This morning I had a very special experience… I went to the funeral of a child.
Admittedly, this generally this does not rank very high on the list of things I want to do on a beautiful Saturday morning. Funerals are emotional times, especially when the deceased is a young child, whose short life, still full of infinite possibility, seems to have been so unfairly cut short. And, in our hearts we want to scream out into the dark universe a tear-faltering cry of “Why?!?” It seems so unfair.
This morning, we met to celebrate the life of the son of an old friend of mine. This young boy, just shy of his fifth birthday, has recently captured national and international attention, as his neighborhood banded together to push forward the calendar and celebrate Halloween, his birthday and Christmas in the time he had left. This boy’s name is Ethan.
Having been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was only 22 months old, Ethan battled with this disease for more than half his life. That meant endless trips to and from the hospital with extended stays hooked up to all sorts of machines and other medical equipment. Yet, he touched the lives of all whom he came in contact.
Today was the day to celebrate his special life. If you’ve never been to a LDS funeral before, it’s a little bit different than you may expect. It’s a time when sadness, happiness, faith and mourning mix in a spiritual expression of love and hope.
A comforting, spiritual funeral is of great importance. It helps console the bereaved and establishes a transition from mourning to the reality that we must move forward with life. Whether death is expected or a sudden shock, an inspirational funeral where the doctrines of resurrection, the mediation of Christ, and certainty of life after death are taught strengthens those who must now move on with life.
~ Boyd K. Packer (Funerals—A Time for Reverence)
Central to LDS doctrine is the Eternal Family, which is the belief that families properly sealed together form an eternal bond, one which cannot be broken by death. So, in some ways, an LDS funeral is a temporary goodbye to those who we love.
There’s also lots of stories.
We also celebrate the life of the love one lost for but a time. The stories told about Ethan spoke of the kindness and love he showed others. Even burdened with a crippling disease, his answer was not a bitter resentment for life or God, but instead growing faith and love.
In other words, Ethan taught through action what so many of us have forgotten as adults. As much as we would like to believe we can, we have very little (if any) control over life. What we do have control over is how we react and what we do with what we are given.
With what he was given, he chose to love and have faith. That is why he is a superhero.
In his final days, his story blessed the lives of many all over the world. Ethan will always be remembered as the superhero who brought the world together.
~ Obituary of Ethan Ronald Van Leuven
That is why he is my superhero.
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