A Few Musings on Time and Eternity

Strange! For the first time in my life I’ve come face to face with my mortality.  I suppose I’ve been here before.  We’ve all flirted with death – intentionally or unintentionally.  In one way or another we’ve all cheated death, and lived to tell the tale.  But this is the first real instance in which I have been genuinely and realistically threatened with my own demise.  And yet, I have, to this point, been able to contemplate the issue with a calm logic and resolve.  I am not afraid.

Everybody has to die.  I could shake my fist at God and wail that I am too young to die.  But I’m not.  I’ve had a pretty good ride.  Don’t misunderstand me.  My heart aches that I wouldn’t be around to laugh with Diane, to take pride in my children (my favorite people), or to watch my grandchildren grow. There is a lot I would miss, tons of people I would be sorry to say good-bye to, and a few things that I still wanted to do – that never got done.  In that sense, I would regret seeing it all come to an end.  But on the other hand, I know that it will never really come to an end.  I know who I am and I know what I’m about.  And I know that this thing we call mortality is just a little part of life – life that is eternal.  I came from somewhere, and sooner or later, I’m going somewhere.  The only question is — when, which question is now about to be answered by the evaluations and the performance of modern medicine.  And their decision will be a best guess determination.  They may make a prognosis and it may be wrong.  But with cancer – they seem to be right a lot of the time.

Even so, I’m not afraid.  I have no dread of the unknown – because I know.  I have a faith that is unshakable that this is all part of an eternal Plan, and that makes it good.  I’ve never had a test of faith quite like this.  And yet the simplicity of my faith in God and in life beyond this life is so certain that I have not the slightest misgiving over it or doubt in it.  I seem to look upon my own potential passing as the beginning of a journey, and a pretty exciting one at that.  ‘Crossing over’ as some call it, is to me the equivalent of a great road trip – an unimaginable adventure.  My faith is that strong in that untouchable world, because to me it is literally only a heartbeat away.  And with that last heartbeat, I know that I shall still be alive and well, anticipating the remainder of the journey into eternity with a perfectly charted course and a crystal clear view of the way ahead.  Faith is the opposite of fear.  And as I consider the bleakest forecast of the days ahead, I realize I fear nothing.  It is invigorating and enlivening to face the future with absolute fearlessness.

Still, don’t misunderstand me.  I intend to fight for survival.  Our nature is to prefer life to death. I am no different, particularly as I consider my brief journey on earth.  What about all those things I must leave behind, and what of the dreams of life I’ve yet to accomplish.  And most of all what about Diane.  What I would miss the most would be her.  What I would regret most leaving behind would be her.  And my promise to her compels me to stay, that we may enjoy, complete, and wear out this life together.  That determination alone makes me realize how much I love her.  For her, if for nothing else, I need to cling tenaciously to life.  ‘To be or not to be’ has literally become the question in the most powerfully real sense.  As I have resolved before, I have determined again with a will of iron – to stay in this world.  There is time enough for eternity.  And I commit myself to the reality that my place, for now, is in this estate.  If God feels differently he will let me know.


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15 thoughts on “A Few Musings on Time and Eternity

  1. Bryan Rodgers

    Brother Stirling, I wanted you to know that I very much enjoy the privilege of working with you in the Temple. You are a wonderful individual and I have a great admiration for your accomplishments and for your life choices. You are a seeker of knowledge and a giver of knowledge. It is evident that you have a desire to give direction, to lift and inspire. My life has been truly blessed by knowing you and your family. God bless you! Sincerely, Brother Bryan Rodgers

  2. Tracie Nuttall

    What a beautiful and powerful “musing” Thank you for sharing your incredible faith and strength. I’m in awe of your peace. You had an impact on my testimony so many years ago and I thank you for continuing to be an example and once again strengthening my testimony. You and your family will be in my prayers. I know The Lord will bless all of you.

