were mortal?
Of course I have a million questions I’d love to ask my cousin now. If we could just communicate with those who have passed on, the separation wouldn’t be so painful for those of us left behind on earth. But death is something that all of us experience on this end, too. Sooner or later, it does visit all of us. We all go through watching loved ones go before us, and trying to make sense of what happened and filling in the holes they leave the best we can. Only after we pass through the veil ourselves will we see the whole picture.
Todd, I wish you the very best on your continued spiritual journey. I don’t doubt that you’ll be doing a great work where you are. Words cannot express how sorry I am that you and your family and loved ones have had to go through this at this time, and I wish there was something I could do to “fix” it for everyone. Casseroles and hugs and flowers just don’t seem to cut it.
But one day in the future, we’ll all be there with you, swapping death stories and getting to know each other again. And what seems horribly wrong now will be smoothed over and evened out in the Lord’s time. I’m sure you understand that much better now from your perspective than any of us do here. I look forward to seeing you again one day…with your full head of hair.