No, I’m not expecting to die very soon! Read on. In the evening of May 19, 2004, my wife and I were in an automobile accident. I was taken to a hospital and checked for injuries. None were found, and I was released from the hospital. Two days later I was back in the hospital as a “code blue” emergency. My ribs were broken during the accident, and they punctured my lungs. When I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, my oxygen level was very low. And, while in the ICU, I developed a serious case of pneumonia. I was in the ICU for four weeks and was unconscious for most of that time. My Mormon Priesthood leader visited me even though I was unconscious and didn’t know he was there. He asked a nurse about my chances for survival, and she said, “He doesn’t have any. Unless he has a strong body, he won’t make it.” Twice during the four weeks my family was called in because I wasn’t expected to make it through the night. The first time my family was called in, my wife was in a different hospital recovering from her injuries and couldn’t come to my hospital; her brother went to her bedside while my children came to mine.
Thanks to the grace of God, the skill of the hospital staff, and to my strong body as a runner, I did make it. I mention my strong body as a runner, because after I left the ICU, I went to a different hospital for therapy. The first time I tried to stand by myself, I could only do it for two seconds. I had to learn to walk: first just standing until my legs could support my body, then using a wheel chair, then a walker, then a cane, and finally by myself. During my 10 days in therapy, when a new nurse would come into the room, she would say, “So, you’re the runner.”
When I left the hospital I couldn’t walk up stairs very well and needed a banister so I could pull myself up the stairs. During a month of home therapy at my sister-in-law’s house, my wife and I took daily walks and were walking a mile when we went to our own home. A week after arriving home, I went for my first run and could only go 1/8 mile before I had to stop. I was a former marathoner and was running about 15 miles a week when the accident occurred, and now I could only run 1/8 mile. But, I was alive!
During the next year, I had surgery for a double hernia, 10 surgeries for very large Basal Cell skin cancers, and my gall bladder removed. That year was not easy, but I continued to run each week except for a couple of weeks after the hernia and gall bladder surgeries. During the two years since the accident, I have gone from a run of 1/8 mile to four runs totaling 30 miles per week, the longest run being 13 miles. In two weeks, on August 19, 2006, I will run the Great Salt Lake Half Marathon from Clearfield, Utah to Antelope Island in the lake (no, this isn’t a triathlon, and I’ll be running on a causeway rather than swimming). Hopefully in 2007 I’ll run another half-marathon. My other running goals are to run a half-marathon in less than 2 hours, and to run a half-marathon at any speed at age 100.
After recovering from the accident, I realized that life is fragile — it could end at any moment, and I decided to plan my own funeral, because I wanted it to achieve certain goals. Well, not plan it, because my wife and children need to be free to do that, but to specify a few things to be included in the funeral. We Latter-day Saints believe that we are here in mortality to learn and grow to be like Jesus Christ. To learn from our trials. To learn to be loving, kind, and forgiving like Jesus. We believe that when our loved ones pass on, they do so as a graduation from mortality. They do so as a reunion with their loved ones who have gone on before. As Brigham Young said, “We watch the ship as it disappears over the horizon, and we say, ‘It’s gone.’ At that moment, others say, ‘Here it comes.” Because of this, I want my funeral to be a celebration of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I want it to be a time of rejoicing and happiness. Yes, my family will have sorrow at my passing, but not because I’m gone forever. They will mourn my absence but will rejoice that I’ve gone on to the next phase of my growth. They will rejoice that I will be there to greet them when they leave this life; I will be there to say, “Welcome!”
So, here are the things I want in my funeral. My family already knows this, and I’m going public with this list in the hopes that it may help some who are burdened with grief and sorrow, that it may help them rejoice in the Atonement and the hope of the resurrection.
- I want the feeling during the funeral to be one of rejoicing and happiness. My funeral is not the time to mourn and suffer in grief
- I would like two songs to be used during the funeral. First is Amazing Grace. That song is not to be sung in the traditional way, a song of grief, but is to be sung at a faster tempo in a spirit of celebration and rejoicing of my love of Christ and of my life. I especially like the rendition by the BYU Mens Chorus. My kids and grand kids have a lot of musical talent, and I’m hoping they will do a nice instrumental and vocal rendition of the song. The following verses are to be used.
Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.*
Go back and read the verses again. They are full of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and our living with God in the Eternities. No grief and sadness there. Rejoicing in an eternal home!
- The next song is from the green LDS hymn book, #284, If you Could Hie to Kolob, verses 3-5. I love that song because it is so descriptive of Eternal Life! I want this song be the last song before the prayer. Here are the verses.
The works of God continue,
And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression
Have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter;
There is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit;
There is no end to race.
There is no end to virtue;
There is no end to might;
There is no end to wisdom;
There is no end to light.
There is no end to union;
There is no end to youth;
There is no end to priesthood
There is no end to truth.
There is no end to glory
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.
There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.**
During my four weeks in the ICU, I drifted in and out of the coma, and I remember being filled with gratitude for the Atonement, for Jesus Christ and his love for me, and for the love of my family and those attending me. I remember having no bitterness towards the driver who caused the accident, no bitterness toward anyone. I want my funeral to be my final thanks to my Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ.
* The first 3 verses were written by John Newton. Verse 4 was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Widipedia, Amazing Grace)
** Text by William W. Phelps