While working as a therapist in the prison system, inmates would share with me their sadness when one of their fellow inmates was completing their sentence and being released into the community. Of course, they were happy that their friend was returning to the life on the “outside,” but they were sad to lose the friend. With their efforts in therapy, they had developed deep, healthy relationships based on trust, kindness, and caring. For many, it was the first genuine friendship they ever had. Even when both would be back in the community, probation rules prevented contact. So, they were sad. I asked, “What would it be like to be grateful for the time you had together instead of being sad that it is ending?”
As missionaries, senior missionaries, or young missionaries, during our 18 to 24 months of missionary service, we have the opportunity and blessing to meet, to serve, and to be served by many, many good people. Experiences like that happen throughout our lives. Oh, how those experiences enrich us! That is such a tender mercy from the Lord.
One of our hymns shares this tender feeling:
Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.
What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.
—- (Hymn 293 Each Life That Touches Ours for Good, LDS Hymnbook, English version).
We may feel a little sadness as we part, whether it’s leaving home to go on a mission, whether it’s a transfer to a new companion or a new area, or whether it’s leaving our mission and returning home. Whether it’s moving to a new city, a new neighborhood, or a new ward. We meet people, we develop meaningful relationships, then we may not see them again in this life. These may include our missionary companions, other missionaries, our mission president and his wife, ward and branch members, people we have taught, people we have baptized, people we have ministered to, people who have ministered to us … so many others who have touched and blessed our lives. It may be friends, neighbors, and work associates. After parting, we might stay in touch through social media, yet it is not quite the same. What if we are simply grateful for the time we did have together? What if we enjoy memories of our relationships, our experiences, and the blessings we have shared?
In many ways, it is similar to when a loved one passes away. Our grief can be soothed by our gratitude, and our sense of separation can be comforted by our knowledge and testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, by the reality of the plan of salvation, and by the infinite and eternal atonement of Jesus Christ. That makes it all possible! We can have confidence and feel peace knowing that the “… same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us [after this life], only it will be coupled with eternal glory … “ (Doctrine and Covenants 130:2).
May we cherish life and cherish our relationships with a thankful heart! May we acknowledge His hand in all things and give gratitude for the experiences we share in participating in the ongoing restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for the matchless gift of His Divine Son that blesses us and blesses our relationships now and eternally.