20 years of passing

Colleen and her grandson, Paul Ross.

This year on 14 November 2019 marked the 20 year passing of my Grandmother, Colleen Andra Jonas.

I thought about that experience repeatedly on Thursday.  She would have turned 91 earlier this year.  She was falling apart then, so 91 probably would not have treated her well.  She passed away from a botched back surgery that had taken place several days before.  14 November 1999 was a Sunday.

Her passing is important for me for several reasons.  She was probably the person I most loved in my whole universe.  In many ways she had helped raise me and I always felt a very keen affinity and close relationship with her.  We knew each others thoughts, feelings, and how to connect.  I attribute many of my characteristics, humor, ability to communicate and get along with others, and much more to her.  She was a remarkable woman.  She had her faults, we all do, but that innate goodness outshines everything to me.  Her passing I can safely say completely rocked my world.

On the other side of the coin though, her passing marked my first spiritual experience inside of a Temple.  I was serving as missionary in the England Manchester Mission (EMM).  I was then serving in the Eccles Ward, living in Patricroft.  Our preparation day was on Mondays.  On 15 November 1999, I went with a family and our missionary district to the Preston England Temple.  We did a number of baptisms that day.  We intended to take at least one name through baptism, confirmation, initiatory, and endowment.

Somehow I found myself sitting alone outside initiatory.  I have no clue where the other missionaries were, it must have been a shift change or the workers had to go to the veil.  I sat on a padded bench outside initiatory, I suppose the other elders were sitting waiting in the initiatory booths.

Colleen Elliott tending to Paul Ross sitting on her kitchen counter

As I sat there, the smell of Hai Karate came to me.  That was a distinct smell of my grandmother, she wore that.  I knew she had surgery the previous week so I thought of her and prayed for her well-being.  Knowing she had a pretty major surgery coming up, we visited on the telephone the week before.  We talked about our love for each other.  We spent several minutes discussing Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk just the month before at General Conference, “An High Priest of Good Things to Come.”  We were both very moved by that talk and felt it directly related to both of us in our circumstances, especially in light of my mother’s actions the year before.  There was very much to look forward to and be positive about.  We closed that phone call expressing our love, looking forward to reuniting, and knowing Christ as our “High Priest of Good Things to Come.”

It was then in my mind’s eye I was transported to her surgery in Sun Valley, Idaho.  I saw the surgery, the actions of the surgeon, the extent of the invasive nature of the work.  It was during this that I saw the mistake that occurred and that was left.  Then I saw her coalescing in the hospital and the problem being created by the nicked bowel.  I saw the nurses get her up on Sunday morning, I saw the dislodging of the clot that occurred, I saw and felt the panic in her and the nurses.  I saw her slump to the floor in unconsciousness.  I knew she had passed at that moment.

I then saw my Mom, my Uncle, my Sister, my Aunt, and Bud (her husband) and their finding out the news.  My Mom didn’t know yet, but she would find out.  I saw the sadness, desperation, and frustration that came with it.

It was then I came back to myself in Preston, England.  I had just experienced the past week of my grandmother and immediate family in what seemed to me to be a couple of hours, but must have been less than 10 minutes in the Preston England Temple.  I saw there in a sort of out-of-body experience looking at myself sitting there in the 1999 initiatory clothing sitting on a bench outside an initiatory booth.

Then at that moment, in my mind’s eye, my grandmother was there.  I could smell her.  She talked to me, I could hear and feel her talking into my ear as I watched myself sitting there on the bench.  I couldn’t see her.  She told me that she had passed away.  She told me a number of other things I don’t feel to share here.  I am telling you, I was standing there, out of my body, listening to her.  She then went to leave, and the person of me standing there looking at me sitting there, started to cry.  She told me not to.  She hugged me.  Then she departed.

Side profile with grandson Paul Ross, 1979.

Suddenly, I was back sitting on the bench.  I could still smell her.  I didn’t want it to leave.  I looked up wondering what had happened.  In typical mortal fashion, I just thought to myself I had fallen asleep and dreamed it.  It was a dream to me.  I was overwhelmed by the experience but I didn’t believe it.

