Yesterday we buried my mother-in-law, Barbara Winder, a great and noble woman. Today, Sunday, I woke up with two scriptural phrases running through my mind: “Why weepest thou?” and “Thou shalt live together in love.”
Why as believers do we weep at the passing of loved ones even when death is a release from suffering and we know that life is eternal? Rationally, there was no cause for tears at mom’s passing. She had lived a wonderful life and when death came, it came as a blessed relief from suffering incident to terminal illness. In the past few weeks, the body of this once beautiful and vibrant woman has been shutting down. In the end, she was neither eating nor drinking. It was painful to watch her waste away. We yearned for the hour that her spirit could be released from its tabernacle of clay. So why should we weep?
Moreover, we know that mom is much happier now. Her spirit has reunited with her husband and other loved ones in Heaven where they “shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more. . . . For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto the living fountain of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears” (Rev. 7: 14-17). So why should we weep?
“Why weepest thou?” The Lord’s question to Mary at the tomb echoes down through the centuries to every believer at the graveside of a loved one.
This enduring question finds a beautiful answer in modern revelation: “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die” (D&C 42:45). We weep because we love. This is how the Lord has structured mortality. He invites us to love. Loving relationships are the source of life’s greatest joys. But love also opens up our hearts to the pain of parting. Hence we cry out, as C. S. Lewis does in Shadowlands about losing his wife, Joy, to cancer: “Why love, if losing hurts so much?” But as Joy wisely teaches him, “We can’t have the happiness yesterday without the pain of today. That’s the deal.”
This is indeed the deal. We cannot live together in love without experiencing a sense of loss at the death of loved ones. Even Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died. The shortest verse in scripture is also one of the most moving: “Jesus wept.” And why did he weep? “Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!” (John 11:35-36).
The tears that Jesus shed for Lazarus did not flow from any disbelief in eternal life. Nor do ours. The gospel provides full assurance that our loved ones live on. We know “that same [sweet] sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory” (D&C 130:2). Yet still, we weep at funerals precisely because we “live together in love.” Hence “thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” I am glad that God both understands and authorizes our tears.
Susan and I are grateful to live together in love with you, our dear Hawaiian ohana. We felt your spirit of aloha yesterday in the flowers the University sent and especially in the leis that were draped around our necks as we walked from the viewing to the chapel. Susan was surprised by how deeply comforted and calmed she felt upon receiving her lei. The leis enveloped us in aloha.
We shed tears at the funeral and no doubt shall shed tears when we sing, “Aloha ‘Oe” to you someday. But we would not have it otherwise. For pain at parting is the cost of living together in love and aloha. That’s the deal.