On a cold November day I sat holding my dying husband’s hand. My eyes were drawn to the pulse in his neck as he sat in his chair, unresponsive.
Only eight months previously, the day before his 70th birthday, he had undergone open-heart surgery to replace a diseased heart valve. Until that time he had been a happy, active man, youthful looking, full of humor, loved and respected by all who knew him.
After the operation he had tried hard to recover his strength by following all of the doctor’s instructions, but to little avail. His body refused to recover from the ordeal it had been subjected to, and although the artificial valve was operating well, his heart began to fail. As the months passed he was frequently taken back to the hospital.
His physical suffering was intense. At various times the medication adversely affected him, and his one functioning kidney also began to fail. But more intense than that was the emotional and spiritual turmoil he experienced as he struggled to understand what was happening to him. We suffered together.
He missed attending church and the temple, where he had long been a devoted patron. He had often borne testimony of his assurance that when he died he would be greeted by many for whom he had done the work in the house of the Lord.
Once he knew that his time on this earth was short, he had all the family gather so he could give each one a last blessing. There was such an outpouring of the Spirit on that day! It was obvious at this stage that he was happy, even excited, at the thought of meeting his Savior. “What is the point,” he once said to me, “of believing the gospel all your life if, when the time comes, you don’t want to go?” I know the only thing he regretted about being called home was leaving me behind.
The last few days were hard for both of us as his heart and kidney failed and the toxins increased in his weakened body. There is not much dignity in dying in such circumstances, and I prayed for him to be released from his sufferings.
That morning I had taken special care and time as I sponged him and got him out of bed and into his chair, stopping frequently to hug him and tell him I loved him, even though he did not seem to know what was going on around him and did not respond. As I sat beside him and watched that pulse, it throbbed slowly, slowly again; then, no more. He was gone.
Still holding his hand, I visualized him walking away, all the cares of mortality gone, gladly greeting his parents and family members—and that host of those for whom he had done temple work. I was particularly aware that the meeting with his father would be especially poignant, since my husband had been only 10 months old when his father died of wounds received during World War I. Then, too, I imagined his joy in meeting his first wife, who was killed in the London Blitz of World War II, immediately after their wedding. I knew that all these people loved him as much as I did, and I could accept that it was now their turn to have him among them. I was glad his sufferings were over.
At Easter time I am again reminded of my testimony of the reality of the Resurrection. Without this knowledge, how could I have borne the sorrow of losing a dear husband and then a daughter only two years later? I know they are yet alive and will be there to greet me when it is my turn to pass over that threshold we call death. “There is a resurrection,” proclaimed the prophet Abinadi; “therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ” (Mosiah 16:8). I am so grateful to our Savior, whose Atonement made possible the gift of eternal life.
M. J. Baynes, a member of the Ashton-under-Lyne Ward, serves as a family history consultant in the Ashton England Stake.