I must have been pretty somber throughout the rest of the day.  I didn’t really talk after the temple, at dinner that night, I was overwhelmed by the vision/dream.

Tuesday dawned and we went to work.  The day went along but the experience would not leave me.  We got home that night to 24 Lewis Street, Patricroft, England and were getting ready for the night.  It was then a knock came to the door.

I opened the door and there stood President Philip Wightman.  He said he was there to visit with me and I immediately knew why.  That dream/vision I had experienced and did not believe was now true.  I completely broke down sobbing.  He came in and we visited, I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe.  He just held and hugged me.  Finally sitting facing each other on folding chairs I told him of my experience.  Initially he said something like, “Knowing you and your history and that your Grandmother had passed, I came to visit you personally.”  After I shared with him my insight, his comment was along the lines of, “Glad I could confirm what you already knew.  I guess I didn’t need to come personally visit.”  I was very glad he did.  It was funny, a year later he indicated, “That was the night the lights came on in Elder Ross.”  I guess I wasn’t wholly in the work just yet, or along for the ride.  Not sure, I wasn’t a bad missionary, but the gospel became that much more real for me through this experience.

Colleen Jonas Portrait, 1991.

While writing this at this time, I can only think of two other experience I have had with my sweet grandmother since her passing.  One was while I lived in Branson, Missouri and she came bearing an answer to a prayer.  I was actually sleeping at that time and after her departure I awoke.  In the middle of the night I then went to see if my good friend Terry McCombs, who was staying at the same home, was awake.  Sure enough he was.  I shared the experience, the one in the Preston England Temple, and some others I have had.  He shared with me many of his own.  We talked for hours in the middle of the night and the spirit burned in my heart.  I love and miss Terry.  The other experience actually happened during a Priesthood Blessing that was being given to me in Logan, Utah by Dustin McClellan.  I recognized my grandmother’s presence come into the room.  He then announced he was acting voice for her in which he blessed me as if he were her.  Wow, if one wanted to hear a voice from the dead, that is the way to do it!  Even though Dustin spoke, I heard her voice in my ears.

This week marked the 20 year anniversary of one of the most emotional weeks I have ever had in my life.  Both on the emotional from a death, but on the spiritual of an everlasting burning of a memory on my soul.  Even recounting it in writing tonight I felt myself reliving some of it.

It is experiences like this that come to mind when people tell me that nobody can know for sure that God exists, or that his Son did anything for us.  It is moments like this when the spirit world is very real and I view people’s arguments against God as rationalization to make themselves feel better for not knowing.  Those arguments are a whistling in the dark.  For I have no doubt from the experiences recounted above and numerous others that the spirit world is not far away.  These are experiences with my grandmother, but there are others.

14 Sep 1998, Paul Ross, Colleen Lloyd, Paul, Idaho

I know God lives, just as surely as my grandmother still lives spiritually.  I am not aware of her being resurrected at this time, but it will come if it hasn’t already.  Death is not the end, that is my personal experience.  I don’t care for aging and death much, but neither are the end.  We have a work to do and not much time to do it in.

Oh how I miss my grandmother.  I haven’t had an experience with her directly since 2005, 6 years after her death, at least that I can recall now.  How I look forward to seeing her again.  It will be a blessed day.  20 years seems so long, yet so short in how vivid the love and tenderness is.  Years have caused me to forget some of her mannerisms and characteristics, but the connection is as strong as it was ever at any point.  It extends through time and space between us.  But this anniversary shocked me at how long it has been, and yet how fresh it still seems.

Here is a picture of the last day I saw her physically.  The day I met with the Stake President again and to finally go into the Missionary Training Center after many weeks of delay due to my mother’s actions.

The morning to go to the MTC with Milo Ross, Colleen Lloyd, and Jackie Melycher

4th Grade, Paul Elementary, Paul, Idaho

Back Row (l-r): Brandon Rogers, Erica Jones, Paul Ross, John Hayhurst, Shana Thompson, Jeff Hayden, Shane Ball, Alissa Anderson, Robin Anderson; Middle Row: Amber King, Bobie Jones, Deanne Williams, Kody Nielsen, Cesar Boroquez, Dustin McClellan, Jamey Price, Jesse Jensen, Grace Williams; Front Row: Amanda Moore, Brandi Cole, Archie Winnett, Jennifer Gebauer, Shaun Bettazza, Erin Zemke, Rigo Arteaga.

