Heaven and Hevel
My first son kid was born during a very busy time in our lives. I was working full-time, going to college full-time, and serving as a counselor in a branch presidency. It was a rough time of early mornings and late nights. Sometimes, I didn't see my baby boy awake for several days at a time. For his first birthday, my wife created a video of the moments she had captured and put it to music.
Let me say upfront, I am not a crier, it drives my wife nuts. But I cried when I watched that video. So many firsts. So many moments when heaven touched earth. And I wasn't there for much of it. And those moments would never come again. Not in that way, not with that kid, not at that time. They were gone forever.
That feeling of loss is nothing new to me. I remember sitting on the bus, returning home after the last day of school, the entire bus rejoicing for summer break, but I felt sad. It's not that I particularly liked school, and I didn't have any friends at the time– I just felt sad that this particular chapter of my life was closing and would never return. Gone forever.
Life is like that, I guess. Jesus told Joseph Smith "thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment." Problem is, all the good stuff is a small moment, too. In the words of Pres. Nelson, "mortal lifetime is hardly a nanosecond compared with eternity." Stepping back from the day-to-day to consider that nanosecond is a surreal experience, we might say with the prophet Jacob that our lives are quickly passing away like a dream.
It's depressing. And it doesn't feel… right. I can't imagine I'm the only one who feels this way when a chapter in life closes. Pres. Uchtdorf taught that these moments naturally "seem unacceptable to us." Just as nature abhors a vacuum, "there seems to be something inside of us that resists endings."
I recently listened to Matt Whitman's brief Ten Minute Bible Hour episode about the book Ecclesiastes. Highly recommend that podcast. He points out that this is a major theme of the book of Ecclesiastes. He also notes that the sense of life's "meaninglessness" or "vanity" conveyed in some translations doesn't quite do the original Hebrew justice. The Hebrew word the author of Ecclesiastes uses is "הבל" (pronounced "hevel"). This word has no good direct English counterpart, but it denotes a vapor or mist, something ephemeral, but not necessarily futile.
Fortunately, while mortal life is hevel, God is not. Moments lost to time are not lost to Him, nor will they be forever lost to us. He has promised us that the "same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us [in heaven], coupled with eternal glory." In my mind, all those beautiful "hevel" moments I experienced in life– as well as those I missed– will be available to revisit and relive in perfect, fulfilling detail. With this glorious promise in mind, it's easier to let go of times past, because it's not "goodbye" but "see you later." Continuing Pres. Uchtdorf's talk:
We are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless, and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.
The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.
How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings.
Heaven is where hevel goes to stay.