Thursday, October 6, 2011

Grandma could teach a thing or two to Hamlet

My blogging schedule has been a little off lately. My grandma died last Thursday, and I was out of town for her funeral in Everett, WA on Monday. Not only was I gone, but my wife, daughter, brother, his wife, and cousin and I all drove to Everett from Provo. We left as soon as my LSAT was over on Saturday, arrived in Everett at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning. On Tuesday morning, we left Everett and got back to Provo at 2 a.m. Wednesday. Oh, and did I mention that the six of us were in a Ford Taurus? And there are really only 5 1/2 seats? And if any of you have children, you know that even with a small child you still have to bring tons of stuff.

So, anyway, I had quite a weekend. Of course, I spent a lot of time thinking about my grandma. Grandma is probably the relative I'm closest to who isn't in my immediate family. I was fortunate enough to be able to speak at her funeral and represent her 25 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Grandma holding my daughter, Allisyn, when Allisyn was about two weeks old

Anyone who knew my grandma knew about her musical talents. She earned a bachelor's degree from BYU in music, and a master's degree in music theory (in 1962, a time when a lot of women didn't get master's degrees). She sang, played the piano and the violin, and taught her seven children to do the same. One of those children, my mom, taught her seven children all the songs too.

And now that I have a little family of my own, and it's time to sing my little girl to sleep, what songs come to mind? They're songs my grandma taught me. The first song I remember learning that I still know today is "I Am a Child of God," but the second song that I still know is "Old Zip Coon," thanks to my grandma.

Another thing I loved about my grandma was that she was a peacemaker. My mom told me stories about how her dad was always the disciplinarian, and it was my grandma who would intercede and advocate for her children. She was always calm and sweet, when I fought with my little siblings or didn't want to eat my vegetables. "How do you know you don't like them if you haven't tried them? Just try them, and if you don't like them you don't have to eat the rest." She was able to see the good in both sides of a situation, and bring people together. At her funeral, people told stories of her being able to deliver a plate of homemade cookies to the mean neighbors across the street.

For the blog today, I found an interesting way to relate my grandma's passing away to Shakespeare. In Hamlet's famous "to be or not to be" soliloquy, he begins by suggesting that maybe death is favorable to life.

"To die - to sleep -
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die - to sleep."

But then, Hamlet looks at the downside of "sleeping":

"To sleep- perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. ...
But that the dread of something after death-
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns- puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?"

Death may be some kind of release, but it is an "undiscover'd country," something we're not familiar with. Just like the dreams we have are unpredictable, so is death. We can't determine whether death will be a sweet dream or a nightmare.

But Hamlet didn't know what my grandma knows, and what I know now because of my grandma's example. Yes, when you fall asleep, your dreams are random. But, when it comes to the "eternal sleep," we point our "dreams" in a certain direction based on how we live.

Because my grandma was so sweet and righteous, she had nothing to fear when death came. She lived in a way that she set herself up for good "dreams" after she died.

Maybe death isn't an "undiscover'd country" at all. We discover it in life. The country we discover in life becomes our country in death.

Because of my testimony of resurrection and the plan of salvation, funerals are not as sad as I imagine it would be for people who don't believe in a life after death. I was crying a lot at Grandma's funeral, but I don't think it was because Grandma was gone. I think it was the Spirit witnessing to me the exemplary life my grandma lived, and teaching me what I need to do to live up to that standard. Hearing about how amazing my grandma's life was makes me want to make my life more amazing.

If I live a life like Grandma did, then death won't be an "undiscover'd country." It will be a "consummation."

1 comment:

  1. Hey J.J. sorry to hear about your Grandma. I hope all is well in the Despain home.