The Sword of Faith

What an emotional week!  I had a lovely visit from a friend who I hadn’t seen in a few years.  In that time, she has decided that her faith wasn’t helping her out the way it used to, so she decided to stop believing.  We talked in depth about faith and expectations and happiness and everything tied up in our belief systems.  It was an interesting philosophical exercise.  I appreciated and respected her decision to clear out her beliefs in order to get a clearer picture of who she was and how she was supposed to respond to God.  I thought, yes–this is a healthy, good step.

The day after she left, I got a text:  “Aunt Dorothy died yesterday.  That’s all I know.”

Then PHUM.  It hit.

Shock first.  She was just 56 years old.  Younger than my mom.  It can’t be. My dear Aunt Dorothy, so kind and sweet and attentive.  It can’t be that she is really gone.

Then despair. She died of heat exhaustion on a hike in southern Utah.  The news reports said that her husband left her on the trail to go and get help and by the time they had returned, she had died.  That broke my heart.  The true story was that he was with her up until she breathed her last labored breath, then he left to find help.  And he was suffering from the heat almost as badly as she was, so it is a miracle that he made it out alive.

Then sadness. Seven kids.  My age and younger.  One just finishing up his mission in Chile.

And finally, when all of the misunderstandings were corrected and the Spirit was allowed to do its work, I found peace.  She was young, healthy and vibrant.  She was also a wonderful, sweet, kind and generous woman.  For some reason, she was needed even more on the other side of the veil than she was needed here.  And the only way for her to leave this life was in such a severe way.  She probably would have survived most everything else.  This was not senseless.  We don’t understand it all, but there is a plan for her and her family and for some reason, this is part of it.

And then I realized:  Faith isn’t just a philosophical exercise.  Faith isn’t something you can put aside for a time to sort things out.  Faith is a sword.  A weapon, a tool.  You can use it to beat back despair, grief and sadness.  You use it to make sense of a senseless world.  And it has to be sharp and ready at all times because you never know when your dear aunt is going to go hiking and not come back.  Or your brother is going to drown.  Or your husband is going to lose his job.  Faith is all we have to fight against this unpredictable world.  And maybe it is all in our heads.  Maybe our brainwaves create spiritual experiences.  I honestly don’t care.  My faith brings me peace and happiness and comfort.  My wonderful quality of life is directly related to my faith.  And that is real and precious enough to me.

Dorothy Smith Gillespie 1956-2013

Dorothy Smith Gillespie 1956-2013

Can’t you just tell how wonderful she was?

8 responses to “The Sword of Faith

  1. I’m so sorry about your aunt. This post was lovely. I loved this: “You can use [faith] to beat back despair, grief and sadness.” I just loved the whole last paragraph.

  2. Your mom did such a good job speaking today and said you were a help in writing her talk. It has been a spiritual and exhausting week.

  3. Oh, Jan, I am so sorry for you and your family- especially her husband and kids. I can’t imagine. But it is so true that our faith brings us peace and happiness and comfort– when nothing else can. I will keep you all in my prayers. She is beautiful and yes, I can tell, wonderful too.

  4. I knew your Aunt Dorothy, she and her family lived in my ward in Washington. She was such a lovely woman and ALWAYS had a smile on her face. Even though I was a young girl, thinking back, I remember her kindness. I just learned of her passing today, my thoughts and prayers are with her family and close friends.

    • Lacie, then we are both lucky to have known her. She was amazing. Amazing enough that you remembered her 20+ years later.

  5. You don’t just put away your faith. I’m reminded of a neighbor who left the church, had her name removed from the records even. But when her parent’s died that was the belief she fell back on in order to find some comfort and to make sense of the situation.

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