The Blessings and Burdens of Getting Older

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I had a different post planned for tonight, but the thing about tragedy striking is that it’s always unexpected, which is what makes it so difficult to process.

About an hour ago, I checked my phone and got the message that a fellow teacher at my school had died during a rock climbing accident while out with a group of youth. As expected, the news has been shocking and devastating, and our school will be a very solemn place on Monday, indeed.

Earlier today, I was at an extended family reunion with my mom’s side of the family, where I got to see my 95-year-old great-aunt surrounded by many members of her family, both immediate and extended. During the reunion, we also spoke extensively of my great-grandfather (after whom I was named, actually), who lived to be 102 years old. To live until a ripe old age, surrounded by family and friends and wonderful memories, is, I think, the way that most of us would wish to go.

Of course, age has its burdens, too. Besides the physical burdens of an aging body, there is also the inescapable truth that the longer you live, the more tragedy, heartbreak, loss, and suffering that you both have to witness and suffer through yourself. Trials are an inescapable part of mortality.

But during such difficult moments, when it seems like your heart might split into a million pieces because the burdens just seem too heavy and the world seems too unjust, you also realize that in life, everything has its opposite–the joy opposite the sorrow, the pleasure opposite the pain, the tranquility opposite the suffering. One of my favorite scriptures has always been 2 Nephi 2:11, which says:

“For it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one.”

In other words, the only way we learn to truly treasure the beautiful is to experience the awful. And I’ve always found it especially meaningful that the moments of greatest tragedy are often the catalysts that spur on the greatest moments of nobility, compassion, grace, and all-encompassing love.

I am still grieving the loss of my coworker, and I know that next week will be hard on everyone at my school. But I also have the utmost faith that there is a Father in Heaven who loves us, and that one day, all tears will be wiped from all faces and all injustices shall be made up for, a hundred times over, because of the all-encompassing sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of ALL mankind.

My deepest sympathies go out to all those affected by this tragedy today, and I hope that we all can be inspired by this man’s zest and enthusiasm for life, his readiness to always lend a hand and a cheerful word, and the absolute compassion and love and overall sense of goodness that he shed on all those around him. The world needs more men like him to spur us all on to greater things ourselves.

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