Wednesday, May 4, 2016

THE END.......or A NEW BEGINNING.......

One thing I forgot to mention in the last post concerning Mel's funeral was that one of the elders, Elder Whitney, was particularly close to Mel.  Elder Whitney returned home from his mission a few months ago knowing that it would be the last time he would see Mel in this lifetime.  They maintained contact over the following months and Elder Whitney was able to fly back for Mel's funeral.  He gave the dedication prayer for Mel's resting place at the end of the funeral.  We were able to pick him up at the airport and were invited to have dinner at the Stoddards where Elder Whitney stayed while in Pittsburgh.  It was such a tender and spiritual time with good people.

Then on Sunday, April 24th, we were asked to be the main speakers for the First Ward sacrament meeting.  The theme for the month was the Apostasy and the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We felt that the Lord directed what we included in our talks and it was a good feeling.  After church we were surprised to find out that the ward Linger

Longer to mingle and eat was actually planned somewhat to say goodbye to us.  They had a cake and sang "Happy Birthday" to Jim and it was so good to be able to enjoy these people just a little more.

Then on April 25th--our last P-day-- we celebrated Jim and Megan's birthdays, along with Megan's companions, by renting bikes and riding the trails throught the city of Pittsburgh.  This is one of the favorite things we have done while here in Pittsburgh. It was great to share it with the girls. We had lunch at Peppi's, our very favorite lunch spot, and then went to the Strip District for final souvenirs.  We finished up the day by the girls emailing at our apartment.  It was just a perfect final P-day with great weather.  This was a bonus since the rest of the week was raining!

This was also our last good-bye to Megan before we leave.  She has another seven months left on her mission and will most likely be in another part of the mission this transfer or next.

Our time spent in the mission field with our granddaughter still continues to amaze us.  It will always be a special memory and unbelievable tender mercy from the Lord.   Having her come to the same mission is one thing, but we still pinch ourselves when contemplating that we were blessed to serve right along side her and her companions and to have so many cherished memories together.

Our last few days were spent cleaning, packing, saying goodbyes, and it seemed like a million other little spiritual and stressful moments packed in between.

Viola and great grandson, Aiden

Then our last Saturday was spent in an unusual way.  We were invited to a Passover Sedar dinner with the Page family.  What a wonderful family with whom we feel very close.  Viola Page's oldest son, Michael, and his family belong to a Messianic Jewish congregation here in Pittsburgh.  We were at first confused by this name until they explained that many people now believe that the Old Testament actually points to Jesus being the Messiah.  They still believe in the Jewish traditions and customs, but they also believe that Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer.  We weren't sure what to expect, but we

had a very wonderful and spiritual evening as we learned more about Jewish customs.  We couldn't help but also think how well the restored gospel fits into their beliefs.
It was wonderful that Viola could even attend because she had been in the hospital all week long and just got out the day before.  We brought Tony with us and it was the first time he had ever attended this yearly event.   They introduced us as leaders in our church and had us stand up.  We ate a regular salmon/potatoe/vegetable meal, but then also enjoyed the traditional Jewish sedar foods and ceremonies.  It was a learning experience as well as being entertaining.  There was music and dancing and we really enjoyed sitting at the family table and enjoying their company.

Then our last Sunday was fast and testimony meeting.
We spent the day fasting and then also each shared our testimonies in both the First and Seventh Wards.  A new family in the First Ward, the Fosters, are only in the ward for a short time. Work responsibilities take them to many places around the country and they have perfected the art of jumping in and making a difference.   They have already done so much good in the ward at a very needed time.  They have started feeding all of the missionaries in the two wards after church each week and so they had a nice dinner for all of us.  It was very welcome for us because our cupboards were almost totally bare!

