A few weeks after my 18th birthday, my parents called my sister and me downstairs to talk. They told us that my dad’s sister, Charlotte, was in the hospital and was probably going to pass away.
Unfortunately, being in the hospital was a fairly common occurrence for her, but we could all feel this really was the last time. She was on life support after an accident. A few days later, my dad was on a plane from Georgia, USA, to California to say goodbye to her. And just days after that, my mom, my sister, and I were flying to California for her funeral. She was only 38.
Despite this major tragedy in my life, I was uncomfortably emotionless at the news of her death. I had hardly known my Aunt Charlotte—I had met her only once in person, so we had simply been social media friends. She had struggled with anorexia and other mental health issues throughout her life that had caused her to feel she needed to distance herself from our family. I didn’t have any contact with her until I was about 16, and when she did come into my life, it was awkward for me as a teenager.
What I did know about my aunt was that she loved yoga and wanted to become a yoga teacher. I knew that she wanted nothing more than to be a mom. And I had always heard about how she had a personality so big that it couldn’t be contained.
I couldn’t help but feel that the whole situation seemed so unfair. She was finally managing the chronic pain she had developed during her struggles with anorexia. She had moved to California and become a yoga teacher. It seemed like just when Charlotte was finally getting her life back on track and I finally had the opportunity to get to know her, she died.
It didn’t make any sense to me.
In the April 2021 general conference, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about this infuriating unfairness. He said: “Some unfairness cannot be explained; inexplicable unfairness is infuriating. Unfairness comes from living with bodies that are imperfect, injured, or diseased. Mortal life is inherently unfair.” 1
I felt this very deeply with Charlotte. She had spent most of her life at war with her brain and her body and it had nearly taken her several times, but she was finally starting to get better. All I could think was, “How could God take her back when she seemed to be getting out of the woods? Why, after surviving all her near-death experiences, was it a freak accident that took her life?”
Elder Renlund’s later words struck a deeper chord with me. He said: “Do not let unfairness harden you or corrode your faith in God. Instead, ask God for help. Increase your appreciation for and reliance on the Savior.” 2
My faith had been tested only a few times up until this point in my life, but I struggled with being able to understand this unfairness for years—from when Charlotte died in 2018 until the April 2021 general conference. Although I had always believed in Heavenly Father’s plan for us, this experience had shaken me.
But thanks to that general conference message—given on Easter weekend, appropriately—now I know, like Elder Renlund, that “all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and that by His authority families can be joined together forever.” 3
During this Easter season, the fifth since Charlotte died, I’m grateful for the knowledge that her death isn’t the end. Because of the events of Easter weekend, because of the Resurrection, hope is not lost. I feel confident Charlotte is continuing on the path she started just before her earthly life ended. I know that when other members of my family join her one day, she will be waiting there to welcome them home.
For me, Charlotte is a tangible reminder of the Atonement and Resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I may never know why she was taken from this earth so young. But what I do know is that because He lives, one day she will too. When that day comes, I will finally get to build a relationship with the person she was becoming before her death.