As I mentioned before, Bobie Story let me scan some of our common grade school pictures. All mine were lost due to a flood of our basement while I was away in the England Manchester Mission. I am happy to have copies again. (I am still missing Ms. Suhr for 3rd grade and Mr. Mendenhall for 6th grade. If you have a copy, please let me scan!)

This is our 4th grade class picture from Paul Elementary, Paul, Idaho. This was the 1988 – 1989 school year.

Normally I organized photos with married names and dates. Since all are still alive, I will forgo any of the dates. I have added the married last name for the ones I know. If you have corrections, please let me know.

Miss Robin Anderson

Alissa Anderson

Rigo Arteaga

Shane Ball

Shaun Bettazza

Cesar Boroquez

Brandi Cole

Jennifer Gebauer

Jeff Hayden

John Hayhurst

Jesse Jensen

Erica Jones married Thorson

Amber King

Dustin McClellan

Amanda Moore married Kriwox

Kody Nielsen

Jamey Price married Crystal

Brandon Rogers

Paul Ross

Shana Thompson

Deanne Williams

Grace Williams married Wittman

Archie Winnett

Erin Zemke married McKindree

1st Grade, Paul Elementary, Paul, Idaho

Back row (l-r): Mrs. Brenda Winward, Michael Hollis, Jamey Price, Amber King, Tracy Hitt, Danny Wright, Bobie Jones, Nicole Catmull; Middle Row: Nathan Jones, Adrianne Neibaur, Jerilynn Parks, Karlene Hansen, Lindsay Osterhout, Bonnie Torix, Conrad May; Front Row: Andrew Morgan, Matt Robbins, Amy Woodward, Alex Madrigal, Eric Zarybnisky, David Rios, Shana Thompson, Ivan Young, Paul Ross.

As I mentioned before, Bobie Story let me scan some of our common grade school pictures.  All mine were lost due to a flood of our basement while I was away in the England Manchester Mission.  I am happy to have copies again.  (I am still missing Ms. Suhr for 3rd grade and Mr. Mendenhall for 6th grade.  If you have a copy, please let me scan!)

This is our 1st grade class picture from Paul Elementary, Paul, Idaho.  This was the 1985 – 1986 school year.

Normally I organized photos with married names and dates.  Since all are still alive, I will forgo any of the dates.  I have added the married last name for the ones I know.  If you have corrections, please let me know.

I have a couple of memories about this photo I want to share.

Miss Winward graduated high school with my Mom.  She would tell me that all the time.  Later I knew she married to Ms. Goodsell and apparently moved away to Mountain Home or somewhere that direction.

I remember cheating off Jamey Price, who sat next to me.  I struggled with math and I seem to remember she let me.  Well, I got busted at some point.  My Mom sat me down for hours and hours and taught me how to count with cigarettes.  She got some flashcards and we slaved to make sure I knew how to do basic math.  By the time 3rd grade rolled around, I was a whiz at math and Ben Frank was my competition for speed on the multiplication tables.  I remember having a bit of a crush on Jamey too.

Another kid, whose last name was Bailey is not in this picture.  I remember he would eat crayons and play with the Elmers glue on the knees of his pants.  Jake?

This is the only year I remember having naps.  Finding a little place to lay down, relax, and catch a few z’s.

Miss Brenda Winward married Goodsell

Nicole Catmull married Manning

Karlene Hansen married Ashcraft

Tracy Hitt

Michael Hollis

Bobie Jones married Story

Nathan Jones

Amber King

Alex Madrigal

Conrad May

Andrew Morgan

Adrianne Neibaur

Lindsay Osterhout

Jerilynn Parks married Mower

Jamey Price married Crystal

David Rios

Matt Robbins

Paul Ross

Shana Thompson

Bonnie Torix

Amy Woodward married Noble

Danny Wright

Ivan Young

Eric Zarybnisky

 

In Memory of Lowell Hansen, Bryce Sanderson, and Garrett Smith

With the suicide of a dear young man, Bryce Allen Sanderson, I thought I would share these thoughts and this talk once again.  In memory of Garrett Lee Smith and Lowell Eugene Hansen.  Both of them forced the concept of suicide into my life and required I come to some understanding of the idea.  I wanted to give some memories of these two individuals and the doctrinal concepts surrounding suicide.  What is suicide?  How does God look at suicide?  How am I supposed to deal with suicide?  How does God deal with those who commit suicide?  I hope this talk will help address some of these questions as we all ponder once again this unthinkable act, that brings upon a person their own death.

