Yesterday we received news that our dear, beloved Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, passed away.
In 2017 he had recently turned 90 years old, on the same day that the earth had a total solar eclipse. I thought that was a SUPER gift for a man like him. I also do not find it a coincidence. I would like to find out one day if my feeling about this is right. But for now, we will miss him but we celebrate with him that he is back home, with his loving wife and all those he has lived without for so long.
I am grateful that in this moment I feel happiness for him, instead of heartache and sorrow. I am grateful that I have a personal testimony that this earth life is not “it.” I trust that there is much more to come and that our families will be an integral part of what that will be like. I am grateful for these truths that I have learned, for they comfort me and bring me peace, especially in moments like this and another moment I personally had with him, a long time ago. . .
It was December 1995. My sister Ashley (13 1/2 years old) had recently passed away. My family was a mess, emotionally and spiritually. Living among them was proving to be more than I thought I could bear, especially since I had only recently become active in the LDS church. I had also just received my Patriarchal Blessing, right before she passed away, which had been a major spiritual experience in my life. I was also attending a few Institute (scripture) classes, and I had begun to attend church more often. But watching my family mourn, with what seemed like the whole world watching, was overwhelming to me.
Going to church was proving to be more difficult than I could handle, as well as attending any festive, holiday activities. My friends were supportive and gave me space, but after about 3 weeks of me dropping off the face of the earth, my friend, Jaime Christensen, had had enough. She woke me up one Sunday morning and told me to get dressed, I was going to church with her. I tried to get out of it but she said she would drag me there, whether I was dressed nicely or not, it was my choice how I wanted to look. So I got dressed and left with her.
We drove by the High School that I had graduated from the year before, and then drove to the church building just behind it. There were TONS of cars parked all around it. I asked Jaime why there were so many people here and she said it was because President Monson was speaking. I said, “Who?” She just shrugged her shoulders and told me to, “Come on!”
I honestly don’t know what the sacrament meeting was all about, all I know is that my friend found us seats in the chapel, rather than in the gym that was overflowing with single adults (18 – 30 years of age, mostly students). As the meeting came to an end, a friend of ours said, “There’s cookies in the back of the gym!” Everyone stood up to go but I didn’t feel like eating, especially something sugary. So I opted to just sit on the bench and wait until they were done. I also didn’t want to be the Eeyore of the group, so I felt giving them some space was best for now.
Well, my plans to be “all alone” were about to be foiled. I had been looking around the room and happened to notice the old people chatting on the stand, just behind the speaking pulpit. They were smiling at one another and shaking hands all around. These people looked somewhat familiar to me, so I honestly thought in my mind that these people must know my Grandma Christensen (my only very active member of my family); they had to! Don’t all old people know each other? Especially in church circles?
As I watched the old people talking to each other, I noticed that they were starting to leave the stand. I didn’t think anything of it, except this really tall man who was starting to walk down the steps. I looked at him, wondering again if I knew him? Maybe he is just a friend of my grandmother’s and he has been to her house when I was there?
“Oh no!” I thought, “Does he know about my sister Ashley dying? I REALLY don’t want to talk to another person about her death, or hear another condolence for my family’s loss.” But as this man started down the steps, he looked up at me. I could FEEL that he saw me and was headed my way.
I was all alone on my bench so I had no one to hide behind. I had no where to run. If I got up and left the bench, that would be so obvious and so RUDE. I knew that I just needed to wait it out and see if he just walked on past . . . but HE DIDN’T!
This tall, older man walked right up to me, passing by other people that were coming towards him, and reached out his extremely long arm towards me to shake my hand. My grandmother and father had both taught me to have proper manners at all times, so I sat up and extended my arm to shake his hand.
His touch felt warm and gentle, his grasp was firm, yet comforting. As he held my hand, I waited to hear the words that I become so used to hearing, “I am a friend of so and so’s, I wanted you to know that I am so sorry for your loss.” But instead, he just looked at me. He looked deep into my eyes, and although this all probably happened in only a matter of a minute or two, it felt like time stood still.
