Jeff Benedict: Relative's illness a reminder that life is a gift

Published: Monday, June 25 2012 9:00 a.m. MDT

I sprinted to my meeting. Sweating and wearing shorts and a Red Sox cap, I met my close friend Rob Wallace outside the Empire Hotel. He is Barbara Walters' longtime senior producer. A few years ago, he produced Walters' two-hour special for ABC called "Heaven." It featured interviews with leaders from many world religions discussing the afterlife.

ABC will re-air an updated version of the heaven special next month. This time around, Walters wanted to include a Mormon voice. That's where I come in. Rob asked me to approach church officials in Salt Lake City in hopes of getting a leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to sit down with Walters and answer questions.

The LDS Church sent Elder William R. Walker of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He and an associate were waiting to meet Rob and me inside the Empire. Over breakfast, Rob asked Elder Walker questions. Is there an afterlife? Who will be there? What is the purpose of this life?

A few hours later, Elder Walker faced those same questions from Barbara Walters. The setting was a chapel that's inside the building that houses the Mormon temple in Manhattan. As I sat there, I thought about the significance of those questions. Especially that last question — what is the purpose of this life?

Then I thought of my brother-in-law. I thought of his wife. I thought of his children. Then I thought of my wife and my children. Like most people I know, I value my family more than anything.

Last night when I went to bed, I slowly ran my fingers over my wife's forehead. I did it again and again until she fell asleep. I was tired but I didn't want to sleep. The moon was shining through the window, illuminating the pretty face that lay sleeping beside me. I just wanted to keep seeing. Life is short.

Jeff Benedict is a special features contributor for Sports Illustrated and the author of 11 books. His website is www.jeffbenedict.com.

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere