Sunday, May 29, 2011

Leaving Home

Today I went to my "home ward." I went to church in the congregation of my childhood to see my parents deliver their last talks as members of that ward family. I knew it would be emotional to hear my parents speak for that final time there. But I was not prepared for the onslaught of emotions that hit me.

Our family filed in just as the meeting was beginning. We sat three rows from the front with few people between us and the pulpit. On our way to our seats we passed by so many people I know and love from both my childhood days and the years we lived in my parents house while they were on their mission in Africa. This was the ward we lived in for my entire pregnancy with Camille, the miscarriage I had before I got pregnant with her, her birth and the first 8 months of her life.

The person conducting the meeting sat down after welcoming everyone and the chords of the opening song "Oh how lovely was the morning..." a song about Joseph Smith's first vision, began. I have such a firm faith in the reality of that event. The witness I received from the Spirit about the truthfulness of Joseph's claim came while I was a teenager attending church in that building with many of those in the congregation.

Suddenly I was filled with the sweet and tender feelings of the Spirit, feelings of love and warmth. Flashes of memories of significant events of my life that had taken place in the room I sat swam through my mind. Early childhood memories of eating Cheerios under the pews, teenage years of seeking and finding my own testimony, talks given as I returned home from college breaks, returning "home" to bless my first baby in the ward I felt was all a part of my family.

And then came the more recent memories of my time living in the ward as an adult. Becoming a member of that ward in a new way, serving the people in the ward and getting to know the new members who had moved in since the days of my childhood. I remembered the experiences I shared with them. How they cared for me during my pregnancy and the birthing of Camille while my parents were away. How they helped me with her on Sundays and loved her along with me. How we blessed her there in that chapel too.

And then I remembered those pews being filled ... filled with people ... people who loved her and more people who loved me and Jon and had never even met Camille as we gathered there in that room for her funeral. I remembered the emotions I felt that day walking into that room and seeing all those faces. It felt like I was attending my own funeral. So many loved ones from all the stages of my life were there to support me in my darkest hours.

And here I was three weeks shy of three years later, and all those same faces were running through my head and the love and support they were then and at other times in my life hit me in full force.

When Jonathan and I moved from that ward and into our current house 3.5 years ago, it was pretty easy for me to say goodbye. My parents were there. I didn't foresee them moving anytime soon. I would still see those people. I would still be at church occasionally when my parents spoke or gave a lesson or something. I would be back.

But this time, with my parents saying their goodbyes, I almost wished I could have gotten up to speak too. To say thank you to all those wonderful people who helped raise me and taught me and loved me and supported me. It was so much harder leaving today than when my own little family moved. And I felt it. Tears that started with the opening song continued till they passed my cheeks and moved down my chest. The tears increased as my parents spoke. My mother's expressions of gratitude to the women of the ward for whom she had fasted and prayed through their trials and who had fasted and prayed for our family in ours. Her powerful testimony of the reality of our Father in Heaven and the power of the Atonement brought further, fresher tears. Then my dad got up and struggled to keep his emotions at bay through the entirety of his 30 minute talk on the value of work (and lots of memories through the years of those with whom he had learned the value of work.) I struggled right along with him. The tears just kept flowing. They did not stop till the closing song had been sung.

My dear friends of the Hacienda ward, how I love you and miss you ... most keenly on this day of parting.