Lowell Hansen was an acquaintance I knew in Paul, Idaho.  I was young enough that I knew who he was, but did not really know anything about him.  After I was charged by a bull at our house, I remembered that within days he appeared at our home and removed the charge from the bull.  I watched him shoot, hang, gut, clean, and cut the bull.  It was fascinating.  I remember recognizing the butcher truck each time when I would see it on the road or at some other location.  I knew he built a log home because I always saw the truck parked near it.  Years later after I became involved in the same congregation and came to know him a little more as Brother Hansen.  It was not until I returned from my mission that I realized he even had a family.  I moved back to home in the fall of 2002 and I was assigned as a Home Teacher to one of Lowell’s daughters.  It was only then I really started to get to know the Hansen family more on a personal level.  It was shortly after that Lowell decided to end his life much like he did that bull.  I attempted to help minister, however weakly, somewhat to the needs of his daughter and her then boyfriend.  The talk I reproduce in full below was given at his funeral and has provided much of the basis for my feelings and ideas on suicide.  I have gained my own testimony of the talk and testify openly of its principles and truth.

Garrett Smith was on a bit more personal level for me.  I first learned of him in Manchester, England when he was assigned my companion as a new missionary.  I was called as a trainer to him, although I only knew of him as Elder Smith.  We served together, 24 hours a day, for 6 weeks.  We had many a conversation and became close friends.  I had some frustrations with him due to some of his learning disabilities and my lack of patience.  He knew of this and I do not think it always helped in our relationship.  When the 6 weeks were up, we had both profoundly influenced the other.  He convinced me that I should consider leaving civil engineering and looking more into political science and law.  I think I had convinced him that his disabilities were not a very good excuse for settling for mediocrity.  I left England to return home in 2000 and he finished in 2002.  We had planned several occasions where we would get together for old time’s sake, but they kept falling through due to poor scheduling and other issues.  We finally set a date to get together on the 13th of September in 2003.  I was going to drive down to Orem, Utah where he was and spend the weekend.  Unfortunately, I received a phone call that week only to find he had hanged himself in a closet after consuming alcohol and sleeping pills.  I had a great desire to attend his funeral so a roommate from Logan drove with me to Pendleton, Oregon for the funeral.  I took a copy of the talk from Lowell’s funeral with me and gave it to Garrett’s parents.  Garrett’s mom, Sharon, later thanked me for the talk.  Our Mission President, Phil Wightman, spoke at the funeral and while I doubt he had read the talk, he referenced very similar themes as Hyrum Smith did at Lowell’s funeral (Hyrum Smith was Lowell’s Mission President too).  Sometimes I find myself wondering what Garrett’s life would be like if he wasn’t reposing at Weston, Oregon.

I lost the talk over the years and had repeated requests come to me for a copy of it.  Those asking were mostly individuals I had shared with at the time of Garrett’s funeral who were moved by it and wanted to give a copy of it when someone else took their life.  I had probably a dozen requests for the talk in 2010, so I ended up contacting Lowell’s widow for a copy.

Here is a copy of the talk by Hyrum Smith given 6 December 2002 at the funeral of Lowell Eugene Hansen in Paul, Idaho.  At the end, I will give some other thoughts I remember Phil Wightman giving at Garrett’s funeral.

~

My brothers and sisters, I wasn’t really sure until about 3 o’clock this morning why I was asked to be here, but somewhere around three, I knew.  The spirit indicated to me that I am uniquely qualified to speak here today, and I’ll share with you why as I share some thoughts with you.

