I was always on the sideline – watching, observing, helping when needed and asked, supporting, and sustaining. For 20 years that was my role as wife to a local church leader. I saw how he dedicated his life to his call. It was, for him, not just a Sunday responsibility – it was a 24/7 thing, one that required the best from him (and us as a family).
From the very first moment he was given a calling, we were both interviewed and were made to understand that calls to serve comes with a corresponding “expiration date” – a release will be called in due time. All those years we knew and were prepared that time will come when a release will be in order, and it came after 20 years of what seemed like a full time church service, for him and for all of us.
Were we prepared? Yes! But I have to be honest too, that in my mind I was a bit worried about what will happen next, not so much to me or to my children, but to my beloved sweetheart. All those years he was involved in practically all the activities of the stake; he was “on top” of things. He was close to almost all the members of the stake. He knew their circumstances, and their problems were his problems; their joys his joys. One of the things I learned in all the years he served was that he carried more the problems of the members than our own, not because we did not have any, but because it was his duty, and he attended to them to the best of his ability.
He was known to be very strict to the youth – a disciplinarian. But that was because he loved all of them. He treated all the young men and young women as his own sons and daughters – hurting when someone was hurt; happy when someone was happy. He wanted all of them to succeed, just like his want and desire for his own children to succeed.
I never thought I’d see him cry, but he did, on the very Sunday he was released. As we went out the meeting house at the end of the Stake Conference on that beautiful Sunday afternoon, I saw how sad he felt; I saw the tears forming in his eyes and I knew he was struggling to fight off the tears. At that moment I looked back on the 20 years when we were almost always the first ones in the Chapel on activity days and Sundays and the last ones out on those occasions too! I said to myself that things will never be the same again. I wonder what will fill our Sunday afternoons? Will he be given another calling in the Stake?
And so here we are, almost three years after his release. We managed, and have adjusted well. Nothing much really has changed. He still attends meetings on Sunday afternoons when invited. When there are no meetings, we all stay home and savor the peace and quite of the Sabbath day.
Today, however, we were reminded of the “things past”…
The youth, with two of our youngest children, just came home from their annual summer temple trip, something that we were deeply involved in the last 20 years of our membership.
As we were driving to pick them up in the port, we talked about what we did together in the past – all the annual temple trips in Manila … the numerous visits to the Manila Zoo and the American Cemetery. We talked about the sacrifices we had to make just so we can go to the temple every year. We talked about the kindness and generosity of Tatay (the owner of Karilagan Forwarders) who sent his drivers and vans just to pick us from the port and brought us and our things to the Patron House. Our kids (who were in the back seat listening to our discussions) laughed when we reminisced those times because it was far from the ideal – but it was the best we could offer back then.
Then we talked about the young men and young women during those years who are now married. Some of them are still living here but most have moved on with their adult lives somewhere else. Many now have their own families and are church leaders themselves. Many of them still active in the church, and a few needs rescuing …
He was silent as he was maneuvering the car, and I saw him smile. I knew he was thinking of the wonderful memories we’ve had then. Of course we miss the times when we were part of almost everything interesting and exciting in the Church; when we did not have to ask to be invited to join an activity or affair. But then again one thing is clear – there is always a time and place for everything. I guess we were just experiencing again our “empty-nest syndrome” …
I smiled; I know the sad feeling will not last.
And so today, we’re father and mother to 3 single adults; one young woman and one young man. We’re happy; we’re doing good; and we’re excited as ever for what’s in store ahead of us. No regrets – maybe a few “if only’s”, but I guess they’re just but natural. The Gospel that was taught to us never said we won’t go through the emotions of sadness – because we will! The Gospel promises us though that we’ll have the understanding and the control to get over the feelings fast, and the will power to move on; to be good; and to do good continually!