This week a good friend[ref]Barry Blacka[/ref] lost his battle with cancer.
Last night we gathered to celebrate the life of this good man.
I was not prepared for the richness I would feel at the celebration.
The stories moved me to laughter and tears.
His daughter told of a time while babysitting as a teenager, when noise of the front door handle being rattled caused her to call her Dad. He’d shown up toting a rifle, only to discover it was a cat jumping up and attempting to grasp the shiny knob that was causing the worrisome noise.
His son-in-law told of being a young man and inviting my friend to be treated to lunch. My humble friend had suggested McDonald’s. When the suitor had asked what my friend wanted to eat, my friend declined, pulling out the bag lunch his wife had packed for him. And then they sat and shared a memorable lunch as they discussed the young man’s plan to propose marriage to my friend’s oldest daughter.
But it was not so much the stories and the preaching of the sweet doctrines of eternity that I will remember the most. Nor will my primary memory be the sublime music my friend’s family and friends shared with us mourners.
It was remembering sitting with my friend’s first wife in 1984, when she was dying of cancer. It was seeing another of my friend’s sons-in-law playing the organ and remembering that we had been each other’s first date. It was looking at my former Relief Society President, whose son had been the young man nervously sitting at the McDonald’s with his future father-in-law. It was the dozens and hundreds and thousands of other connections and shared experiences with those in that room.
As I looked around the room, I was surrounded by people I have cherished, who have cherished me for decades. I’ve seen them marry. I’ve seen them as Sunbeams in Primary, now grown and with children of their own. I’ve seen them as harried parents or uncertain adults, now confident in their silvered years.
Even the architecture resonated. That was the pulpit where I had given a eulogy when my own son died. That pulpit was where I first heard President Benson speak as a President of the Church, the first time he would as President of the Church utter the invitation to read the Book of Mormon. That was the pulpit where Elder David Haight had stood and told us of the godly event he’d participated in when President Kimball was given permission to open the priesthood to all worthy men.
The decades of marriages and baptisms and funerals and loving interactions and kindnesses built on one another, resonating with this single instance where we, the mutually beloved, honored the life of one who has been so humble and good and kind. We yearn to see our friend once more, in that world that will be free of pain and illness, in that world where we will know as we are known and love without fear of loss. And beyond the hope of seeing that particular friend again, we have a confident hope in that sweet world, where all we have loved will live together in sweet humility and fond friendship.[ref]The vision of the afterlife related by Heber Q. Hale in 1920 suggests all co-exist in the afterlife, with those in the Celestial glory having full ability to visit with their loved ones, even if their loved ones are restricted to a lesser glory. Online 13 Jul 2017 at http://emp.byui.edu/davisr/121/Vision%20of%20H%20Hale.htm.[/ref]
This is the sublime fruit of the good and wise life we are urged to live. This is the precious sweetness we are given when we repent of our wrongs.
This is the love everlasting Our God and Our Lord yearn to pour out on us.
This is the hope of a peace that overwhelms death and heartbreak.
This is the faith of my fathers and mothers, my daughters and sons, for all generations and all eternity.
Years ago Truman Madsen told us about his college job working at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Salt Lake City, where most of the deceased prophets and apostles of this dispensation are buried. He said there were certain signs that a person being buried had been an active Mormon. First of all, the family and friends lingered and visited with almost an air of celebration. The cemetery workers knew they might be working overtime because they couldn’t bring in the earth moving machines needed to complete the burial until the funeral guests were gone.
Funerals are like mini stake-reunions of people from before the stake split.
Even better, since the mini reunions gather people from all the country (and beyond). And since these folks aren’t direct family, I wouldn’t have typically seen them in any other fashion.
It’s been recent wedding receptions that have been like mini Ward-reunions after the massive boundary readjustment….
Meg, Thanks for that tender post. I too feel that funerals and life celebrations thin the veil. It seems that when a number of people on earth are in close proximity to one another and are all having thoughts of love toward someone that the unity of love literally becomes palpable in a way that isn’t as perceptible with fewer people together or many people separated by physical distance.
This is a big clue as to my actual identity, but I really appreciate the multi-decades of memories that you shared. It was a long time ago, but I was also there when President Benson gave his first public address urging members to read the Book of Mormon. Although the change in emphasis towards increased study of the Book of Mormon was already underway, the way that church doctrine is taught and discussed is vastly different now, than it had been in previous decades. I can remember exactly where I was sitting (and for how long) on that day.
Also of note, the world may never experience another first hand account of the event that Elder Haight spoke of. The last living witness is President Monson, and it seems that his days are numbered and his remaining (public) words will be few and precious.
Hi el oso,
I give big clues as to my actual identity all the time… 🙂
To summarize my recollection of what Elder Haight conveyed, the event permitting Spencer Kimball to extend the priesthood to all worthy males was the culmination of much pleading, fasting, and prayer. Based on my historical studies, it was not merely the pleading of a moment, but a pleading of decades.
The urgency of the pleading in 1978 was precipitated by the growing number of converts in South America and other locations in the world who appeared to fall under the longstanding ban and therefore couldn’t obtain the priesthood or receive the ordinances of the temple.
When prior Presidents had sought an end to the ban, they had been denied leave to do so. I have written about this in other posts and don’t wish to rely on memory. I think most of my researched thoughts on this are in the post about Virginia’s campaign of Massive Resistance or comments thereto.
Suffice it to say that research into the history of the ban occurred decades before 1978 and years before the heyday of the Civil Rights movement. We can infer from President McKay’s testy comments that an end to the ban had been sought, but that such an end was not to be granted until such time as the Lord allowed.
Elder Haight’s comments portrayed the event as miraculous and glorious, providing a grace that had been sought for with tears and hope by the entire leadership of the Church for an extended period of time.
One might suggest that the ban needn’t have come into existence, such as a Peter Pan who never fled the nursery. But it is not correct to suppose that Peter Pan could return at will to the nursery. Those who suppose that the leadership of the Church could, at will, retract a politically incorrect policy do not understand the nature of a Father and Lord who sees beyond our mortal understanding.
Thanks Meg, I appreciate you sharing.
Many times, when sitting quietly in the chapel, the shared testimonies, service, and experiences I’ve had there seem to crash over me in wave after wave and sweet memories of testimonies shared and spiritual experiences. Thank you for helping me experience that again.