The Beginning
April 1985

“The Beginning,” New Era, Apr. 1985, 38

Participatory Journalism:
The Beginning

Their simple question opened a golden door of understanding.

“Wake up, girls. The neighbor just came with a message that we need to go to the ranch right away.”

Mom’s voice was quiet but filled with urgency. We were in the process of moving to a ranch several miles away, and Dad was living there by himself until we could join him.

“Why do we have to go to the ranch?” I thought. But the reason for going didn’t really matter as I pulled my nine-year-old body into the pickup truck and went back to sleep.

As Mom pulled the truck up to the house I woke up and saw Dad coming out. He went to Mom and in a low voice told her something that made her gasp, then cry. What was it? There was a stillness in the air that seemed to shout at me, a deathly stillness. My heart began to beat a little faster though I couldn’t understand why.

We walked into the house to find Grandpa seated on the couch. Why was he here, and where was Grandma? Suddenly I knew, without being told, why the stillness was so empty and why my grandfather was sitting there without my grandmother. I found myself hoping against hope that I was wrong.

The next few minutes were spent in listening to my father call the mortuary (a foreign word to me) and trying to get rid of the big lump in my throat. I wasn’t going to cry; I was simply scared. Soon Dad took us upstairs to put us to bed. I silently waited for what was coming, still hoping I was wrong.

“Girls, something happened to your grandma today. She was in a car accident, and she was killed. We won’t see her anymore.”

Simple, quiet, direct, and powerful. Oh, how powerful! I started crying but not just for the loss of my grandmother. Something more consuming had entered my mind. The lump returned to my throat and my heart began to beat even faster.

Was she really dead? Of course she was. But was she really? What was death? Could she feel anything now? Could she see me thinking about her? Was she just floating in space? I couldn’t imagine her life just ending and nothing more. Something inside me told me it wasn’t right for death to be so permanent. I imagined myself dying, and panic seized me. It didn’t seem possible that when I died I wouldn’t feel, hear, think, smell, see, or anything. The thought was unbearable to me, and I slammed a door against my fear, locking it away.

Six years later as I lay in bed, my thoughts wandered aimlessly back to that quiet June night. I could almost hear my father’s voice telling us Grandma was dead. Grandma! Like lightning the door of the mind opened, and my fear was released. “No!” I screamed silently, turning over in bed and closing my eyes. Tears welled up in my eyes as I tried to imagine what death was like. There were no pictures to imagine, only darkness and emptiness. And again something inside me told me that darkness wasn’t right.

I arose, went to my window, and gazed into the night, concentrating on the shadowy forms of trees and distant sounds of crickets and cattle. Soon the fear was behind its door again. But for how long?

Summer passed, school started, and before I knew how it happened, my best friend had introduced me to the missionaries, I had no prior religious affiliation, and I was not really aware of who they were, but they were friendly and I couldn’t help but like them.

One day, late in the fall one of the elders approached me. “We have a movie we’d like you and your family to see,” he said. “Could we set up a time when we could come to your home and show it?”

“Well,” I hesitated, “I don’t know if my dad would like that or not.”

“Why don’t you ask him?” continued the missionary. “We’ll only come if he wants us to. We’d like to show it next Monday night if we can.”

“Okay,” I said, inwardly eager for my parents to meet these two young men. I was sure they would like them if they met them. But would they want to meet them? I approached my father cautiously that night, expecting a negative reply to my request, but to my surprise and delight, he consented to have the missionaries come the following Monday evening. The next day I contacted them and told them the good news. I then began to look forward to their visit wondering what kind of movie they were going to show, having no idea of the effect it would have on my life.

Monday evening came, and at the appointed time there was a knock on our door, I let our guests in and introduced them to my parents. The two young men talked easily with them while setting up their equipment. I was disappointed as I watched them prepare a filmstrip projector instead of a movie projector. “This looks like something we’d see in history class,” I thought.

“Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?” The words rang through my mind. As I watched the movie and my fears were let loose again, there were answers to greet the fears. I imagined death, and this time there were pictures in my mind—pictures of people, waiting together. There was no more darkness, and the something that had been telling me all along that darkness wasn’t right was now telling me that the pictures in my mind were right. I felt a burden lifting.

“What did you think?” asked one of the elders at the conclusion of the filmstrip.

“Very nice,” my parents commented politely. I had no comment. I was still thinking of all I had just heard. I felt a peacefulness I had never felt before, and I wanted to know more.

The missionaries returned to our home with the discussions, and within a few weeks I was baptized. A whole new life began for me. No longer was I living from one day to the next, wondering when my fear of death would overtake me. No more did I feel terror at the thought of death.

Now I knew that end was only another beginning.

Illustrated by Kelly Smith