I’m honored and humbled that Emma Jean asked me to be here.  When she called Monday, I was stunned as I’m sure all of you were.

Public speaking is not something that is foreign to me.  I do it for a living.  I’ve spoken before thousands of audiences, but never an assignment like this.  I’d like to begin by suggesting that we are met here today in the house of God.  That same God who sent Jesus here to help us.  We meet today in the name of Jesus Christ who died to save us.  I would ask that you keep that in mind as I share a few thoughts with you this morning.

I’d like to begin by sharing four scriptures with you that describe, as many scriptures do, how our Father in Heaven, and our Savior feel about us.  I think we need to be especially reminded of that.  I’d like to go first with the 29th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read verse 5 “Lift up your hearts and be glad for I am in your midst and am your advocate with the Father.  And it is His good will to give you the kingdom.”  I would then take you to the 62nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read verse 1, “Behold and hearken, o ye Elders of my church saith the Lord your God.  Even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.”  Now go with me to John, Chapter 3, verse 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world, through Him, might be saved.”  Last I would take you back to the Doctrine and Covenants, in section 18.  “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.  For behold, the Lord, your Redeemer, suffered death in the flesh.  Wherefore He suffered pain of all men that all men might repent and come unto Him.  And He hath risen again from the dead that He might bring all men unto Him on conditions of repentance.  And how great is His joy in the soul that repenteth.”  I share those scriptures with you, brothers and sisters, as a preamble to what I would ask you to consider as we have met here today.

This wonderful man, father, husband, son, brother, missionary, I knew him well as a missionary.  He was one of the great missionaries of our mission – most of the Idaho people were.  He made a big mistake the other night.  Huge mistake.  He knows that he made that mistake now.  It cost him his life.  But only his body died the other night.  His soul, his spirit, his brain, his mind are still very much alive – very active.  It’s like going into another room.

I was led to a talk that Elder Jeffrey Holland gave at a very similar funeral.  Jeff Holland and I served as missionaries in the same mission, British mission, lots of years ago.  He’s a very dear friend.  He was asked to speak at the funeral of a young man who had taken his life.  This is what Elder Holland said, and I am going to interject Lowell’s name into these remarks, because they fit perfectly today.  “We’re here to celebrate Lowell’s life, not his death.  We’re here to praise the Lord and love God for the atonement and the resurrection, but we’re also here to say, particularly to the youth in this congregation and others who struggle, that Lowell made a mistake.  Now he would be the first to say that.  Someone said, ‘A man to be good, and I would add a woman, must imagine intensely and comprehensively – he must put himself in the place of another – the pains and pleasures of the man that has become his own.  Until he can do that, he must never sit in judgment on a man or his motives.’  We need a better vocabulary, Emma Jean.  We know what we mean when we use the language of death.  But the master of heaven and earth, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of all mankind, the living Resurrection said that, “When you live and believe in Him, you never die.”  So, we’ll let Lowell go for a while.  But he’s not dead, in any eternal sense, and you know that.  You know that now, you’ll know it tomorrow, and you’ll know it next week.  You’ll especially know it when he is spiritually close to you, whispers to you in your dreams, helps through the veil to raise your grandchildren.  You’ll know that Lowell lives.  It is important to me to bear testimony to you that Lowell lives – just as we testify that God lives and Jesus lives.  We testify that Lowell lives and spiritually and is loved of God and of us.  We miss him.  Death was an intruder this week.  We weren’t ready.  We do miss him and we are sorry, but none of that diminishes the brightness of his life.  The grandeur of God’s plans – the reality of life and the resurrection – of eternity and the Celestial kingdom.  Lowell is being buried with all the promises and symbols of his covenants safely around him.  God in his mercy will work out all the arrangements even as Lowell works out his acknowledgement of his mistake.”  Un-quote.

Those are words of an Apostle of God.  I would like to pose five questions to you now.  The first of which no one has an answer for, but I think we need to deal with it, because I don’t think there is a person in this room that hasn’t asked this question in the last five days.  The second, third, and fourth question, I came from southern Utah this morning, to answer.  Because there are answers to those three questions, and I believe I can answer them for you.  The fifth question, only the people in this room can answer.  I don’t know what that answer will be, but I’m going to pose it.

