From Beyond the Veil
At first I thought I was dreaming. Yet it seemed too real for that. I found myself sitting up.
“Brigitte, what are you doing here?” I wanted to say when I saw her at the foot of my bed. “You’re dead. You died two months ago!” But her smile kept me silent. It was very soft and compelling. There was no haste or urgency about her presence, just utter peace. I noticed how much more beautiful she was now, especially her eyes. They had always been captivating, almost violet blue, but that night their unearthly clearness seemed to radiate eternity. She didn’t speak; I couldn’t tell how long she stayed, but it was long enough to make me feel elated. But after she left, I asked myself why I hadn’t found out what she desired of me. Surely she had a reason for visiting me. My sleep was gone. I hoped she would return to ease my mind, but nothing more happened that night.
Brigitte and I had met in the third grade. Just baptized, I boasted that I belonged to the “only true church.” This brought some hostile remarks from some classmates, but fortunately Brigitte came to my aid. She was kind and understanding, and since she was the ideal of the class my status rose again. That was the beginning of a friendship that obviously went beyond the grave.
She came with me to Sunday School a few times. Her family was very active in the Lutheran faith but always showed respect for other religions. One of my most exhilarating moments came when Brigitte, her mother, and her older sister joined in a ward outing one day at a nearby forest. (Her father was at sea.)
It was May, with a sky so blue that even the gold of the sparkling sunrays seemed pale. We sang, hiked, and played games. I can still remember the pumping of my heart as I watched the bishop bear his testimony to Brigitte’s mother. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had instantly requested baptism in the nearby river.
“Do you still belong to the Mormon Church?” asked Brigitte’s mother when I visited her after hearing of Brigitte’s sudden death. I was seventeen by then.
“Oh yes! I don’t think I could ever live without my church.”
“That’s wonderful,” Mrs. Schmidt replied. “I remember Brigitte was very fond of your religion. She often talked about your concept of God. It is indeed quite different from the traditional.”
She showed me her daughter’s sketch books and art works. I was stunned by such great talent. Brigitte had died of blood poisoning at a famous art school in Munich.
“She would have become one of the best of sculptresses. She was far ahead of her years. Everyone marveled at her works,” Mrs. Schmidt mourned quietly. She opened a file with newspaper articles that raved about her outstanding contributions; some works were already exhibited in a museum.
“I hardly ever remember seeing Brigitte without a sketch book,” I commented.
“Oh, you should have seen her in the orphanages and children’s hospitals where she made her drawings! Those little children … how much they loved her.”
I knew. As I touched the beautiful clay models of the toddlers and babies she had created, I could also tell how much love Brigitte felt for those little ones.
“Perhaps she was too good for this world,” said Mrs. Schmidt.
“I don’t know.” I searched for something comforting. “There are many things we don’t understand. But I know this without a doubt: Where Brigitte is now she is very happy. And she is learning and progressing as she was in this life. Perhaps much more rapidly than on this earth.”
“I wish we could have had her a little longer. She was too young to go so suddenly.”
“I know; but you will see her again.” I put my arm around Mrs. Schmidt, who wiped her eyes. “Brigitte is already preparing herself for that day; I know that for a fact.”
“I hope what you say is true,” said Mrs. Schmidt. “I’ve always believed in the perpetuation of life.”
“It is true. I know it’s true! Not only faith but logic tells me it couldn’t be any other way.”
The hands of life’s clock moved on. Then suddenly my recollection of Brigitte was revived by seeing her stand at my bedside in the night. The same unearthly smile, her irresistible eyes, not a word. In a year or so she visited again, and again the following year. I noticed as I grew older that she too appeared more mature, lovelier and more beautiful than ever. And it seemed that she always left just when I wanted to say something.
Why didn’t she speak then? Perhaps because there were no temples then in war-torn Europe—I could not have known then that I would come to America and be married in the Salt Lake Temple. Had she asked me to do her work then, it would only have worried me, for I didn’t know that someday it would be possible.
After I had been through the temple, Brigitte’s visits became more frequent. Until then I had kept my experience to myself, but when I related it to my husband he reminded me of what I already knew deep in my heart: that I was the only mortal link between my friend and the blessings of the plan of salvation beyond the veil. I felt that Brigitte had been instructed about the gospel plan in the spirit world and was willing to accept it. But I had no idea where her family was. Bombs had leveled our childhood home during the war. I was sure every record had been destroyed.
The week before a stake temple assignment, she appeared on three consecutive nights. On the third night I woke my husband. We both went to our knees to ask how to obtain Brigitte’s records. The answer came instantly. It was like a sentence I had read or heard: “Call your father and ask for Sister R.’s address. Write to her for help.” (Sister R., a genealogical researcher, had helped my family acquire much data.) I obeyed. Within ten days I had photostatic copies of the death certificate, which gave me all the information needed to fill out the endowment sheets for Brigitte.
I couldn’t believe it was so simple! How much time I had been wasting! I was ashamed and prayed for forgiveness.
