My aunt is graduating this week — from Earth. And even though it hurts, I am happy I know where she is going. But it’s amazing what grief does to you. For me, it makes me tired, antisocial, and dehydrated. But it has also given me a clearer vision of what matters in life.
As I mentioned a moment ago, I’m grieving for my aunt. She is in a coma following a minor medical procedure that went wrong. Somehow her heart stopped and it took them 20 minutes to get her oxygen going again.
None of us were expecting this, and we all thought she would wake up quickly. But the doctors did a scan of her brain and 90% of it is dead, so there is no coming back. Just saying those words — she won’t come back — hurts. I feel like the pain is pressing on my skin from the inside trying to get out. It’s like a hunger for something, but no food can fix it. (Well, maybe ice cream, but that’s just because I’m so thirsty!)
I know I am neglecting things while I process what has happened. We always have a family member at her side, since the doctors removed her ventilator yesterday. They say it could be days before she passes. But those days are feeling like weeks, knowing she is leaving us. And so I write to try to release this pressure under my skin, this pain in my stomach… And it’s working.
Graduating from Earth
Every one of us will face a transition like hers, but each one is different. My dad keeps saying she is “graduating.” Since I had three nieces and one nephew graduate this month, that brings a lighter feeling to this time. Graduations are a time of celebration. We celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates and are eager for their successful futures.
It reminds me of the great joy we feel each time a baby is born. I’m sure that is the same joy they feel in heaven as they welcome us each back one by one. That knowledge is making things easier for me to handle.
The joy of welcoming a baby isn’t like anything else. You are thrilled they are here and have no expectations of them. It’s a unique thing reserved only for babies, and it’s especially apparent with your own child. When my son was born, everything about him was miraculous. His tiny fingers and toes, the eyelashes and eyebrows — they were all so little and perfect.
Heavenly Welcoming Party
Because these images are running in my mind side by side, I started looking online for the moments of earthly graduation. My heart needed a visual for what my aunt was experiencing, and I found some good ones.
This image is so beautiful. I found it online and can’t tell where it came from. But it was so moving I have to share it! I am moved not only the light and love on each face, but also by the variety and difference in the people. It reminds me that we are each the culmination of generations of love — and that love has always stayed with us, even when we can’t see it. It reminds me of the heavenly greeting party I’m sure awaits each of us on the other side as we have our own graduation from Earth. I know this is what my aunt will see very shortly. Knowing this makes me happy for her and less focused on my own feelings of sadness.
Hello And Goodbye
The Goodbye and Welcome image is exactly what I felt at the hospital as we gathered around my aunt. I could see in my mind’s eye that there were many more people in the room. Even in the parking garage, as I walked toward the hospital, I could feel angels. I know God does not leave us when we are struggling. He is very much involved in both our entrance and exit from this world. His messengers are close by through the whole process, providing peace and a vision of what happiness lies beyond these trials.
Knowing what I do about the restored gospel and graduating from Earth doesn’t mean I don’t still cry unexpectedly, like while I’ve been writing this article. Knowing that goodbye is not forever is a comfort, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not really struggling with the separation.
No More Goodbyes
If I had my way, we would never say goodbye — so I am comforted knowing that in the next life, there will be no more goodbyes. We will finally have that neighborhood I’ve been dreaming of where every friend I’ve made as I’ve traveled around the world lives on the same street. I believe that we will have heavenly barbecues and watch the most amazing heavenly fireworks!
We will celebrate each graduation as a welcome home, and I’ll have the joy of being on the other side sharing in that eager reunion. I love knowing that my aunt, and many more people whom I love dearly, will be waiting for me when I graduate from Earth.
And as we live for that day, I love how much more easily I can focus on what really matters.
Cover image is a sculpture titled Come Unto Me by Jerry Anderson and is available at Deseret Book.
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism, Abby wants you to know that this isn't a bad thing. And you or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.