Friday, February 5, 2010

Sad Passing of Two Missionaries in Romania: Its Affect on Other Missionaries

This week I have seen an unusual increase in the number of people that have been reading an older post Recent Thoughts on Death that I put together when a couple of ex-Mo's criticized the church and its members for not remembering missionaries who have died in the field. I compiled a list of all those who died that I could find.  I can now sadly add two more missionaries.

I didn't understand the importance until I was reading one of my missionary peeps Elder Franklin Morley's blog that a close personal friend McKay Choy Burrows that he went to school with and his friend's missionary companion Jace Davis died in their sleep in Romania on Sunday, 31 January 2010 .

On 1 February 2010 Lindsay Whitehurst in the Salt Lake Tribune reported on a statement made by Elder Burrows family:

A Highland man who died while serving an LDS mission in Romania was remembered Sunday as a dedicated musician, missionary and friend.
Twenty-year-old McKay Choy Burrows died of asphyxiation Friday from a natural gas leak in his apartment. His companion, Jace Edwards Davis, of Logandale, Nev., also died. Both were serving in the LDS Church's Romania Bucharest Mission.
Burrows had completed about eight months of his mission, said family friend Patrick Hendrickson.
"He was an exemplary young man, very talented, caring, sincere, dedicated," he said. "He was doing what he wanted to do."
Burrows graduated from Lone Peak High School and attended Brigham Young University on a scholarship, his family said in a written statement.
In addition to playing piano "with a concert pianist's skill," he also sang and played guitar, his family said. He played football, basketball and soccer, and also liked to write and draw, his family wrote.
The mission was a lifelong goal for Burrows, the statement said.
"We will miss -- but forever remember -- his bright mind, quick wit, empathetic approach, enthusiasm for life, and happy, engaging smile," the family wrote. "He served in an exemplary manner, touching many lives for the better, including the people he taught, the members of the church in Romania, his companions, and his family and friends at home."
A different Elder wrote his mother about how the passing affected him.  Elder Morley's mother wrote this faith-promoting rationale for their passing:
The most recent news is of a very unexpected and distressing tragedy. A friend of Franklin’s who was serving a mission in Romania, Elder McKay Choy Burrows, died on January 30th, 2010. There was a gas leak in his apartment and Elder Burrows and his companion never woke up. Franklin met Elder Burrows at BYU in his freshman year; they became good friends and anything we heard from Franklin about Elder Burrows was in high regard. While this was an unforeseen hardship for so many people Elder Burrows had an influence on, reading emails from other missionaries that knew him has given the impression that there is an incredible feeling of peace among them. They know he is not forever gone and that death is merely a passing away of a physical body, not a spiritual body. In thinking about this situation and about how hard it is, especially for the Burrows, I have wondered if Elder Burrows has been watching those he loves suffer through the pain of missing him, and if through watching them he too is enduring hardship—that of seeing loved ones so hurt.

These are a couple links that talk more about it:
 An excellent story about Elder Burrows before his mission is found at the Highland 23rd Ward Blog telling about all the good things that he did.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal published the following obituary on Elder Jace Davis:

Sometimes though accidents happen.  In this case I don't think the missionaries could have done much to advert it unless they were obsessive compulsive types like me who check the house every night.  I know in my own life I have done some careless things like living in a one bedroom apartment with a gas heater where I had to turn it on and off with a pair of pliers and the handle was gauged.  No one anticipates that their water heater will burst or even worst that the pilot light on your gas furnace will blow out.  I am thirty years older than these missionaries so I have seen it happen three times in my life where the water heater light blew out or the furnace pilot or stove went out.  Even on my own mission I did some dangerous things like walk across a frozen lake in Canada late in winter using a board to gauge the weight on the ice. Luckily I was not killed since I would have drowned for sure since I could never swim..  These two missionaries did nothing other than to go to bed and never wake up.

On the Mormonism Unveiled blog is a video of Elder Burrows funeral. 

At Elder Jace Davis funeral Elder Quentin Cook said:

Although Elder Davis is no longer living a mortal life, Elder Cook spoke of the "transfer" Elder Davis had experienced, and that his mission will continue as he serves "in the great world of the spirits of the dead ... preaching the gospel of repentance and redemption" (Doctrine and Covenants 138:57).

As a parent with three children having served and five yet to serve I am greatly concerned about the safety of my children.  I don't take the passing of any of them lightly and I would be devastated to lose one.  I see the glass both half full and half empty when I consider anything could happen.  I believe you are called home when it is your time and that yes maybe they have a mission on the other side but I also believe that we come up on forks in the road in which death could have been diverted in some cases though in this case it would have taken a miracle.

It is always a tragedy when a missionary dies.  I know that missionary's apartments are inspected by the mission president's wife and their mission staff so precautions are taken and such accidents can be minimized or averted.  Unfortunately no matter how careful the mission leaders are in guarding the safety of its missionaries accidents still occur as in the untimely death of two missionaries in Romania.  You can argue in some of these matters either way that the dead person is called home to a different mission or that it could have been adverted had more caution been taken. In this case it was highly doubtful they would have caught the problem and been saved.

As I have gotten older I have become more vigilant.  I have not been able to impress on the minds of my children that they need to guard from dangers like these or even to lock the door at night let alone occasionally check household items like plumbing or heating.  Even if the young men had done this they still might have died since it only takes minutes in which to be overcome by a silent killer.


Whitney said...

There's a new book out called The Transfer that catalogs the deaths of missionaries in the field.

Valerie said...
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