  3. Heather Kluth

    Dear Sir – through your daughter Lindsey, I have come to know you and this website to understand you a little more. Your talent with the written and spoken word is quite obviously passed on to her in her love of her fans and her ability to entertain with her music and dancing. I have nothing much to offer you but prayers and hope and perhaps it will be enough. Cancer is a tough one to beat but it can be done. Twenty one years ago my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer when it was found in his bones. Pregnant at the time, we were told he’d not make it long enough to see our 2nd child born, less than a month away. There were many prayers then, and eventually, acceptance of what ever was to be. He was still with us on his 41st birthday as she was born and now, 21 years later – he is still with us. Our lives changed in so many ways that year as we tried to figure out what it was all about. Why him? Why so young? How would we survive with two young children and an elderly grandmother living with us? If he survived how would it change us? As you have, we faced his possible end and as time went by, we discovered that His mercy’s purpose was for us to gain a new appreciation for our lives and for the people around us. It was a great wake up call and has changed our outlook in so many ways.

    Bless you for your graceful acceptance and understanding of your time here on earth and the journey beyond. I too believe that this is just a step in time for our souls and we have only a finite number of years to try to achieve what we want to while here. Prayers for you and that you will be here for many years more, to see your children grow old and your grandchildren grow up.

  4. Cameron Hess

    Steve, our family will be fasting and praying for the Lord’s will to be done, hopefully to make bare his arm in your behalf as you enroll in this advanced Life 400 series class to give you new experiences, that will ultimately be for your good.

    Cameron Hess, cancer survivor

  5. Rahel

    Dear Stephen, thank you for your words and your faith. I really hope for your whole family that you can stay and have many more happy years. Your faith is a HUGE example for me and reading your words on that was very helpfull. Myself, I am very thankfull for the knowledge of the gospel and know it can comfort us in a very special way! Stay strong in this upcoming treatment! Greetings from accros the ocean (Switzerland)! And: ***you have an awesome family!!

  6. Burak Karabacak

    Dear Mr. Stephen J. Stirling,

    I am always impressed by your way of expressing yourself even in times like these. Thank you for your words, stay strong and beat that cancer. It is an honor for me to know you, Sir; and I am looking forward for future adventures and events with you.
    I will be thinking of you.

  7. Darwin

    Hello Brother Stirling!

    I am adding my prayers and words of support for you to that of a great many others.

    I was not born a member of the Church. In fact, at this time I am STILL the only member of the Church in my family. But…when I was two years old, a relative died. I overheard my parents talking about him.

    I was sad that someone related to us had died. “How did he die?” I asked. “Was he hit by a car? Did he get shot?”

    My parents explained that he died because he was very old.

    I was stunned! This messed with my ENTIRE understanding of “how things worked”!

    To my mind, if you dodged all of the bullets in life and looked both ways crossing the street, then you should be able to live forever!

    And now my parents were saying this wasn’t true!

    I burst into tears.

    My parents hugged me…being puzzled…since the news of the death didn’t evoke tears from me…so this must be something else. They asked me what was wrong.

    “I don’t want to die when I get old!” I wailed.

    They had to suppress some amusement at the thought of a two year old worrying about dying of old age.

    They hugged me and kissed me and assured me that anything like that was a long long ways off.

    I went to my room and took the issue to God in prayer, and He assured me that just like Jesus died and lived again, so would we all.

    This of yours…”But this is the first real instance in which I have been genuinely and realistically threatened with my own demise. ”

    The story I am about to relate was NOT my first instance in which I was “genuinely and realistically threatened with my own demise.

    It wasn’t even my LAST.

    (Strangely…you do get used to it.)

    I was 17 and working as a lumberjack in northern Manitoba Canada. I had quite high school because of racist elements (I am half native) plus nobody shared my standards which all added up to being no fun. So I got a job as a lumberjack.

    I had just turned down and invitation for four lovely girls to go swimming naked. Now, since I had ALREADY made my decision not to have sex until I was married…the decision to say “no” did not cause me any anxiety.

