The Phone Call
It was Tuesday morning and I was driving to another construction site for work. I recently returned from my LDS mission a few months prior and was enjoying my summer semester at BYU. My cell phone began to ring and I saw my father was calling. I answered “hello?”
Letting out a painful, long sigh, my father replied “Josh, you had better come home.”
He didn’t need to say anything else. I knew. And yet rage filled my core and I yelled back,
“Don’t you dare tell me this dad! You are lying! Don’t you dare lie me! Don’t you tell me this!”
“No, your mother killed herself this morning, and I need you to come home.”
And then I broke down and started sobbing.
The sobs were so deep and so painful, that I could struggled to breath and felt as if I was going to pass out. Which wouldn’t be a good thing since I was still driving 75 mph on the interstate. My stomach muscles contracted so hard that I hunched over in pain. “How could this be?” I thought.
Finally gaining a little control of my sobs I asked, “Dad, how did she do it?”
“Your mother poured 5 gallons of gasoline in the basement and set the house on fire.”
Waiting for Pain to Hit
The next few days leading to the funeral were hard ones. But not has hard as my siblings and I thought it was going to be. “Maybe the pain will hit us really hard when we see mom in the casket.” That day came, and again we though it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be. “Maybe it’ll hit during the funeral and at the grave site. That day came too, and again we thought it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be.
“It must be God comforting us” we thought. We were so naive of what lied ahead.
Advice to Stay Busy
Some people who had lost loved ones gave advice on how to move forward after our mother’s suicide. Several times the idea was shared, “You need to move forward and stay busy. Make to-do lists. Be productive. Occupy your time with activities.”
It seemed to make sense. During this time, I kept counting how many years it would be before I saw my mother again. It was painful to count so staying busy and productive made sense.
Back To Normal Life
Mother’s funeral was Saturday and I found myself back at BYU Monday morning to prepare for finals. I could feel the deep pain of mother’s suicide and the loss of our home begin to intensify. I then remembered the “stay busy” advice and quickly made a to-do list for the day.
The to-do list was huge. It would impossible to complete in a day and involved many errands around town. So I ate breakfast, showered, and set out to accomplish this list so I could rid myself of this pain I was feeling.
I drove around town with my favorite songs blasting away, the windows rolled down, and staying focused on the tasks of the day. But it seemed as the more and more I did, the worse and worse I felt.
It was this day, 2 days after the funeral, that I finally felt the full pain of losing my mother. My soul was being consumed with such destructible pain and hurt that I didn’t think I would make it through the morning.
Advice from an Apostle
The hurt was so crippling that I stopped my errands and returned to my apartment. I couldn’t function. I sat down on my couch and sobbed till my tears ran dry. But the crying continued. I looked at the coffee table and saw the book I was reading by Elder Henry B. Eyring titled “To Draw Closer To God”. I opened its pages and read the following:
When you’re experiencing a severe trial, ask yourself this question: “Am I trying to do what the Lord would have me do?” Pg 86
I looked down at my to-list and pondered that question. I realized that nothing on that list is what God would have me do right then. I sat back on the couch, closed my eyes and sat in silence.
From Great Pain to Solace
I hadn’t closed my eyes for more than 10 seconds when 3 ideas entered my mind. 3 things that God wanted me to do. They were simple. They were doable. I thought, “I can do those 3 things today.”
As soon as I said that in my mind, this consuming hurt I was experiencing completely washed away. My soul went from destructive despair to complete solace and peace. My entire body relaxed and I found myself breathing normal again.
Time stood still for that moment. I was amazed to witness the power of God in my most difficult time. Where God was able to take me from the depths of Hell and fill my entire being with His love and peace.
It's been 12 years since the house fire. And I experienced many tough days in mourning the loss of my mother. Days of questions, anger, loss, sadness and pain.
But in those moments, I tried following Elder Eyring's counsel in asking the question: “Am I trying to do what the Lord would have me do?”