A Long, Slow Life Review

Man walking in a stone-lined tunnel toward a light. Canva.com

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the phrase “my life flashed before my eyes.” This phenomena, commonly reported by near-death experiencers, is called a life review and involves a movie of sorts that replays all the experiences of life, good and bad.

I haven’t been well for the last year and a half, and strangely, I’ve been having my own life review on this side of the veil. Except mine is non-sequential and very slow. I’ve been surprised by all the things I’ve been recalling, which, but for the love of my Heavenly Father and Savior, would be unbearably painful.

I can hardly believe what is popping up for me.

Without trying, I’ve been recalling, in excruciating detail, all—and I mean all—of the sad, idiotic, and sinful things I’ve done since childhood. The people I’ve hurt. Bitter words tarnished by resentment. The pets I’ve neglected. My financial mistakes. My wilful teenage sins. My weaknesses, neglect, and foibles as a parent. It’s been a grand parade of folly.

I comfort myself with this: maybe it’s a preview of the life review I’ll experience on the other side of the veil. Maybe I’ll be able to say, “We’ve been over this. Next slide, please.”

I think this has been an unexpected answer to prayer. While I’ve been ill, I’ve thought a lot about the fragility of life and how surprising and swift an end can come. Accordingly I’ve prayed for the Lord to show me what I need to repent of. He has graciously obliged.

Through all this, I feel His perfect love and see His smile. I know I have and will receive more mercy than I think I deserve. I’ve learned to be less hard on myself because I know how kind God is.

I’ve heard of people who are nearing death say, “No regrets.” No regrets? Are you kidding me? You have no regrets about your life? I honestly don’t understand that. But if people can hold themselves up like that, well, more power to them. I can’t.

Nevertheless.

I am grateful for this glacial life review oozing across my mind. It has opened my eyes, softened my heart, made me more conscious and accountable for all the stupid, embarrassing things I’ve done in life. They are no longer buried. I am forgiven and I forgive myself, but some pain remains. I’m not wallowing in the past but I am experiencing it as if it were present. Sometimes it feels like I’m wearing a barbed wire shirt, but I’m getting through it. My appreciation for the Atonement has grown to reach heaven. I hope I someday I can reach heaven too.

A Different Kind of Thankful

Mike Fitzgerald, Thankful 13 5K, Nov. 26, 215

Of all my blessings, I am the most grateful for my trials. I just heard you ask, “Are you crazy?” Yes, crazy enough to see my trials in a redeeming light.

It seems like I have about a dozen trials going at any given time (don’t you, too), but I’ll only mention one here in particular. I have an illness—actually, a spectrum of impolite symptoms, all related to a single illness—that I have been working with since 2001. Never mind what it is. It’s my “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). You probably have one, too: that daily, gnawing reminder that you are temporarily mortal.

I have plead with it, wrestled with it, fled from it, begged it to leave, pounded it with mortar fire, all for nearly 15 years, and yet I often wake in the morning, and there he is again, “the messenger of Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7), back for round 5,343. I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s not leaving me anytime soon. Yes, he’s very devoted, whether I like it or not. That said, while I won’t call him a friend, I will venture to call him a partner.

Yesterday, Thanksgiving morning, against all reasonable odds, I ran a 5K, in spite of my partner coming along. We just had to work together this week to make this happen. We each have to make compromises and yield ground to each other. It’s a marriage of sorts.

Over the years, I’ve discovered—by prayer, the guidance of the Spirit, and good health care—ways to manage this partnership: careful diet, regular exercise including running, of course, supplementation, various medications, and timing. This disease almost always has my attention, but that attention keeps me pondering, searching, wondering, praying, and planning. A good place to be.

What if you and I didn’t have any afflictions of any kind to keep us humble? What sort of people would we be if we spent our time moving between satin and velvet pillows? I think we’d all atrophy, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We’d all be spoiled, spineless wimps. I don’t think God wants any of us to be wussies. We’re His children, for heaven’s sake. He wants us to grow up to be like Him.

Yesterday’s race was my seventh official race since I began running again last year. Four 5Ks, one 6K, a 10K, and a half marathon. What seemed impossible at one time is now possible again. It’s a miracle.

It seems like I’ve always needed a challenge, an adventure, to look forward to and to work towards. I have an illness that gets in my way (plus a very busy schedule) so it’s a bit of a steeplechase. But I beat 15 runners yesterday for the third spot in my age group, and I finished in about the top 20 percent overall in a field of 1,200 runners. Such achievements, as modest as they seem, were unthinkable a few years ago. My time wasn’t my best, but I feel good about it. I am already plotting ways to crush my next race.

Christ said that His “strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). One thing I have a testimony of is that I’m a perfect candidate for that promise. I can’t make myself perfect, not alone. No one can. I need help. Tons of it.

My trials have taught me Who to turn to for help. With His blessings, you and I can make wonderful things happen. Sometimes incredible things. That’s why, above all, I’m grateful for my trials. There’s just no other way to grow in a lasting way. It’s the “bomb” of blessings.