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Love in Mourning

Rusty - July 22, 2008

Last Tuesday our dear friends’ 1-month old baby passed away after a fight with the rarest form of the rare Shwachman Diamond Syndrome. As if this weren’t sad enough, there were surrounding circumstances that made the situation even more tragic. As I spoke with our friends I could do little else but weep. The night after the passing a few of us close friends visited them and I sat for 20 minutes crying, not saying a thing. Any thought that came to my head was stopped by the “would-this-be-a-comforting-thing-to-hear?” filter. There truly aren’t words.

At the funeral on Saturday the baby’s grandfather gave what would be considered the eulogy. But rather than talking about the life and accomplishments of the deceased he instead expounded upon all of the service, love and charity that this beautiful little girl inspired in those who surrounded her.

Beginning with the mother who was at her side (in the hospital incubator) all day, every day for the life-span of her baby. She spoke to her, read to her, sang to her and loved her as any mother would. The father did the same, only as a newly-called bishop and working attorney he did so as often as possible.

There was family, none of which live in New York, but visits, calls, prayers, packages and all manner of love were freely given. Family can be the great balm of comfort in times like these and theirs were no exception.

And then there were friends. Lots and lots of friends. It began immediately after the baby’s birth when she needed a blood transfusion. Every friend who was asked (and matched the blood-type) volunteered their blood, one of which immediately set up a schedule to give as often as he could. When it became clear that the mother would be spending all of her waking hours at the hospital there were those who brought them food, did their laundry, gave them rides, cleaned their home and visited them during the day. These things were not done out of duty, rather out of love.

And then there was the funeral. As a counselor in a bishopric whose bishop is out of town it fell upon me to organize the funeral and associated preparations (these friends have always been in our ward but he was recently called as bishop of a Spanish ward elsewhere in the stake). Our intention was to allow our friends to grieve with the fewest distractions as possible. On Wednesday morning another close friend, my wife and I took account of all that needed to be done and we immediately began to ask folks from both wards to help.

One of the great geniuses of our church is its organization. We have stewardships and it is ingrained within us to make sure they are taken care of, whether by our own hand or by delegation. Aside from Home/visiting teaching, we are very good at this and it showed this last week. I need the after-funeral luncheon organized and prepared—I ask the RS presidents of both wards to collaborate and prepare it—done, I don’t have to think about it anymore. I need ushers and car dispatchers—I talk to our EQ president—done, it’s taken care of, I’m done worrying about it. I need someone to record the audio—I talk to a guy in the ward with that equipment—done. I talk to one person about flowers—done. I talk to another person about a mother-requested musical number for the funeral—done. I talk to someone to organize transportation to the cemetery for everyone (not a small task where few people have cars)—done, I move on to the next need.

After three days of emails and phone calls everything came together perfectly. Every single person I spoke with enthusiastically accepted the given responsibility and asked for more. I never once had to follow-up to make sure a job would be done nor did I ever hear a single ounce of complaint or hesitation. By the time the viewing started I became a participant for the rest of the afternoon…everyone else was doing everything and our friends were able to mourn without distraction. As a ward family we truly mourned with those that mourned.

I have never been prouder to be a Mormon. These are my people.


  1. Rusty, you cause me to weep just reading about this family’s loss. My best friend lost one child to cancer, one to crib death and one as a teenage car accident. I can’t image what that is like.

    When in the Bishopric I too had to organize a funeral for a baby who died from crib death. I know what you mean by the blessings of the church’s organization and the people’s love.

    What a blessing to belong to such a church, such an organization…but more importantly with people who have in themselves the love of Christ and that love for others.

    May we all count our blessing. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Don — July 22, 2008 @ 4:10 pm

  2. My heart goes out to your friends; I can’t imagine their sorrow.

    I agree with you, Rusty. The Mormons are amazing when it comes to immediate need. For me, this is another testimony of the Gospel of Christ in action. I have no doubt He was with all of you. And thank you for sharing this; I really needed to hear it.

    Comment by cheryl — July 22, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Rusty.

