Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What I hope my children will remember about Independence Day

Today is Independence Day.  Today we remember the brave men who mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor so that we could have the freedom God intended us to have.  In the words of another great American - “It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

As luck would have it, my family is not home today and I will be celebrating my favorite holiday alone.  I have thought a lot about my family, freedom and what I hope they remember about this day.  Here are a few of my thoughts:

Freedom is always given to us by others.  It is a priceless gift that is only ever obtained through struggle and sacrifice.

There is no way to ever repay our benefactors.  It is simply a gift that must be paid forward to our children – improved upon.

The state of freedom is always precarious.  Tyrants will always seek to stamp it out wherever they find it springing up around them, often with violence.  Others, men and women with “good intentions”, will quietly chip away at our freedoms in subtle ways; slowly forging our chains a law, regulation or tax at a time until our freedom is lost.

Constant vigilance and a willingness to stand up and fight are freedom’s only safeguards.

As we celebrate our nation’s birth today we will recall the names of Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson and others who gave us this great nation.  I hope my children will always remember and revere these names.  I also hope that they will prize, as their own personal gems, the names of their ancestors who stepped into the breach over 230 years ago:

Pvt. Richard Chamberlain – CT
Capt. Hope Lothrop (Lathrop) – CT
Soldier – Jesse Barbre – NC
1st Lt. Wakeman Burr – CT
Pvt. Samuel Young – MA
Pvt. Supply Reade – MA
Capt. William Neill (Neal) – NC
Cpl. Jonathan Bidlack – CT
2nd Lt. Zaccheus Clough – NH
Cpl. Moses Curtis – MA (Fought at Battle of Bunker Hill)
Pvt. Enoch Wellington – MA
Pvt. Martin Harmon – MA
Pvt. Samuel Meacham – NH
Pvt. Asael Smith – NH
Isaac West – SC
George Booth Malone – VA
Pvt. James Collins – NC

Finally and above all, I hope that they will always remember He who makes us “free indeed” – Almighty God, the author and finisher of our faith and freedom.

Happy Independence Day!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

He Lives!

Six years ago my little brother Timmy passed away.  I was on the phone with my dad as he counted down the readings on the pulse/oxymeter device.  "50... 40... 30... 10... He's gone."  I can't even begin to describe how bad it hurt to listen to my baby brother slip away like that and then know that Mom and Dad were now alone down home.  I remembered that day 14 years earlier when I had said goodbye to Tim when I left to serve my mission.  I really didn't expect him to be there when I got home because he had so many health challenges.  As I walked down the jetway to board the airplane I felt that my heart would burst from the pain.  Now I felt it all over again, only now it wasn't a possible separation - it was an actual separation.

I wanted to be home immediately to be with my parents, but there were certain experiences I knew were waiting for me down home that I did not want to face.  I knew that Mom and Dad expected my brothers and I to dress Tim in white clothes before the viewing and funeral, but I knew it was going to be an awful struggle for me to contain my emotions.  Seeing him cold and unresponsive would just make it too real and final.  But I also knew that this was one of the last services I could do for Tim, and I wouldn't shy away from it. With a fervent prayer in my heart I accompanied my parents, two of my younger brothers, and an uncle to the preparation room.

An overwhelming spirit of peace filled the room as they wheeled Tim in for us to dress him.  I knew that what was laying before us was not really Timmy anymore, just the mortal shell that we had known and loved him in.  The real Tim was somewhere else; close by, but unseen.  And at that moment I knew that he was every bit as alive as I was.  I felt a calm assurance that I would see Tim again because of the marvelous gift of my Savior Jesus Christ.

When I remember Christ's atoning sacrifice I most readily remember the price that He paid for my sins, and that He died and was resurrected so that all of us can be resurrected too.  But the atonement was so much more than that.  He also took upon Himself all of our sorrows, heartaches and sicknesses.  He experienced them personally in a way that I cannot comprehend or fully appreciate - but I believe that He did it.

I had often been puzzled by the Savior's actions right before he raised Lazarus from the dead.  Here was the Son of God, master of life and death, going with a sure knowledge that he was about to raise Lazarus from the grave to continue his mortal life.  He knew it was going to happen, yet when he got to the grave we read that "Jesus wept." (St. John 11:35)  Why did He weep?  I believe it was because he "felt after" Lazarus' loved ones who were mourning his loss.  There in that room, as we prepared my little brother for his burial, I felt that the Savior was feeling after us.  He was sad because He loves us - and we were sad.

I am grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  It not only provided the needed comfort at a time of immense grief, it provided (and still provides) tremendous hope for the future.  Because of this great gift I know that I can be with my family once again.  His atonement covers all wounds and heals all hurts.  There is  NOTHING that cannot be made right by Christ.

At the end of a very beautiful funeral service my family gathered at the cemetery to say our final goodbye's to Tim.  As we lowered his casket into the grave my 5 year old daughter Blondie looked at all of us like we were crazy.  Looking down into the grave at Timmy's casket she said in a loud voice: "How is he going to get out?" and then quickly answered her own question - "I guess Jesus will just have to go down there and get him."

Indeed - Jesus has come down here and will "get" all of us who are waiting and anxious for His uplifting hands.  There is joy and sweet comfort in the sentence: "I know that my Redeemer lives!"

