This week brought events I did not imagine would be part of serving a mission here. One of the 2020 AOA couples just live in Gallatin. It’s made it possible to continue to interact and help occasionally. Sister Smith had some health challenges that resulted in an early release for them last fall. She had a heart attack on January 24th, followed by a double by-pass surgery on January 31st. Many prayers have been offered and meals taken in the past few weeks, and Judy has done remarkably well for a woman who will be 80 in March. We’ve all be touched by the tender, constant attention and complete care given by her good husband, Bill, through all of this.
Monday evening, I received a call from a friend serving in the RS for their ward saying that Bill had passed away just two hours earlier and that she was having trouble contacting Judy. Shock and disbelieve does not really describe what I felt. Bill was 12 years younger than Judy and in excellent health. We had Sunday dinner with them just the week before. Darrel and I immediately left for Judy’s home, reporting the sad news to our Director on the way. Judy’s good bishop and ward R.S. president were there, as well as her daughter who lives in the area when we arrived. I knew if Judy’s boys could get there, all would be well. She reported that her son, Mike, from Arkansas was on his way and would arrive sometime after midnight. I felt the need to stay with her until he arrived. It was tough to be there and watch her process the reality of the loss, as well as report the news to other close family members, including Bill’s son. But I was grateful to be there with her. Darrel and the bishop were able to give her blessing. Her bishop pronounced one of the most sincere, powerful blessings I’ve heard in my life. Our presence made it possible for her ward members to go home to their families and her daughter, with major addictions, to leave as needed. When Mike arrived, Judy’s whole countenance changed. She fell into his arms and sobbed, “You came! You came! What am I going to do without Bill? His response convinced me that he was there to help her figure that out, and in time she would be ok.
We got home about 1:00 that morning and sleep didn’t come easily, but we both functioned well the next day. It was an AOA miracle! Our little grandson, Gil, had cataract surgery that morning. It brought many memories of his Mom, Malea, having the same surgery as a five-year-old, many years ago. How grateful we are for the advances in medicine that make such a surgery available with same day release.
I went to Judy’s again that evening to see how she was doing. Her home felt like a temple, and she was composed and almost radiant. She and her son were meeting with the funeral director, so I was there with immediate feedback for our missionaries on funeral arrangements. That made it possible for some to travel back in order to be a part of the services. I felt the timing of my visit was more than coincidence.
Thursday evening I got a call from the R.S. in their ward asking for some help with the luncheon. I was amazed how quickly the sisters here volunteered to take that assignment last minute. It’s just evidence of the kind of people we live among.
Friday, Judy called and asked if I’d give the opening prayer at Bill’s funeral. That is something I have never done, but felt it an honor to be asked. The sisters gathered at the Work Center that morning to clean our new area and put up the canvas pictures we ordered from the many gorgeous photos of this amazing area. It is a beautiful and happy room. We gathered for a mission council just before noon, to nail down details of our schedule the first three days following the new 2022 missionaries arrival. It is rewarding to experience the power of councils as we make jointly plan the direction we want our service to go. It is our hope to build on what we have so the next group will begin on a higher plane. Darrel and I were able to go to the temple that afternoon and complete some initiatory work. I was reminded of how similar that ordinance is in some ways, to a temple dedication. It was good to leave with the perspective the temple offers.
Saturday morning, Darrel helped me with our food assignments and then we went to the viewing and funeral. I had thought a lot about what to say in the prayer, and asked for Heaven’s guidance as I didn’t know Bill as well as I know Judy, and I had almost no knowledge of their family. As I got to the pulpit and began, it was as though my awareness of the audience vanished, and my focus was on the thoughts coming to my mind. I’m not 100% sure what I said, but the Spirit came, and it was the beginning of the beautiful service that followed. I think our director summed it up best today in our Sunday School meeting. Of all the things we do here, nothing is more important that the relationships we develop and the lives we touch in meaningful ways. That being true, we’ve had a great week!
I’ve worked a lot on putting together a history of two of the homes here at AOA to keep in a book at the home for future missionaries. In doing that project it became clear that I need to do a volume two of AOA history. It will cover the years 2000-2020 with a vastly different focus and feeling than the first. I’m along ways from it being finished, but the journey has begun.
Darrel mainly worked at the 4-plex to finish up the painting and other prep work to have carpet installed this next week. The men have been removing the honeysuckle at Tower Hill the past 10 days to enhance the experience for visitors. Thursday Darrel hauled three loads on the flatbed dump truck to the burn pile and torched it off. It was so cold that day, I did not join him!
Some food for thought:
As long as we have good memories, yesterday lives on. As long as we have hope, the future is bright. As long as we have love, today is beautiful. As long as we have faith, all things are possible. Our love, Darrel and Karen Kenison
P.S. We got our first missionary email from Jessica who is doing MTC at home this week. It was a boost we needed!