You probably remember the story of “Little Fighter Eli” and his amazing parents. (If not, go here to see his story and see some pictures of sweet Eli.) In the introduction to a piece that Liz let me borrow from her blog, I stated, “As I read how this young mother endured the rollercoaster of doors seeming to open to a road of health, only to be closed in the most heartbreaking ways, I was awestruck by her faith and perspective.” Eli passed away in May of last year. (Please keep all of them in your prayers as we approach May 25th.)
I am so excited that Liz agreed to share some of her thoughts about eternal families for a guest post. Even as I opened the email that had her post in it, I felt the spirit letting me know that what she said is true. Her words reminded of something Elder Scott said when discussing the death of his wife, “First of all, … I didn’t lose her. She’s on the other side of the veil. We’ve been sealed in that holy ordinance of the temple, and we’ll be together forever. And at critical times in my life when I need help, I can feel impressions come through the veil in such a real way that often I just [think,] ‘Thank you, Jeanene.'” Liz shares a sweet testimony of this same thing and it is so reassuring to consider that aspect of the promise of eternal families.
From the time I was young, I vividly remember my parents and church leaders teaching me about eternal families and the wonderful blessing we have of living with our loved ones forever. I always appreciated this magnificent gift but never realized how miraculous the Plan of Salvation is until Logan and I held our seemingly healthy baby in our arms for the first time. Before Eli was born, I was told in a blessing that through our experiences of becoming parents, I would gain a greater understanding and love of the Plan of Salvation. I quickly dismissed the thought that something might happen to Eli and convinced myself that the powerful emotions and feelings I experienced as I held my baby in my arms were giving me that great understanding of Heavenly Father’s divine plan.
As Logan and I attempted to come to terms with Eli’s passing just 4 ½ months after he was born, I knew that the only thing keeping me afloat was my knowledge of where he had gone and the great reality that we would be given the opportunity to one day raise him. As I allowed myself to step back and take a deep breath, I became aware that I was being taught certain truths that I desperately needed to know in order to find some measure of peace regarding our situation.
Just one week after Eli died, Logan and I found ourselves in the office of a member of the Stake Presidency having our temple recommends renewed. Naturally, this sweet man asked me how I was doing and then shared what has now become my favorite piece of doctrine on eternal families. He pointed out that when we think of our loved ones that have left us we often imagine them in some faraway place. However, he reminded me that the spirit world, where Eli is now, is right here on Earth. “Remember that he is not far from you. He couldn’t be nearer to you and Logan or involved in your every day lives more than he is now.” Oh, how I clung to that idea! I was also told of a quote from an apostle who said that our loved ones who pass away are “far more interested” in us from the other side of the veil than they were while they were here because they have the ability to be. The phrase seems cliché but Logan and I truly have a guardian angel.
When I muster the strength to see things from a much broader perspective, somehow everything that’s happened all feels right and seems to have played out just like I, (or my spirit), knew it would. I am convinced that in the pre-existence we knew what we would experience during our lives and one reason we agreed to come is because of the people we would have by our side. As I look back on my life before Eli was born, I know he helped me through things I could not have managed alone. I obviously didn’t know it at the time but it’s clear to me now that he has always been near. I would give anything to have him here today but I know I need him on the other side even more. I know he can bless my life over there in ways he would not have been able to had he stayed here.
While we often hear people describe babies or children that have passed on as “playing in the clouds” or “being held by Jesus”, I find great comfort in the doctrine that Eli is actually a mature, adult spirit right now. I love reminiscing on memories of the adorable baby he was but I find just as much happiness imagining him in his prime, teaching the gospel, and performing all types of wonderful work. We will get to hold him in our arms again but for now, I know he is often holding us.