The papers had to be processed. I asked for permission to do the endowment work, and my request was granted.
A few weeks went by. Again I woke from my sleep to see Brigitte standing in a place that resembled a baptismal chamber. She wore a white gown and for the first time she spoke: “Now I will have the opportunity also to get married, and to have children,” she said, glowing with joy. The next morning I received a letter telling me that the baptism had been done and that I should come do the endowment work within the month. My mother passed away that day.
It was a very special day for me when I finally went to the temple for Brigitte. Although my heart was heavy for my mother, I felt the peace that comes from doing what is right. I imagined Brigitte and my mother, together during this important ordinance. I never saw Brigitte again nor do I expect to. Not in this life. She has no need to contact me anymore. She is progressing toward the celestial kingdom where, I know, she will be a wife and a mother. My goal is to live worthy to find myself in that realm and to be with loved ones.
To Temper the Proud Heart
The spirit of a visiting General Authority in our stake conference some months ago was to motivate me to one of the most stimulating adventures I have ever known. He was so humble that I was deeply moved, and I resolved that very day to search for the gift of humility.
I didn’t realize at the time the magnitude of such an endeavor, that it would take years of tempering by the influence of the gospel and the sweet spirit of the Savior to find humility. But I longed for this virtue, so akin to love and selflessness, and which on analysis seemed to permeate all of the Christian attitudes in life. So I went in prayer to my Father in heaven and asked how I might go about learning humility. I would accept any plan, no matter how difficult.
The answer I received was as clear as it was surprising. To my spiritual ear, the Spirit said: You must start by giving service of all kinds to those around you, service that won’t be recognized or perhaps even appreciated right away. Do things without anyone knowing, or even without thought of someone finding out. And secondly, actively engage in the work that tempers a proud heart—genealogy.
I was disappointed. Genealogy! I had what I thought was a testimony of that work and I realized its importance, but that wasn’t the answer I wanted. Still, since I felt the answer had come from the Lord, I had to consider it. And it seemed that genealogical research was truly a work for the humble. Years of searching out deceased relatives would build reliance upon the Lord. There would be no one around to pat me on the back when I glowed with accomplishment. The success of such an undertaking wouldn’t be known perhaps for years and years, maybe not until the Millennium.
There are likely many other ways to learn humility. But for me, at this elementary stage of progress, genealogy is the best way. I thrill every time I sit down to write another name. Has this person already accepted the gospel and been waiting a long time for the work to be done? I don’t know, but I do know the work is satisfying. Service to both the living and the dead was my counsel from the Lord, and I have come to appreciate the answer I received: Genealogy tempers a proud heart.
Telling My Father I Loved Him
She stood before us at stake conference, relating a simple, but effective, incident of a Sunday School teacher’s advice, which eventually changed the life of her inactive father. This was the experience she shared:
I am sure my Sunday School teacher was unaware of the impossibility of her request. “Class,” she had said, “I want each of you to promise that some time during this next week you will tell your father you love him.”
It sounded like such a simple thing. But I knew I couldn’t do it. Perhaps if I had the kind of father some of the others had, I said to myself, I could say those words to him. But Dad was completely inactive in the Church. He appeared to me to be insensitive and the communication gap between us was wide. We had not talked seriously together about anything for years. Besides, “I love you” was something that I didn’t think was ever said in my family. I felt I could never do what my Sunday School teacher had just asked.
After the closing prayer, I waited until the others had left, and then I approached my teacher.
“Sister Innes, what you’ve asked us to do is good. But I think I need to be excused from that assignment. You know how my dad is, and, well, I just couldn’t say something like that to him.”
But Sister Innes wasn’t convinced. She looked at me and said, “No matter what your dad is or does, he needs to hear those words from you, just as much as any other dad needs to hear them. I want you to promise me that you’ll fill this assignment.”
I agreed, and during the next few days I felt a great burden. I knew it would only be lifted when I fulfilled my commitment. One night, after the others had gone to bed, I nervously waited for the right moment to say those words. Dad was smoking a cigarette and stood up to put the ashes in the trash. With a trembling, nervous, almost inaudible voice I said, “Dad, I love you.”
He had his back to me, and he didn’t turn around or say anything or do anything. I was sure he hadn’t heard me. And so, weakly, I repeated it. “Dad, I love you.” And then, very slowly, he turned toward me. My insensitive, untouchable dad had tears streaming down his cheeks. He put his arms around me and held me close and kissed the top of my head. That was the first time in my sixteen years that I could remember my dad and me embracing.
Today I’m a mother with my own big family. I love you is a familiar phrase, used often in our home. And what of my beloved dad? Today he is a high priest, working diligently at building up the kingdom of God. My heart is full as I think of a faithful Sunday School teacher who loved me and gave me the challenge to express love to my dad.
Lois Christensen, a homemaker, is the Relief Society spiritual living instructor in the American Fork Fourteenth Ward, American Fork Utah North Stake.