Wednesday, February 5, 2014

An Unexpected, Sacred Service

Two nights ago we had an unexpected reminder of how fragile life can be.

We loaded up and hustled to the church to fulfill our family's cleaning assignment for the month. Usually we help a bunch of families clean on a Saturday, but our Ward Cleaning Specialist really goes the extra mile and also schedules two families to do a "quick clean" on Monday evenings as well. This was our responsibility this time. Dan was scheduled to work really late Monday, so it was just my younger four children and me, as Hallee was home swamped with homework.

We had been asked to show up earlier than the normal scheduled time because another ward was holding a viewing in the Relief Society room and they, of course, hoped to have the room cleaned and all of us out of there before the viewing began. So, we bustled up to the church, hopped out and started the cleaning routine.

After doing a few basics, we realized the Relief Society Room was pretty crowded with folded chairs along the side. Since the funeral directors had arrived, I asked them if it would be helpful if my children and I removed some of the chairs to allow more room. They agreed this would be a good idea, and we started taking chairs across the hallway to lean against the coat area outside the Primary room.

The next thing I know the casket has been brought in and opened in preparation for the viewing. I didn't even think about the fact that my children would be exposed to a dead body while we were doing this little service, but even then, I expected the viewing would be for an elderly man or woman. I was wrong.

We took some chairs out and walked back into the room, and right there at the front was a little white casket, opened up to reveal a beautiful little girl. I gasped. This was something I was not expecting, and I certainly was not prepared for my children to behold this sight. I mean, here we were in street clothes with intentions to run up and do a quick cleaning job on the church, and suddenly we were taking part in a sacred, holy service. I grabbed a couple of chairs and walked quickly back into the hallway to catch my breath.

"Oh my goodness, that is a child!" I gasped. My children, of course, had noticed the same thing.

"What happened to her?" they all seemed to ask at once. I told them I didn't know and to just keep working. So we did. They seemed to know it was not appropriate to really ask.

All except Berkley, that is. Her little two-year-old mind had no idea it was not kosher to blurt out blunt questions about the situation, so she went up to one of the funeral directors and said simply, "What happened to that girl?" I was so embarrassed, but on the other hand, I really wanted to know the answer. I was amazed that Berkley seemed to understand that this little girl was dead. I don't remember much about anything when I was two, but I'm pretty sure I had no idea what dead meant.

The sweet woman gently said, "She got really sick."

What?? Seriously? My mind and heart felt immediately ill. This beautiful little child simply got sick and died? "How old was she?" I couldn't help but ask. The answer was difficult to swallow.

"She was barely nine."

Regyn's head jerked towards mine as she cast me a look that I immediately understood. Regyn would be nine the very next day. A solemn reverence settled in our hearts as we continued carrying chairs out. What had begun as a desire to quickly get our church responsibility finished and get home had turned into a sacred opportunity to serve a family who had just lost something--someone--very precious.

It was not long until the girl's family showed up. We were still carrying chairs out (there were a lot of chairs), but I encouraged Nate to ask what else they might need since we knew the building well and could help get tables or anything else they desired. They responded with ideas and we immediately met their requests, grateful for the opportunity to help. Finally, they thanked us for what we had done, which seemed like nothing, and we realized it was time for us to go.

With one last glance at this beautiful nine-year-old girl, all dressed in white, lying in a casket, I blinked back tears, told the father--whom I did not know--how sorry I was for his loss, and ushered my children down the hallway to the chapel to finish our cleaning assignment. But my heart was not the same as it had been when we began. And neither were my children's. I could sense a difference. We had no idea when we piled out of the car that evening that we would have the opportunity to witness such a sacred scene or be able to serve in such a meaningful way, but as we climbed back in to go home, I thought to myself how grateful I was that we had fulfilled our simple assignment to clean the church that night. Not because that family needed us to move those chairs or get those tables for us--I'm sure someone else would have done that for them if we hadn't--but because we had an opportunity to be the Savior's hands and hearts for just a little while, and it humbled us and brought us closer together for a time. My only sorrow was that Hallee and Dan had not been able to be with us to share the experience as well.

The thing is, life is so unexpected. You really never know what is around the next corner. I believe opportunities to love and serve are truly all around us, and truthfully, I am not very good at finding them. It's something I have felt our family needs to do a lot more of because serving brings happiness. Serving is what Jesus Christ spent His whole life doing, so if we are really going to be followers of Him, and if we are really going to be like Him, and if we are really going to come unto Him, we simply must serve.

As we drove home from the church Monday evening, there was a different feeling in the car. I told my children how proud I was of each of them for the reverent, respectful and loving way they had helped that night. I also told them how very much I loved each of them. I reminded them of how fragile life is, that loving each other and serving each other and forgiving each other is what life is about. I didn't know all the details about that family or the events leading up to that little girl's death, but I wanted them to remember that life is fragile and that it is so vitally important to love each other today because no one knows what tomorrow will bring. I don't say things like that to scare my children, and they know that. It's a mantra I've shared many times because events in my life have proven it to be true. And I think it's important to remember.

I hugged my children a little tighter that night. And when I woke the next morning and still had my nine-year-old, I was so grateful to celebrate her birthday with her! I tried to think for a moment what my life would be like without her bright smiling personality and constant (and I mean constant:) chitter chatter, and I couldn't even go there. I decided instead to simply love her and soak her up every minute I have her, which hopefully is for a long, long, long time.

This is Regyn--so full of life. I love it!

A little closer look. Man, I wish my camera wasn't so blurry. That's what you get for using a phone camera all the time, I guess. Doesn't she just look sweet and innocent. She really is (most of the time), I'm telling you. I love this girl!

Boston gave her this adorable outfit she is wearing in the pictures above. She was pretty thrilled. Not as thrilled as in the next picture, however, when she got a . . . 

. . . kindle fire!!! Oh man, am I a stupid mother! Seriously. What am I doing getting my nine-year-old a kindle for her birthday? I'm blaming this one on her Martinez cousins who all have one. Ok, that's totally lame. I can blame no one but myself. She was so excited, as you can see. Now she just has to share with everyone, including me, since I don't even own one of those puppies. I am so jealous!

Here she is with her lame birthday cake. She wanted a funfetti birthday cake with fun dot frosting. But, the fun dot frosting was nowhere to be found. Dan and I searched four grocery stores and couldn't find the stuff. Four stores! Did they stop making the delectable stuff or what?? I finally had to settle for taking Regyn to Fresh Market to pick out a cake. She chose Snickers. It looks a lot better than it tastes, let me tell you.

One last picture of this beautiful girl that I absolutely adore. So glad she's mine!


Tiffany said...

Wow! What an unexpected, beautiful experience for you and your children. I'm sure it is one they will always remember. I'm glad to have read about this today. xx