    Later that evening I met with two new friends…two of three guys who had traveled to Canada from the United States.

    One of the guys had just that past week slept alone in the forest…but was awoken in the night by a pack of howling wolves, and he ran back to town.

    And Scott…the third friend…was doing the SAME thing…sleeping out alone in the forest…that very night.

    Now Larry and Ralph were going to a party in the city to go drinking, and as they knew I did not drink, they asked me to go check on Scott out in the forest to make sure that wolves did not eat him. So I went to the forest.

    The wolves found me.

    I had a rifle with me, but it was a dark forest on a dark night ans Scott was somewhere nearby, so I decided that I would not shoot the gun for fear of accidentally shooting my new friend.

    So I punched and kicked and fought as hard as I could.

    The wolves left…but returned several times that night until the sun came up.

    I was praying the whole time…it kept me from panicking or succumbing to anxiety and fear. And most importantly, it kept me from giving up.

    Even as I faced the wolves for the eighth or ninth or tenth time that night.

    And I never fired that gun in the dark.

    I tell you this story, so you know I speak from experience.

    And I didn’t have any support…from friends or family…until after the fact

    Even if I had died, I know I did what was right. I did my best.

    And at the age of seventeen there was STILL quite a bit that I wanted to do in life.

    But I didn’t get angry at God for the unfairness or even the arguably ridiculous repetition of the perilous circumstance.

    I didn’t argue with God either.

    I simply enlisted his help, and did my best.

    I have confidence that you can and will to.

    1. Stephen J. Stirling

      Thank you. That is an awesome story and expression of what we believe. Continue faithful — as your words have inspired me to be.

      1. Darwin

        At the time of that story, I was not yet a member of the Church.
        I did not have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion.
        I did not yet hold the priesthood.
        In this your time of peril…you HAVE all of these things!
        Plus the balm of the temple…
        Priesthood blessings…
        The comfort of all of the standard works, including the Book of Mormon and decades of Conference talks.
        And the prayers of the faithful! And included in the faithful ate those who love you the most: your family.
        Safely sealed to you.
        SO many resources at your disposal!
        Always remember that you have SO much to rejoice about in this your time of need!


    Hello Borther, I´m from Mexico city, in Tlalpan Stake and actually i work in clinical research for many varieties of cancer, Your family count with our prays.

    In addition please consider talk with your physician about inmunotherapy , currently is the best way to treat cancer, even better than any class of chemo, is available for many kinds of cancer and even you can access to a clinical trial o to the comercial products.

    Kind regards

    1. Stephen J. Stirling Post author

      Thank you brother. The course you have suggested is exactly the direction we have chosen. Immunotherapy, combined with strict intravenous nutrition and tomotherapy (radiation) may curb this incredibly agressive thing. Thank you for your encouragement.

  9. Wayne Alexander

    Dear Mr. Stirling,

    Reading your assessment of your health crisis is a true powerful testament to unshakable faith! I have no doubt in my mind that whatever outcome arrives, you will continue to live on in this world doing HIS work or the next. I am so grateful for you reading my feedback(s) and musings on your daughter Lindsey (my hero/role-model/life-coach/leader). You and your wonderful family have touched my life in ways you can’t even know. God bless you always and my thoughts and prayers are with you! Here’s to a full recovery and celebration of life!

    Wayne Alexander

  10. Darwin

    Hello Brother Stirling!

    I found something that will put a smile on your face!

    (I’ve already shared this with Brooke!)

    In truth…you’ve probably already seen this…but in case you haven’t…I’ll share it with you! (And Like I said to Brooke…From one writing and researching nerd to another!)

    Quote: Book of Mormon Central will bring together the astonishingly rich, varied and voluminous results of decades of serious scholarship and writing, making them easily accessible at no cost to users.”


    A GREAT way to pass the time away while healing!


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