Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Safely Dead

One of our pet hermit crabs died. It was one of three crabs that our son received on Christmas day. Its shell was painted like a ladybug. Not long ago, it insisted on digging and burying itself under the sand in the little home that it shared with two other hermit crabs (painted like Spiderman and Batman). We heard this "crunch, crunch" sound and watched the crab tunnel his way into solitude. Eventually it emerged from its shell and exoskeleton and roamed around "naked". A few days later it was dead. My husband thought it looked partially eaten by the other crabs. (Ew.)

I broke the news to my son after school today. He took it a lot better than a few years ago, when his very first pet, "Shark" the goldfish, died. (He grieved the goldfish for a long time.) This time he asked why the crab died, and then he basically shrugged and said it was too bad, but at least the crab was in heaven now.

Little ladybug crab is safely dead. No more worries.

I had a nightmare during my few winks of sleep last night. My son was doing some work on a ledge overlooking the entryway on the second story of our house. He miscalculated where he was and ended up falling and landing with a sickening thud on the first floor hardwoods. He survived, thank goodness, but my last memory before I woke up sobbing was our scramble to call 911 and carefully check his limp body to determine the extent of his injuries. It felt awful, and that feeling stayed with me most of the day today. When he was a baby I had a worse nightmare, where we were at the mall and he climbed over a rail and fell to his death while I screamed in horror. I still remember that nightmare every time we walk into the mall, as I clutch his hand tightly.

Meanwhile, my daughter is already going through her adventurous stage before the age of two. She literally licks her fingers and runs toward electrical sockets (luckily we keep them covered), and she likes to see how many stairs she can jump down. She doesn't want to get hurt, but she does enjoy the excitement. She gets held a lot in order to keep her safe, and she probably likes that, too.

Losing a child is the only thing that seems worse than brain cancer. I think it would make brain cancer seem like a welcome escape from the awful grief. I am grateful that my children are alive and well and willing to let me clutch their hands and hold them tightly. But I know people who have lost a little one, and my husband and I lost a really little one (long before it would have been born). I think that the only possible solace that can come in such an awful situation is the reassurance that little children are innocent, and that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ those who die before the age of accountability are "safely dead". They are spared the harm that can come in mortality, although they miss much of the valuable experience of this life (which is why we still clutch their hands and instinctively protect them). Of such is the kingdom of heaven.

I read a quote today from Elder M. Russell Ballard, who said that "Life isn’t over for a Latter-day Saint until he or she is safely dead, with their testimony still burning brightly."

I'm not a crab, and I'm not a little child. Like the crab, and like the child, I instinctively want to live--even if I'm feeling adventurous. "Dead" may not be so tricky for me (darnit) but "safely dead" with my testimony burning brightly requires a little more effort on my part, since I'm not an innocent creature. It takes a little effort to obtain and maintain the faith that sustains me. Effort to do all that I have promised to do when I made sacred covenants at baptism and in the temple. Fortunately I have survived long enough to have been given plenty of experiences that have strengthened my faith and my testimony.

(Still...if I can make the case to buy more time to work on that "safely" part...)

No comments: