This week a good friend 1 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. 2
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.
- Barry Blacka ↩
- 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. ↩