Here’s the first question, which has been on the minds and lips of probably everyone.  “What was he thinking about?”  What possibly could have driven him to make this mistake?  What’s the answer?  I don’t know.  Nobody here knows.  What sort of despair and anguish and pain causes someone to do that?  I don’t know!  He made a mistake, so we really don’t know the answer to that question.  But that’s not the important question.

The second question, the one that I think I am uniquely qualified to answer, and one of the reasons why I think I was asked to be here is, “What is Lowell thinking now?”  Lowell’s very much alive.  He thinks, he breathes; he has probably had an opportunity to walk with his Father in Heaven.  DO you want me to tell you what he is thinking now?  He’s afraid.  He’s sorry.  He’s in anguish.  He’s suffering.  He’s wishing he hadn’t done it.  I know that.  How do I know?  Several years ago, I made some big mistakes.  We all make mistakes.  Hopefully not as big as the ones I made.  Because of those mistakes, it was required that I lose my membership in the church for several years.  And after I went through the process of approaching my Bishop and my Stake President, and going through the church judicial system – which is amazing, I found myself asking the first question a lot.  What was I thinking?  I couldn’t even answer that question for me.  But I know what I thought about after.  I know about the pain.  I know about the anguish.  I know about the suffering.  It’s awful!  So rest assured, and knowing Lowell as I know him – the integrity of this man, he’s in a lot of pain.

Third question, “Will the Lord allow Lowell to repent?”  Every natural instinct in your body knows the answer to that question – Of course!  He allows everyone to repent.  There’s a myth that floats around the church from time to time.  It suggests that people who take their lives have committed an unpardonable sin.  I’m here to tell you today that’s just flat not true.  The Lord will allow Lowell to repair that mistake.  He’ll walk him through it.  He’ll help him do it.  He’s going to allow that.

Fourth question, “Will the Lord forgive him?”  Every natural instinct in your body knows the answer to that question.  The answer is yes.  He will.  He will forgive him.  And Lowell will receive all the blessings that he rightly deserves from a wonderful life.

Those are the three questions I can answer with surety.  The fifth question, I can’t.  The fourth question was, “Will the Lord forgive him?”  The answer is yes.  The fifth question is, “Will you?”  I know from sad experience that lots of people don’t.  But the Lord has asked us to forgive.  He said, “I the Lord will forgive whom I choose to forgive, but of you, you’re required to forgive all men.”  I need to talk about forgiveness for a moment.  Does the mistake that Lowell made the other night blot out all the good that this man did in his life?  No!  Elder Holland reflected on that.  He was a wonderful missionary.  He was a great father.  He was a great man.  He was dedicated to his Father in Heaven.  Like many of us, he made some mistakes, one big one.  It doesn’t blot out everything he was.  We heard of a wonderful tribute from a beautiful daughter today about the kind of dad he was.  None of that gets wiped out.

As I went through the initial stages of my repentance process, one of the major sources of the anguish was the worry that no one would forgive me.  Because I somehow got it in my mind as I grew up in the church, that to ultimately forgive someone, for a transgression, you had to forget it.  Because we were taught in the scriptures, that when repentance was real and complete, the Lord forgets.  How does He do that? He forgets!  Wow!  Can we, mortals, reach a level of spiritual maturity where we can forget what happened the other night?  I don’t think so.  Do you think that anybody in this room will ever forget that Lowell took his life?  Not in this life.  I don’t think so.  Do you think anyone, who knows me well, will forget that I was excommunicated from the church?  Nope – Hyrum Smith…business leader, great, great grandson of the prophet’s brother, Hyrum?  No one will ever forget that!  Do you think my kids will forget that?  No!  BUT, and this is one of those moments where the spirit instructs and saves, in the middle of the night, the spirit taught a great lesson.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  Forgiveness means remembering – but it doesn’t matter any more.  I think we can achieve that.  I think we can reach a point, as mortals, where we can remember and have forgiven to the point where, in remember, it just doesn’t matter anymore.  I challenge each to deal with the fifth question, “Will you forgive him?”  I believe you can – you must!  That’s what the Lord wants you to do.  But you’ll never forget.

