Latter-day Saint Life

Watch: Elder Holland Shares Stirring Video of How One Family Found Joy After Losing Their Son


"I invite you to watch this video of the experience I once shared about how the Christlike love of a friend helped one man overcome overwhelming grief in the wake of the death of his son," Elder Holland shared on Facebook.

"In your own circumstances, may you be God’s emissaries to His children, and love and care and pray for the people you are assigned. May you be vigilant in tending the flock of God in ways consistent with your circumstances."

In 2016 October general conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland shared a story that is every parent's nightmare:

"On May 30 of last year, my friend Troy Russell pulled his pickup truck slowly out of his garage on his way to donate goods to the local Deseret Industries. He felt his back tire roll over a bump. Thinking some item had fallen off the truck, he got out only to find his precious nine-year-old son, Austen, lying face down on the pavement. The screams, the priesthood blessing, the paramedic crew, the hospital staff—they were, in this case, to no avail. Austen was gone.
"Unable to sleep, unable to find peace, Troy was inconsolable. He said it was more than he could bear and that he simply could not go on. But into that agonizing breach came three redeeming forces."

Those three sources of comfort in Troy's life were 1) "the love and reassuring spirit of our Father in Heaven . . . [who] knows everything about losing a beautiful and perfect Son," 2) "his wife, Deedra, who held Troy in her arms and loved him," and 3) a home teacher who refused to give up on Troy.

On the second anniversary of his son's death, Troy shared a touching letter he wrote to his son on Facebook:

"Dear Austen,
"Exactly 2 years ago at about this exact time my heart was completely broken, and in my limited perspective at the time, never to be repaired. All joy in life was gone and I had no idea what to do. All I wanted was to wake up from the nightmare of losing you, hold you in my arms, let you know how much I love you and never let you go. Sleep was not an option, so I started cleaning the kitchen while your mom did laundry -- when the first of many tender mercies from the Lord occurred. Your mom found the note you left for us folded up in your church pants, 'Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.' That was the first of many, many moments I felt the great love our Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ have for me.
"A few days after your passing I felt a very strong impression that you were well, except for worrying about me. After I learned of your visit to little Maddie, I knew without a doubt that you were great. I want to let you know that I miss and love everything about you, and I am striving to make sure our family is eternal.
"I have truly learned that all the pain, sorrow, suffering and loss we experience in this life is to help us progress, if we can choose to be humble, drop to our knees, look up & trust our Lord, avoiding self destructive behaviors. The only thing we truly own is our agency, we can't choose what happens in our lives, but we can choose how we respond.
"You are still and always will be a huge part of our family. We take turns saying our family prayer for you when it is your turn. We call Cinnamon Life cereal, 'Austen's cereal.' We call peanut better and honey sandwiches, 'Austen sandwich.' We frequently ask Heavenly Father to let you know how much we love and miss you, and allow you to be involved in our lives on the other side of the veil.
"I am sure you are very busy doing great work in the spirit world, but if your allowed, please come visit me and your mom again in our dreams. We long for the day when we will hold you in our arms again, but please know that we will forever hold you in our hearts. I still have a lot of work to do on this earth, striving to use my time wisely to help, love and serve one another, as well as learn as much as I can. I still make a lot of mistakes, but will never give up trying to be the person our Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ know I can be.
"Don't forget to say your personal prayers, and work as hard as you can. I love you forever son #3," "Dad"

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