Yesterday I went outside to check on my boys, who were riding their bikes along the sidewalk. My oldest, age 7, was pedaling furiously and going nowhere. The chain had fallen off the sprocket. I went over and offered to help.
I flipped the bike over so I could easily access the chain. As I worked on the simple job of re-seating the chain, my son said, “Dad? When I die will I be all covered in blood?”
Somewhat shocked, I looked up at him. He was in tears.
“What? No.” I said. “You’re not going to die.” I reached for him. He sat in my lap as I sat on the curb. He cried and cried. Where had this come from?
“Will my insides fall out?” he asked.
Had my 7 year-old been watching horror movies or something? “No!” I said. Again, I told him he wasn’t going to die.
“No, dad. Everybody is going to die, right?”
I took a deep breath and thought about how this was not a conversation I really wanted to have with a 7 year old. I have a policy of never withholding the truth from my kids, but the thought of telling any of them they would someday die was a nightmare. I tried to dodge his question. “You don’t need to worry about that,” I said. “You just be a happy boy and have fun and don’t worry. You’re going to be alive for a long long long time.”
“I don’t want to die.” Sobbing and tears.
What do I do here? I asked myself. Thoughts of saying the wrong thing and forever traumatizing my boy whirled around in my head. What do I do?
So I told him about the Plan of Salvation.
I told him about how we are all visitors to this world. How when people die, and, yes, we all will someday have to die, it’s just our physical bodies that stop working. Our spirits are eternal. Our spirits never die. I told him about how Jesus Christ is our savior because he made it so we can all be together, even though we sometimes have to be apart for a while. And I taught him about the resurrection, how our spirits will someday return to our bodies and we will never face death again.
He asked if I had ever seen a dead person. I told him about my grandparents and how I had been able to say goodbye to them at funerals. I told him about how, even though they were gone, we often feel their presence near, visiting us.
The moment of crisis passed, and sobs eventually turned into his typical giggles. The idea of relatives visiting when we couldn’t see them made him smile.
We walked together back to the house, with me pulling the repaired bike into the garage. As we walked, I thought about what I had said.
I thought about my little policy of telling the truth to my children. Even telling them that “Santa Claus” is visiting makes my stomach twist into knots. I hate saying anything to them that isn’t true.
In that moment I became so grateful for my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because I already knew that the plan of salvation is real, I didn’t have to put myself in a crisis during my son’s crisis.
When I had been preparing for a mission I had promised to myself that I would not testify of anything I did not have a spiritual witness of. So I had spent days and weeks studying all the different aspects of the gospel. The part I had struggled with the most was the resurrection of the dead. At the time it had just seemed too impossible, to wild, for me to accept.
But I studied, pondered, and prayed on it. And, after a while, the Holy Ghost gave me the insight and witness that the Resurrection is real. That there truly is life after death. That the promises of the Plan of Salvation are real.
Having that testimony became important on my mission, but it became one of the most treasured gifts of my life yesterday, when my son needed my strength to find peace.
I’m so grateful for that witness, and I testify that you can have it as well, so that when the tears and fear come into your own life or into the lives of those you love, you will have the strength you need.