My Life Story: On Graves and Bodies, Heaven and Earth
I appeared on this earth before I was born. It was at home in Denver, my mother says, when she--devastated and weak--suffered a miscarriage just before the end of the first trimester with her sixth baby. She said it felt like death to her and the pain made her almost inconsolable. She asked my dad to put his hands on her head and give her a blessing. It was then a spiritual being appeared. A disembodied presence that was felt more than seen with her blurry, teared eyes.
"It was you," she tells me, "you put your arm on my shoulder and you promised you'd come back."
I was taught that we all lived before we were born, in a spiritual state with our Heavenly Family. We were intelligent beings of light conceived by very powerful parents who wanted us to progress, eventually becoming just like them.
Our only problem was that we didn't have a body like our parents did, and so a plan was put in motion where we'd come to earth, get a body--a physical body subject to pain and pleasure--and with this entity made of dust and earth feel immortality. Then, because of the sacrifice of our brother Jesus Christ (who we also knew in heaven) our bodies would someday be changed from mortal to immortal to taste of perfection.
A perfect body.
But the mortal body would not be perfect at all. It would hurt and heal, suffer sickness and sweat and ultimately succumb to death. Unless, as my grandmother Marion always talked about, we were still alive when Jesus returns to earth and in that case our bodies wouldn't die, but be transformed from mortality to immortality in the twinkling of an eye.
"Courtney," my grandmother would rehearse to me as we visited in her rose-covered white cottage on Cherry Lane, her brown eyes looking intense and prophetic, "I will die, but you will be twinkled. You'll live when the Savior comes again." And though it is taught from the scriptures that not any being can know when the Second Coming will occur, my grandmother's timetable always made me feel gratefully relieved. I wasn't going to die, my grandmother told me.
On the other side of the family though, was my grandfather Layton who was given powers by the great prophets of our church, to give blessings to others that told of gifts, promises and things to come. And in these blessings, with his blue-veined hands on their heads, he told my older siblings that they would die before the return of Christ. Their bodies would lie in a grave for a time.
I would learn someday in life, when my body was old enough to understand the patterns of such things, that a woman's inner sense of holiness (her intuition) was what made her feminine, and though my grandfather was decorated with spiritual gifts of his own, I could trust the pronouncements of my grandmother as well. I learned to rely on the matriarchal as I had the patriarchal.
For the matriarchal was inside of me, inside that body that came to earth twice, to my mother's knowing body, a body that had successfully created five little bodies before me, the body that flushed out the remains of my first attempt, the body that welcomed my second.
Was it me? Was I not pleased with the flesh forming inside of my mother? Was it timing? Was the exact date of my birth more important than the success of the pregnancy? Was it my mother? Did she know something of depleted energy, incapable at that time in her life for another suckling fussing and crying in the night?
When I did come to earth, my parents taught me about the time we lived in heaven, a memory we couldn't recall with our temporal minds, but one we could remember with the heritage of our spirits. They said when the plan was presented before us, a plan about going to earth and receiving a body and having our brother Jesus help us to get back to our heavenly home to taste of salvation, we all cheered.
Yeah! We said, hooray! A body! A BODY!
And yet, it was this body malformed and miscarried, returned and hopeful that would cause me the greatest pain on this earth. Not the kind of pain resulting in a grave, waiting for the return of my heavenly brother, but pain that was felt in great depths, pain that transcended the mortality of this body, pain from the shame and guilt of simply having one.
But also, this body pink and freckled, vulnerable and willing, is the intimate space where heaven meets earth. And this potentially perfect form proved to be the means in which I felt the greatest sensations of rapture and joy. Feelings that almost felt like twinkling, but not quite.
The Hour Glass Theory
Trusting My Premortal Self