I know that He lives!  I know that He suffered for our sins, died and rose again the third day to open the way back to our Heavenly Father's presence.  He is there now, beckoning us towards Him.  He is the only way back.  May we each find Him and feel after Him on this sacred Easter Sunday.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Missing Tim

Timmy, my baby brother, had a tremendous impact on my life.  He blessed our family in person for 17 years and then moved on ahead of us 6 years ago today.  Although it has been a while since Tim's passing, memories of his life continue to bless me.  Here are a just a few of the things I remember about Timmy:
  • Tim's absolute joy in living - he laughed and enjoyed the very simplest of things with a zest that could hardly be contained in his little body.
  • His life was surrounded with love - with the exception of one isolated incident Tim never knew anything but love in his life, and he radiated the love he felt for others.
  • His spiritual sensitivity - he recognized when spiritually significant events were occurring.  This didn't always happen, but it happened on enough occasions for us to recognize it and appreciate it.   
  • His laugh - Tim laughed with his entire body
  • His patience - Tim had to endure a lot of discomfort and illness in his life, but he just dealt with it and remained the sweet, happy person he always was in spite of it all.  
  • His love for his family - Of course he loved his parents and siblings, but he adored his nieces and nephews, and got the biggest kick out of watching them play with and around him.
Tim was only 3 years old when I left on my mission, so I didn't really expect him to remember me when I got home two years later.  When I arrived at the airport he obviously enjoyed having so many family members around, but I could tell he didn't really remember who I was.  He picked up on the fact that the rest of the family was happy to see me and I must have seemed familiar to him, but he couldn't quite fit me in.  Throughout that first day home he kept looking at me trying to figure out where exactly he had seen me before.  I was familiar, but why was I familiar?  Then it happened - he remembered who I was and his whole face just lit up.  He laughed, straightened up his whole body and leaned over to reach for me.  For the rest of the day he laughed and giggled when I was near him.  It made my day.

Te hecho de menos carnalito.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 22 - Home

A year ago today my family made a heart-wrenching move from the family home to a new home several miles east.  Both my wife and my oldest daughter have posted about their feelings about this move.  (Dulcinea's blog can be read here.)

The experience of getting here was intense.  In fact, it was like going through a fine strainer at high speed.  When we got to the other side of the strainer there was just us left.  And so we picked up and moved on.

I cannot express enough how much we love our new home, the ward we are in and our new neighbors.  We have felt like honored guests here from day one.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be here, however long that may be.

Day 21 - Trains

If we are talking about Christmas gifts, the quintessential gift is an electric train.  I remember getting one for Christmas and thinking it was the best thing since sliced bread.  Yesterday I took my four youngest children to Dennis Sirrine's house (on 24th St. just south of McKellips in Mesa).  He has 4 acres of yard filled with over 2500 feet of garden scale train track.  The landscaping is phenomenal and the train setup is beyond belief.  Tailgunner's jaw dropped.  I could not believe the attention to detail that went into this guy's hobby.  There was a roundhouse, bridges, a lake, observation platforms, several train stations,a hobo sleeping underneath one of the miniature bridges and even a derailed train.  He will be opening it up again this coming weekend (Friday and Saturday) from 5:30pm - 8:30pm.  You gotta see this.

Day 20 - Noel

My sweet Dulcinea is a member of a phenomenal choir.  How that all came about is a story for another time (told by her) but, suffice it to say, it is a tremendous blessing for us.

Friday night the choir visited the home of a sweet lady who is dealing with a debilitating illness, and is not able to leave her house very often.  I got to tag along, and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the music they sang.  To my ears their pitch was perfect, their timing impeccable and their harmony divine.  Their music filled that home with a beautiful spirit that complimented and amplified the sweetness of their sound.

I felt the Christmas Spirit touch me in a way I haven't felt for years.  It wasn't an excitement for Christmas and seeing the kids open their presents.  Rather, it was a calm assurance that He lives.  That He really did come to earth.  Angels did announce His birth.  And His promises are sure.

During their opening number, "The First Noel", I couldn't help but watch their audience - this wonderful lady and her husband who were facing a grim future over the weeks and months ahead.  Their hope and faith in the Savior was radiating from their faces as they listened.

The Christmas Spirit was in that home - because the choir was giving service and because their audience was echoing their song with faith in the Savior.

My heart sang.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 19 - Decorating the Home

The Christmas season is replete with creativity.  People go to incredible lengths to sell their products or to proclaim their enthusiasm for the holidays, and we get to see some pretty cool things as a result.  
At home we are not extravagant but we get into the spirit as well.  This morning I took time to notice some of the decorations my wife has been putting up.  She filled a glass bowl with pine cones from the tree outside with several of the burned out Christmas lights mixed in for a little color.  A new wreath hangs on our door (mostly red - my favorite color), and a poinsettia plant is peaking out of a large vase in the entryway.  Mistletoe hangs from the entryway light, and pine boughs cover the edges of bookshelves and music cabinets.  A small village of Christmas themed objects grace the top of the bookshelf, and a Santa Clause figure joins a menorah and a glass jar of Christmas ornaments on one of the decorative shelves in the living room.  I am sure I will see more things set up as the season progresses.  Why do we do these things?  Well, it seems to me that decorating our homes with Christmas paraphernalia is one of the ways we express the

this season brings to our hearts.