Thursday, February 18, 2016

I Feel My Savior's Love

I went to the funeral today for Sister Sadie Wells, a young woman from our stake serving in the Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Mission. Last week she died when a school bus ran a stop sign and hit the car she was traveling in.

When a missionary dies, the whole church mourns the death. I'm not sure if it has to do with so many members feeling close to the situation because they themselves have served a mission or have children on missions...or if it's the idea of this young person giving up more than just two years, but their whole life in service.

The whole situation hit really close to home for me. Sadie Wells was a friend of Rebekah's. They weren't close, but when I told Rebekah in an email of what had happened, she was heartbroken. She said she had memories of spending time with Sadie at stake girl's camps and youth conferences, she saw her every day at school. They were in the MTC at the same time and Rebekah said they frequently sought each other out because they were both from the same home town. But even more...I have a daughter on a mission. And though accidents like this are few and far between when you consider how many missionaries there are coming and going throughout the world, what if this had been Rebekah? I think something like this hits hard for any missionary mom, whether they know the actual missionary or not.

The funeral was beautiful. Truly one of the sweetest, most spirit-filled services I have ever attended. As you can imagine, the building was completely packed. Elder David A. Bednar was presiding at the service, with three other members of the Quorum of the Seventies also in attendance. The opening song was "Called to Serve," clearly in reference to Sadie having been on a mission when she passed. There were lighthearted moments with her best friend and siblings sharing funny stories and memories of Sadie. Her parents both spoke. I'm not sure I could do that if it had been my daughter. But their feelings, experiences and testimonies shared touched my heart deeply. One of the musical numbers was Sadie's siblings and cousins singing the primary song, "He Sent His Son." This was Sadie's favorite song. And apparently she ended each email home from her mission with the lyrics of that song:
"Have faith, have hope, live like His Son, help others on their way."
It was her motto, her creed, her mantra.

Elder Bednar was the final speaker after the Bishop. He read a letter to the family from President Monson and the First Presidency of the church. The things he said were wonderful and perfect and heartfelt. He directed his remarks mostly to Sadie's three siblings. To them he emotionally admitted that he did not know why Sadie was taken from them while serving the Lord. But he did know that Heavenly Father knows why. And that can bring great comfort if we love and trust in the Lord and His timetable and plan. Among his other many comments, he pointed out that what they are seeing in the way their parents are handling this loss is what he called "spiritual reflexes." That after a lifetime of faithfulness, they are now almost without even consciously thinking about the whys of it...praying, going to the temple, comforting others in their grief who are mourning Sadie's loss, forgiving the driver of the bus that hit her, etc. He said that these actions that have come so naturally to them in the midst of their own grief are a real part of who they are...not something that can be faked or learned from a manual. He said it was as if it was part of their spiritual DNA. Elder Bednar gave them an apostolic blessing directly from the pulpit. He shared strong testimony as an apostle of Jesus Christ of the truthfulness of this gospel.

The closing song began immediately after Elder Bednar sat down. It was the primary song, "I Feel My Savior's Love." And as we started singing the first verse and made our way into the chorus, I saw Elder Bednar stand up again. At first I thought he was leaving...maybe to avoid the crush of people after the meeting ended. But instead, he walked down the little stairs from the podium to Sadie's mother, father, older brother and two younger sisters on the front row of the congregation. And he hugged them. Each one of them. Big, heartfelt bear hugs. And suddenly as I sang those words about our Savior's love, I didn't see Elder Bednar hugging Sadie's family. I saw an apostle of our Savior, standing in our Savior's stead, acting as our Savior as he shared the Savior's love and comfort. This scene and the thoughts running through my mind were so real and sweet and touching to me that I couldn't stop the tears from flowing. And as I told each of my children about it later and then Bryan, I again cried each time. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to feel of the spirit at that funeral, and especially to witness that particular moment. I will never forget it.
I feel my Savior's love
In all the world around me.
His spirit warms my soul
Through everything I see.

I feel my Savior's love;
It's gentleness enfolds me,
And when I kneel to pray,
My heart is filled with peace.

I feel my Savior's love
And know that he will bless me.
I offer him my heart;
My shepherd he will be.

I'll share my Savior's love 
By serving others freely.
In serving I am blessed.
In giving I receive.

He knows I will follow him,
Give all my life to him.
I feel my Savior's love,
The love he freely gives me.


Julie DeMille said...

Gah. Crying again. This is so beautiful. I'm glad you went so I could experience it through you.
I sent your post to Sadie, I think she'd like to read it. (I did warn her that she'd probably cry. Poor girl got my 'crying gene'.)

Julie Gibb said...

Beautiful! Thank you for sharing Sarah.

MamaCheek said...

Thank you for your detailed description of the Sister Wells' funeral. I just came from Stake Conference of the Chambersburg Pennsylvania Stake. Several people spoke of Sister Wells and what a wonderful missionary she was. Elder Bednar's remarks about spiritual reflexes were mentioned and I was so glad that I could go to your blog to see in more detail what he said.