One of our last good memories was with Denise who came up after church and told us how much our family history work with her has opened up brand new avenues for her family.  Her mom was so grateful to find the name of her grandfather through Family Search and she is in the process of organizing a family reunion as well as making many other connections.  We worked with her at the very beginning of our mission.  We know the Lord was with us because we were pretty shaky at the time in knowing much ourselves about the website.  A promise given to missionaries in the Doctrine and Covenants is one that we have felt many times...."I will go before your face.  I will be on your right hand and on your left...."

Then we went home to make final preparations....and the time finally came.  We left Pittsburgh around 7:30 am on Monday morning.

And so our next adventure begins.................!!!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Busy Days

Our last few weeks have seemed to culminate with one event after another.  On April 15th we attended our last Zone Training.


It was good to associate with such wonderful young elders and sisters again and share in the joys and trials of missionary work in the Lord's church.

We were surprised at the end of zone conference to receive a farewell cake and a poster signed by all of the missionaries in our zone.  What a joy and privilege it has been for us to work with them---and an added blessing to have our granddaughter, Megan, in our zone for much of her mission.

Then on April 20th we took our last temple trip while
on our mission.  It was a fulfillment of one of our wishes to take our friend, Charlette, with us to the temple.  She has been a member of the church for 10 years and has been working towards this goal for a long time.  We took her and another friend, Erica, to Washington DC on an absolutely gorgeous spring day.  Things were a little tentative up until the last minute.  We wondered if both or either of them would be able to go. It was so wonderful that they both made it.  Charlette was baptized in proxy for her mother and sister by Elder Butler. I was baptized in proxy for some of our own family names and I also did some baptisms for some of Erica's family.   There are many back stories and twists and turns associated with us being able to go that day, but we are just so grateful that we could make the trip with these two wonderful women.

We had our final interview of sorts with President and Sister Johnson over dinner at the Porch Restaurant in Schendly Park.  What wonderful eternal friends we feel that we have made with them.  We can't say enough about the love we have for them and the leadership and spirituality they each have.

Then Saturday, April 23rd, was also a busy day.  We attended and participated in planning the funeral of our good friend, Mel.  He had only been a member of the church a little less than a year.  We feel so privileged to have been able to know him.  He was diagnosed with an incurable cancer and chose not to undergo extensive chemotherapy, but instead wanted to spend his last days learning more about the gospel and enjoying life the best he could.  He rented a van once and took us and some elders to the beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright home called "Falling Water."  Another favorite memory we have with him was the day he again rented a van and took us and the elders to the Columbus Temple where he did baptisms.

 He was very blessed to not be in a lot of pain for most of his last days.  His doctor had a hard time understanding how he could have such a good attitude and asked him if he would go talk to a large group of medical students about how he was able to stay so positive.  He said that when they asked him that question he responded that it was largely because of his Mormon faith.  Our Heavenly Father's plan of salvation for His children just made sense to Mel and gave him a lot of comfort.

He lived in an apartment on Mount Washington and
Very old and beautiful Allegheny Cemetery
had a beautiful view of the city of Pittsburgh.  Some of our favorite memories are of afternoon visits with him in his apartment during his final weeks.  He had lived in downtown Pittsburgh and worked in a flower shop for many years, so he knew so much about the city and it's people.  He had also been on cruises and trips around the world, but one of his final desires that he was able to fulfill was to visit Salt Lake City.  He later said that it was his favorite trip of all.  The mausoleum at the old and beautiful Allegheny cemetery is his final resting place and he made sure to have the letters "LDS" inscribed on the plaque by his name several months before he passed away.

Later that day we attended our last Senior Missionary Conference.  We are so grateful to have been able to make friends with so many other senior couples.  Our times of meeting together with them will be some of our cherished memories.  They have each seemingly given up alot of the comforts and joys of retirement to serve a mission for the church and have found, like we have,  new even more wonderful joys, memories, and blessings associated with that service.

We are reminded of something President Thomas Monson said back in 2003.

"The greatest decision I ever made in my life was to give up something I dearly loved to the God I loved even more.  He has never forgotten me for it."