Someone close to me is in her final days on this earth. She speaks very little and when she does it don’t make sense to those around her. My thoughts have turned to what she is experiencing as she prepares to leave this earthly life. Do we know if angels accompany the dying to heaven? Is dying a scary experience? Do they not want to leave this earth?
I appreciate you taking the time to ask this question as it seems important to you. Let’s see if we can address these three questions in a proper manner and according to what we know (what has been revealed if anything) and what we don’t know (nothing revealed but we have stories).
Do we know if angels accompany the dying to heaven?
Let’s break down this question into two parts, as these two parts are important to this question. The first part is, do angels accompany the dying? The second part is “to heaven.” I’ll begin with the second part — to heaven. According to our theology “heaven” is broken down into three potential kingdoms: Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial. If we want to be more thorough, it would be better said that “heaven” is the Celestial kingdom where we live with the Father and the Son (Jesus Christ).
One thing for sure we know is that our eternal outcome is received after final judgement. In this light, the answer to this part is no. There isn’t any angel that accompanies the “dying” into heaven as heaven comes much later after our death. At final judgement we will all be dead. We will already be mixing and mingling with our loved ones, especially those of a similar countenance. Once judgement is made I’m sure we will have loved ones that we accompany into heaven after death.
Now, for the first part now that we have clarified “heaven.” Let’s change the question a little. Do we know if angels will accompany the dying into the Spirit World, the place granted for a period of time to wait for judgement. The answer to this question could be both, yes and no. There isn’t any official doctrine that specifies we will have a loved or or some angel (unknown to us in this life) accompanying us to the Spirit World; however, we do have statements like this from our apostles:
Elder Henry B. Erying in his talk, “A Matter of the Heart,” shared the following story regarding the passing of his mother and the thoughts of his father. He shares the following possibility/reality:
“The afternoon my mother died, we went to the family home from the hospital. We sat quietly in the darkened living room for a while. Dad excused himself and went to his bedroom. He was gone for a few minutes. When he walked back into the living room, there was a smile on his face. He said that he’d been concerned for Mother. During the time he had gathered her things from her hospital room and thanked the staff for being so kind to her, he thought of her going into the spirit world just minutes after her death. He was afraid she would be lonely if there was no one to meet her.
He had gone to his bedroom to ask his Heavenly Father to have someone greet Mildred, his wife and my mother. He said that he had been told in answer to his prayer that his mother had met his sweetheart. I smiled at that too. Grandma Eyring was not very tall. I had a clear picture of her rushing through the crowd, her short legs moving rapidly on her mission to meet my mother.”
It seems a high probability that our loved ones are waiting for us just as much as we are waiting to see them again upon our death. It feels right to me also, that upon my death I will be greeted (may be not accompanied but greeted) by those who loved me, or who knew me and who I served with in this life.
Is dying a scary experience?
I would think this answer is different for all of us. It would depend on our age, our knowledge, and our current lifestyle. I know as a child I was very scared of death, because death was an anomaly. I was taught there was life after death, but I was too young to understand what I could not yet see. I did not have any experience, at this time, that testified to my heart of the reality of a Savior, a Heavenly Plan, and what it meant to be resurrected. Thus death scared the crap out of me.
We also know from scripture that for the wicked death will potentially be a scary experience, especially for those who knew the truth and forsook it. They will come to a point of the reality of what they were taught, what life they lived, and they will have to come to grips with their decision to forsake an eternity of happiness and joy. Let’s look at the words of Sherem:
18 And he spake plainly unto them, that he had been deceived by the power of the devil. And he spake of hell, and of eternity, and of eternal punishment.
19 And he said: I fear lest I have committed the unpardonable sin, for I have lied unto God; for I denied the Christ, and said that I believed the scriptures; and they truly testify of him. And because I have thus lied unto God I greatly fear lest my case shall be awful; but I confess unto God.
I would think depending on how we die could be a scary experience also. I can’t fathom the fear some may have felt during times of war. I can’t fathom the fear some of the Israelite/Jews who died on October 7th and after. I can’t fathom the fear for those in Palestine also. I can’t fathom the fear of those in the Ukraine and other places torn by war and political struggles.
But for the most of us, death may come more slowly. We will have more time to reflect and ponder. And for us who are within that category, the fear we feel will be in accordance with our love for our Savior. The more we know our Savior the less we will fear death, because we know the grave has no victory or sting. We will ultimately look forward to his grace and embrace. Death is simply a new beginning — a continuation of a better life.
Do they not want to leave this earth?
For some the answer will be yes. I mean look at all the science that is trying to extend life, especially if a person has no belief in the after life. If this life is the only thing a person knows, believes there is no after life, then it makes sense why they wouldn’t want to leave this earth.
Even for some who do know, who are still young, or who are an older couple but feel the life of their spouse is still too young to die. I remember as an Elder’s Quorum President visiting the home of an elderly couple. They were technically still young into their retirement. He was sick and she was very healthy. He didn’t want to leave so soon that she would have to live many years after him. This seems to be natural and right. We don’t want to leave to early that we may not see another grandchild that year.
No young mother/father wants to die young making it impossible to hug their little ones — in this life. This isn’t a bad thing either; however, it does bring some hard experiences in this life though especially if we feel gypped.
I think for those of us who live a ripe old age are more likely to be OK to die, a desire to leave this earth and be with loved ones past, rather than to stay a little longer and suffer more than needed.