He held my hand in both of his hands now and while patting them he looking deeply into my eyes and said, “It’s going to be okay. It is all going to be okay.”
A surge of comfort ran up my arm and into my entire soul. A peace filled me like no other person had been able to help me feel before, but his words weren’t new to me. They felt familiar. But most importantly, THEY FELT TRUE!!!! It was as if I had known this truth all along but just didn’t have the permission I needed to fully believe it. But in THIS MOMENT, with this “old man,” I FELT that his words were true and I did believe them.
I looked at this man with tender gratitude and said “Thank you,” while nodding my head, confirming that I had heard his words and felt they were true. I didn’t know how things would be okay but I just thought to myself, over and over again, “It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.”
He didn’t let go of my hand until I did and as I did I looked forward, determined to keep holding onto this feeling I had been given. My friend had been right in bringing me there that day; I did hear something that I needed to hear. I didn’t even watch the man leave. I just sat there, being still in that moment.
All of a sudden my friends came rushing up to me. I was a bit startled that they would disrupt this important moment I was having. Hadn’t my friends encouraged me to find peace and solace and answers? Didn’t they see I was having said moment? But in all their excitement they just started blurting out different comments, like:
“What did he say to you?”
“Do you know him?”
“Did you say hello first, or did he say hello to you first?”
“Is he a member of your family?”
“Why didn’t you introduce us to him?”
My friend Jaime just sat there, studying me. She could see by the look on my face that I was intensely confused. She shushed our friends to go away and simply asked, “Do you know who that was?” I said, “No. But I think he is a friend of my grandma’s or something? Why?” My friend just rubbed my back and said, “Oh Wendi. You wouldn’t know a good thing, even if it hit you in the face.”
I had no idea what she meant.
All I knew was that THIS GUY, yes this guy right up there, stopped to say hello and stopped to let me know that I was known, that I was noticed, that my prayers were heard and that I was on the right path. No biggie. Right!?!
I eventually DID find out who that man really was and although I thought it was “normal” for Apostles to just stop and shake anyone’s hand and say EXACTLY what that person needed to hear, I did eventually realize that my experience was not normal but abnormal. This experience truly is one of my pearls and I don’t share this experience to make anyone jealous because it wasn’t the messenger that mattered most, but THE MESSAGE.
If anyone knows President Thomas S. Monson, they would say that he was ALWAYS about the Lord’s business and that he ALWAYS encouraged us to do the same. It doesn’t take a Prophet, or Apostle, or General Authority to say exactly what someone needs to hear, at the exact moment they need to hear it. All it takes is a servant of the Lord . . . and THAT is what each and EVERY MEMBER of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day SAINTS is called to do . . . share the spirit with someone and help them feel God’s love for them!
THAT is what I took from this experience . . . and now I strive to pay it forward. And I have had PLENTY of opportunities to do so and pray to have several more to come. I am deeply grateful that I had such a unique experience with this man and that I am able to share it, not only with my friends and family, but with my own posterity. For if I had not followed the counsel I felt that day, through the gift of the Holy Ghost that President Monson allowed to move through him, my children would not be here today with me. I would also not be married and I would most likely not be blogging very many spiritual experiences with those who would listen to me.
Because of THIS MOMENT, I made a choice. I made a choice to BELIEVE that my life was OKAY and that things WOULD BE OKAY! And they were. Later that month, in December 1995, I would meet my future husband and we would be married only 7 months later. I would also have the strength and faith to bury my own little girl, just 3 years later, and bear testimony to hundreds and hundreds that I KNOW SHE STILL LIVES and that she lives with God, the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I would also be able to fulfill a dream of living in a foreign country with my own children, raising them to also learn of their Father in Heaven’s love for them and that “It’s going to be okay!”
Thank you for seeing me and stopping to shake my hand that day.
And CONGRATULATIONS on returning back home!!!
All My Love and Appreciation,