Elaine Earl passed away. My heart skipped a beat when I learned that. Elaine . . . gracious, thoughtful, poised, composed.
She was near death for as long as I knew her. Longer.
When her husband Ray died, before I could point either of them out in the ward, or had any real understanding of who they were, everyone told me it was such a shock. Surely she would go before him. And surely she wouldn’t last long after his passing.
But 15 years have passed since then.
I wanted to go to her funeral. This wonderful sweet woman. Wyatt would make the kids make her valentines and Easter cards, and we’d go over after church, all kids in tow, their hands clutching their cards. “Ring the door bell, give her the card” they were instructed. Elaine would always cry.
I was thinking about the Covenant of Consecration after the temple last week. I was thinking about Zion. There shall be no poor among you, all of your needs will be met, you will give all you have, and so will everyone else, and you will all be blessed. You will be of one mind and one heart . . . the things I’ve heard and learned swirled through my thoughts.
And then I realized:
I had already lived in this experience once before – I lived in a ward and neighborhood where there were no poor among us. Everyone worked hard to meet their own needs, and any gaps were filled in joyfully by the community. Wyatt reminded me of a story (not because I was talking about this, but I think it illustrates the point), when he was putting on a roof on a neighbor’s house (one of the 15 or so he put on in the 12 years we lived there) – it was a widow, not in our ward, but a neighboring ward. Wyatt ended up roofing it all by himself because the Elders Quorum of that ward was so small and had scheduling conflicts, and storms were forecasted for the weekend. So Wyatt just did it himself. All the supplies were there, provided by the widow, and the ward. But as he went to work, he found they were missing some key items. At his own expense, he purchased the things necessary and got the roof done before the coming storm.
I have a picture of all these neighbors sitting on our deck after placing a giant beam up for a roof we were adding in one of our many projects. I lvoe that picture more than I can express. It was the essence of that Zion, of the Consecration under which we existed at that time. Everyone worked hard to meet their own needs, and any gaps were filled in joyfully by the community!
As I was thinking baout that last week, I realized I have lived in that peace. Not the peace that the world claims: to have no troubles or conflict, but the peace that the Lord offers – to have my troubles soothed, and met with Love, Confidence, Joy and Friendship.
I lived that. Here on earth. I lived that. And the blessing and miracle of it still haunts me.
Today I walked into that beautiful, sacred chapel of that ward. Those thoughts from last week were still on my mind. As I entered the building Diane Rydman saw me, and started waving energetically across the foyer, calling out to me.
When I walked into the chapel I was embraced by Trudy, who asked with love and interest about my kids. I was hugged by Rick and Marsha, whose friendship has been a solace for many years. I was waved down by Carma and Richard Dickinson, Richard holding my hand as he asked me all about my life now. I was hugged by Jim and June who told me how they’re slowing down (they must be close to their 90’s!), and Cheryl Smith and Dorothy Henrie hugged me and we talked. Bishop and Julie Wittwer hugged me with love, Julie smelled so lovely as she always does, and Bishop and I talked cabins for a few minutes. Ryan and Tiffiny gave me quick hugs and Tiff and I both cried and checked each other’s makeup. Leslie Trelease and I talked and talked about all the things, she took time to hear about prom and rodeo and mountain bike races, and then disappeared to serve and care for the family in mourning. I ran into the Shaw’s who have a wedding tomorrow – Jensen, who was in my primary class when he was just 7 years old and getting ready to be baptized! Mark and McCall and Sarah and Olivia and Chloe and Evan . . . all these people that I love, and who have loved me – were there to love me still, as we all mourned the loss of one of us, and I looked around that chapel and thought about all the love that had been upheld there in so many sacred meetings.
One of my very favorite hymns was sung today – For the Beauty of the Earth. this was the line that caught in my throat. Friends on earth and friends above. I thought about Elaine in heaven, and heaven it would be indeed if all these people were there to greet me.
As I have thought about the Covenant of Consecration, and the commandment of Zion, I feel like I am just starting to gain a glimpse of all the blessings the Lord wants for us in these efforts. What a glorious, joyful, and peaceful Heaven it would be.
For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child
Friends on Earth, and Friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild,
Lord of All to Thee We Raise
This our Hymn of Grateful Praise