My last post here at Segullah was Thanksgiving Day. A brief listing of my treasures. My gratitudes. An attempt to be aware of this wondrous life. From its smallest snow-crystalled beauties to the greatest and grandest gifts of children, family, and the Lord himself. Written without the slightest intimation that one of our treasures would slip from us just hours after my posting.
On November 25th, 2016, Doug’s little brother, Steve, passed away in his sleep. Steven Garth Arveseth. The youngest of six brothers. Nicknamed “the favorite,” because, he truly was. Brother, son, husband, father of three young children, friend, brilliant technical accounting mind. Gone. And for weeks we have been trying to pick ourselves up from the blow of it.
Usually I have words. Words are how I process, how I feel, how I make sense of the world. And while we have been blessed with exquisite insight, comfort, even divine teaching through this sudden and painful loss, I am still unable to find my words.
So, as we do in hard times, I will lean on another.
Doug will share with you, some of what he said at Steven’s funeral on Monday. I hope, in his words, you will feel the unbreakable bond of family, of brothers who would do anything for each other.
I also hope you will feel the Holy Ghost witness to you of that unspeakable gift Paul wrote about. The gift of Christ’s Atonement. The scope of it, the depth of it.
I am positive we simply cannot comprehend all that it covers. All that it does. But I trust in it. And I trust our Lord Jesus. That He has every magnificent capability to rescue, restore, and make right. If we let Him.
The following portion of Doug’s remarks from December 19th, I share with Doug’s permission. He spoke directly to Steven’s children:
I was recently watching a television program about a family with 7 children that live a lifestyle very different than my own. A lifestyle that requires them to live off the land and hunt and farm for much of their food. In one of the episodes, two of the sons were leaving to go hunt for food. As they departed, instead of their mother saying “goodbye” or “see you soon” she said “more.” The two sons also responded by saying “more.” The mother explained that when any family member departs they say “more” instead of “goodbye” because they want to see “more” of each other. They want to experience “more” together when they return.
When I heard this, it captured how I was feeling about your dad. I wanted “more” of him. More of his laughter, more of his pranks, more of his teaching, more of his happiness. As I have thought about this, I have felt reassured that we will have “more” of your dad and that you will have more of him in your lives as you grow older. He is still your dad. Your family relationships have tremendous meaning and purpose that began before life here on earth and that will last beyond this life. The proclamation on the family states that the family is ordained of God.
In my family, I often say to my kids that I believe we were meant to be a family. That before we came to earth we chose to be together as a family. I have felt that this is so because there will be unique challenges in our lives where we will need to rely upon one another in our family to help each other during the challenges of life. I believe this is true for your family as well.
There is divine purpose in your family. Your dad was meant to be your dad. You will be with him again one day. And I feel certain that he will continue to be involved in your lives, perhaps even more so now. Your incredible mom was meant to be your mom. You children were meant to be siblings. The Lord knew, and I think you knew before coming to earth, that together you would be able to help one another here in mortality during challenging and difficult times, especially now during this tragic time. And you are blessed with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins that love you and are praying for you.
Even with this understanding, it is still hard. Like you, I have asked, Why did this happen? Why did Steven die at such a young age with a young family? What purpose could there be in his passing at this stage of his life? I know you have had questions and maybe you have wondered if Heavenly Father really loves you. Maybe you have even felt forgotten by Him during this time of sorrow. Is it okay to ask these questions? Yes. It is. I believe Heavenly Father and the Savior want us to ask them these questions.
Even Jesus experienced the loneliness that comes from feeling forgotten by Heavenly Father during the most difficult and painful part of His life. As the Savior suffered on the cross, he cried out to Heavenly Father saying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” When the Savior needed the comfort of his Father most he continued to seek the Father out in prayer, despite feeling alone and forgotten. If the Savior felt this way and asked this question, then I know he wants us to ask Heavenly Father the same question when we feel this way. And while the answers do not always come as quickly as we’d like, He hears our prayers and will answer them at a time and in a way that is best for us.
I can understand how experiences like this could weaken someone’s faith. I’ve learned about the gospel and the Atonement all of my life. And now I find myself thinking, do I really believe this? If I do, then there is hope that all that has happened fits into an overall plan for Steve’s progression and welfare, and the welfare of your family.
I still have questions that remain unanswered. I don’t understand the full purposes of his passing at this time, but I will put my trust in Heavenly Father, the Savior, and the miracle of the Atonement. Despite my doubts, I am all in.
I am learning that the Atonement is so much more than I understood before, and that only the Savior’s Atonement can compensate for things that, to me, seem left undone.
During this Christmas week, we celebrate the birth and life of our Savior. It is a celebration of light and life for all of us. Because of the birth, life, and Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have hope that every pain, suffering, and feeling of loneliness is understood by the Savior. That the penalty for our sins has been paid.
When we have our own silent nights that seem to be filled with darkness and despair, the light of the Atonement can shine through it all and fill us with hope, joy, and happiness. As we trust in their loving plan.
There is so much more for us. More of Steven. More joy. More life. More forgiveness. Always more.
Because of our blessed Savior.
“Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)