Monday, January 28, 2008

In Memoriam

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Our beloved prophet, Gordon Bitner Hinckley, passed away last night at the age of 97.

Last night my sister and her husband were over, and we were getting ready to play a game. The phone rang, and James answered it. It was our hometeacher. I heard James say, "Oh, no." in the tone he uses when something really sad has happened. My heart was in my throat until he got off the phone and told us what had happened. For a minute or so there was complete silence. What was there to say? Then my brother-in-law said, "What a week. First Heath Ledger, then President Hinckley!" "That's terrible!" I said. Somehow after his comment, we were able to talk about President Hinckley for a few minutes before we started our game. I put thoughts of him out of my mind until bedtime so I could focus on spending time with my family.

It was late when we got to bed, but I still couldn't sleep. I couldn't figure out why until I started thinking about President Hinckley. James was awake too, for the same reason, I think. He listened to me talk about my memories of the prophet and how much he meant to me. President Hinckley was one of the greatest influences on me in my teen years. I always felt such love from him, every time he spoke to us. I've looked forward to his talks in General Conference since I was about 8 years old.

I was privileged to see him in person a few times in my life. When I lived in Utah, before he became the prophet he spoke at our regional conference. I remember hearing from him and his sweet wife, who passed away 3 years ago. She told a story about the sacrifices they made while President Hinckley attended college. They didn't have money for a car, so instead of going into debt or becoming a two-income family, Sister Hinckley pulled her children to the grocery store in a red wagon. I have thought many times about their sacrifice which enabled her to be with their children full-time. I don't remember President Hinckley's talk, but I do remember what he said at the end. Not word for word, but this was the gist of it. His sense of humor was one of the things I loved most about him. It was a Sunday, and he was reminding us to remember that it's the Sabbath. He said, "Now it's time to go home, but remember it's the Sabbath and not to stop at the grocery store. Just go home and see what's in your refrigerators. Although some of us may already be as big as refrigerators..." The congregation laughed heartily while he continued, Sister Hinckley looking at him. "Oh, I'd better stop now before I get in trouble," he said. Their fondness, sweetness and love for each other is something I'll remember forever.

The second time I saw him was when a lady that I most admired in our ward invited me to go see the Christmas Devotional, when I was about 14. That was a special time! She had one ticket left and I couldn't believe that she actually invited me! It was a little bittersweet because I had a huge crush on her son, and he brought his new girlfriend. I remember being so aware of them next to me, and that he had his hand on his girlfriend's knee. Even with the sting of unrequited puppy love when I was there, I remember feeling so excited to be able to see the First Presidency in person. I remember sitting there, looking at those beautiful wooden pillars that are painted to look like marble, drinking in the beauty and serenity of the tabernacle. I remember the hush when the First Presidency walked in. I remember feeling so excited to hear their voices in person. At that time the prophet was either President Benson or President Hunter. I think the prophet was too ill to speak, but Presidents Hinckley and Monson spoke about the celebration of the birth of Christ.

The third time I saw him was here in Missouri. He came to Kansas City when I was 17. There was a special regional Young Women's meeting where he came to speak to us. My two sisters and I all got to go together. I remember sitting there in the large auditorium, and the quiet that fell when he got up to speak. That alone was a feat, getting hundreds of teenage girls to be quiet all at the same time! I remember feeling his great love for us, and the concern as well. He truly and deeply cared about us. He told us many things, but one in particular stuck with me. He told us to be as good as we could be. Not to lower our standards to have someone to date, but that if we were as righteous as we could be that Heavenly Father would bless us and take care of us. I really appreciated hearing that counsel. At that time I was such a romantic. I liked dating, but I was always dreaming of finding my true love. I always tried to do the best and be the best person that I could, and my life was led 3 years later to my best friend in the whole world, my husband James.

Every General Conference I looked forward to what he had to say. We have been so lucky that our local cable channel broadcasts General Conference for us, so we can stay home and watch it on tv. We have our kids come in and listen for parts of it, and let them play for the rest of it since they're pretty young and have a hard time sitting still. I always make sure that they're there when the prophet speaks. Last October, I felt very strongly impressed that they needed to listen to President Hinckley and be reminded that he was our prophet. I brought them in and told them again who he was, and made sure they understood that they would get to hear from an actual, living prophet. Now I'm so glad that I did, and Professor remembers listening to him.

While I was laying there in bed reminiscing, I found myself crying. I was weeping not for President Hinckley, because I know that he's happier now. The thought of him reuniting with his precious wife brings tears to my eyes because they had such love for each other while here on earth. I was sad for myself and for all the members of our church because he is gone. After wiping my eyes for a bit I was able to fall asleep. I'm so thankful to know that there's life after death.

How fitting that the music playing from my children's cd right now is "We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet".

We love you, President Hinckley. You are already greatly missed.


mindyluwho said...

Very beautiful tribute Rebecca. I love how he and Marjorie were together, such a great example of a marriage. I love all your remembrances. I only saw him in person once, but it was all I needed for that witness that he was truly a prophet of God.

Dedee said...

I too miss him and am glad he's with his wife again. Thanks for your words.

Kimberly said...

That was beautiful, Rebecca.

Mamita said...

I really enjoyed the memories you shared. I remember seeing him at one of my youth conferences. The feeling was very delicate in that room and yes, very quiet. BTW, I'm Mindyluwho's lil' sister. This is a really cool blog and I like the things you've written about.

Michal said...