On Monday we went to Cedar City to attend the funeral of Raquel Wilson, the teenage daughter of our good friends, Dr. Mike and Jenni Wilson.
Aaron and Mike met each other while serving LDS missions in Uruguay over 25 years ago and, in fact, it was Mike who noticed Tori's acute ataxia and recommended that we see a specialist to accelerate her diagnosis. Last year, shortly after learning that Tori's treatment failed, the Wilsons learned that their oldest daughter, Raquel, had brain cancer.
We knew it would be a difficult thing to attend Raquel's funeral. We had to steel ourselves not only for the onslaught of sadness that comes when remembering the life of a vibrant girl whose life is tragically cut short, but also for the bubbling up of our own grief at the recent passing of our own daughter, only nine months ago.
Raquel’s life was beautifully and graciously honored by her family and friends, and it was striking to us how similarly she and Tori acted in the face of debilitating disease. As the shadow of death became more certain, both girls were determined to be positive and grateful. Their silliness and zest for life remained until the end.
They were always cheery and uplifting — but the most salient aspect of Raquel’s funeral was the message that we heard over and over — that she was intent on telling everyone how much she loved them. Raquel would say it, she would make notes that said it, she would sign it in ASL, anything to get the message out to those who came to visit her.
Our Tori was the same way, she was intently focused on making sure that she let everyone know how much she loved them. Even when she lost the ability to speak, she could somehow still say, “I love you” right up to the time that she slipped into a coma before she died. Tori couldn't help but express her love to others.
These two girls both knew that their conditions were terminal, they knew that they weren’t long for this world, and they both chose the message of LOVE to broadcast to everyone around them.
I’ve heard of this before. My father-in-law, Les Campbell, has been studying Near Death Experiences (NDEs) for years, and is working on a compendium that catalogs the elements of these brushes with the other side of the veil. He has found the same thing, that LOVE is the message that people who have glimpsed death are determined to share. LOVE and service, which is really just LOVE put into action.
I’ve paged through many, many pages of his source material, and drawn the same conclusion. These two girls and countless others who are at death's doorstep all sing the same song. They all have a burning desire to brighten their corners of the world with LOVE.
What a beautiful message! There are so many things that have the potential to divide us, to magnify our differences and to make us feel separate from each other. But people who have come face to face with their mortality choose LOVE. I trust their message. It feels right that their greatest wish was to fill their last remaining moments on this earth sharing their LOVE with others.
In his remarks, Raquel's father noted that what this world lacks isn't LOVE, but the expression of the LOVE that already exists in our hearts. LOVE shouldn't be treated as a limited resource, guarded with stinginess, or carefully measured out to only those who deserve it.
I pray that I will burn this into my heart — that I will not forget that, in the end, it really is all about LOVE and expressing this LOVE to everyone.