    Comment by Susan M — July 22, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

  4. Thanks Rusty. I appreciate this.

    Comment by Mark IV — July 22, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  5. Thank you Rusty- we are, indeed, good at helping bear one anothers’ burdens. My heart goes out to your friends in their loss.

    Comment by tracy m — July 23, 2008 @ 8:56 am

  6. Rusty,

    My first thought was to suggest that it is unfortunate that it takes a tragic situation like the one you describe to bring us together in compassion. But then I immediately realized that what you describe happens every day in our church organization but, thankfully, without the tragic circumstances. Think about the preparations that must be made each week by so many just to operate our meetings efficiently. Teachers, pianists, Aaronic Priesthood holders, Bishoprics, leaders of every auxiliary and so many more make so many sacrifices so that all of us can enjoy and embrace the spirit each week.

    In circumstances like you have faced this past week, we can truly see that there are angels among us. We are God’s agents on earth, and we are asked to do His work. What a blessing in our lives it is.

    Comment by lamonte — July 23, 2008 @ 9:29 am

  7. I am pretty sure I know this family. How heartwrenching. I am glad they received so much love and support.

    Comment by BJK — July 23, 2008 @ 9:45 am

  8. Proud to be Mormon, too. That funeral was amazing.

    Comment by Travis — July 23, 2008 @ 8:37 pm

  9. HI Rusty,

    As a former member of your ward, I wish we were still there so we could have helped out this past week. Although we are starting to enjoy our new home, the hardest thing about moving from Brooklyn was leaving the friends that had become like family to us.

    Your ward has a unique closeness. I think it’s due to some of the circumstances that living in Brooklyn brings, and the fact that most people are living so far from their “real” families. The ward does become family over the years.

    I had no doubt you guys would pull this off beautifully.

    Comment by Brooke — July 24, 2008 @ 9:12 am

  10. As an also former member of the ward and friend of the family, I wished so badly I could be there to mourn, help, and feel the love and closeness you described. I am especially grateful to the ward member who recorded the funeral, it was almost like I was there.

    Things are different here, I long for the community and friendships I felt while in Brooklyn. I know I will eventually feel a love for my new ward but it will never be what I left behind, and I miss it dearly.

    Comment by alysha — July 24, 2008 @ 9:31 am

  11. The times I’ve felt closest to the spirit were when life was most difficult. Likewise, I’d say this little girl brought us all closer to God in a way I never expected. May God bless her for that.

    Comment by cj douglass — July 24, 2008 @ 11:36 am

  12. This is a deeply poignant post, both regardly the occassionally devasting pain of mortality and the tangible impact the of faith/action of a Zion community.

    Comment by Leonard (aka The Ignorant Sage) — July 24, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

  13. Rusty,
    Thank you for sharing your feelings. To have someone take the time to write about something that is obviously so dear to our hearts gives such comfort. Bea’s life, the experiences that lay within, the people affected, they will never be forgotten. Thank you for caring and for recognizing an important event that should never be forgotten.

    Comment by Greta Clawson (Bea's Aunt) — July 25, 2008 @ 8:29 am

  14. The week of Bea’s death, though heartbreaking, was one of the most beautiful weeks of my life. The love surrounding the family, the care that went into the funeral, the look on the womens’ faces that had cooked and prepared all day and night, the men that were so tenderly helping with every little need, the people that just poured in to accomplish tasks, the children that had so much faith and sweetness for Bea, and the spirit that filled our hearts the entire week…..it was all indescribably beautiful! My heart is still so full from the experience. Bea’s little life affected me so deeply. She brought me closer to God, closer to the spirit, closer to my self, and closer to all those people near and dear to my heart. We are better people and an even closer ward because of her.

    Comment by Mara — July 25, 2008 @ 11:17 am

  15. Awesome post Rusty. Thank your for sharing your thoughts/experiences like this.

    Comment by danithew — July 25, 2008 @ 2:33 pm

  16. Rusty, I think your weeping would have been such a comfort to the family. The eulogy was very touching as well. I am glad to hear of everyone being of service to this family in their time of need.

    Comment by Barb — July 28, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

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