I want to share a concept with you that has helped me think through a number of things.  During the Vietnam War, I was in the military during that period of time; there was a man by the name of Stockdale.  He was an admiral.  He was the highest-ranking man to spend time at the Hanoi Hilton as a prisoner of war.  And while he was in the prison, for about six years, he discovered that there were three basic types of people incarcerated in that prison.  He discovered the same thinking that Victor Frankl discovered at Auschwitz during the Second World War.  Victor Frankl wrote about it in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  Then Stockdale wrote about it, and it has become known and has been written about in a number of books since – the Stockdale paradox.  The three groups of people that he discovered were these.  There were pessimists, optimists, and realists.  And this is how he defined each group.  The pessimists saw the brutal facts around him and quit.  The optimist had boundless faith and ignored the brutal facts.  The realist saw the brutal facts, but had faith they could be dealt with.

The reason I share this with you is that in this book, when he wrote about this he said the interesting thing about these three groups is that the first two groups of people died in the camps at Vietnam.  Died!  Didn’t make it back!  I understood why the pessimists didn’t make it.  They saw the brutal facts.  They were in the middle of South-East Asia.  They were 8,000 miles from help and the Marines aren’t going to get in here.  We’re going to be here forever, and they died.  And some very healthy bodies died.

The second group stunned me!  The optimists died!  How come the optimists died?  Because the optimists had boundless faith but were not willing to look at the brutal facts.  And they said to each other, “You know we’ll be out of here by Christmas.”  “We’ll be out of here by Valentines.”  Every rustle in the bush was the Marines coming to save them.  And when every rustle in the bush wasn’t the Marines coming to save them and when they weren’t out by Christmas, and when they weren’t out by Valentines, they died.  They gave up and died.

The realists survived.  They saw the brutal facts.  “We’re in the middle of South-East Asia.  We’re not going to be rescued for a long time, but you know what guys, we’ll stick together.  We can handle this.”  And they did.

A good friend, by the name of Jensen, was in our mission – Lowell knew him – served six years in that prison.  There were several LDS fellows there, and the way they kept themselves sane was they would try and remember LDS hymns.  They would tap by Morse code on the bars of the jail, and they would send what they could remember of each hymn.  They gathered lots of hymns.  And one hymn they worked on for four years.  They got the first three verses in about 18 months, but the fourth verse took two and a half years to get.  They finally got the fourth verse.  When they got back, there was only three verses.  They had created their own verse, but they survived.  Now why do I share that here?  I want to ask you the question as what are you going to do about this issue?  Pessimists see the brutal facts – Our dad killed himself.  It’s pretty awful.  Nothing so wrong, it’s awful!  And you can give up – if you want.  The optimist ignores the facts – puts on a smiley face and pretends it didn’t happen.  And the optimists live a lie.  The realist sees the brutal facts – We lost our dad, our husband, our son – pretty awful.  We’ve got to gather together and help each other now to survive financially and economically.  We’ve got to get through school.  We’ve got to do stuff that dad normally would have helped us with.  It isn’t going to be easy.  The optimist has the faith that we can do it.  And so I’m asking you today, “What are you going to be?”

On the 19th of October of last year, not this year, but 2001, Steven Covey and I, we have a business together, were asked by Mayor Giuliani of New York City, if we would come back to Manhattan and do a free, one day, workshop for the families of those affected by the 9/11 disaster.  He told that their mid-town Manhattan Sheraton had donated their ballroom.  They donated our rooms to stay.  Would you come back?  We’ve got people in some real pain.  Would you come back and speak?  We said, “We’re there!”  We got there on a Thursday night.  The seminar was to be on Friday.  I got there about midnight.  I’ve been in Manhattan many, many times.  As I flew up the East river, I was coming from Chicago, and saw the lights where the World Trade Center used to be, it was kind of an eerie feeling.  It was a very different landscape now.

At five o’clock the next morning, Mayor Giuliani had arranged for a tour, a private tour of ground zero for Steven and me.  At that point, which was just five weeks after the event; sixteen hundred policeman had surrounded ground zero, and had blocked it off.  You couldn’t get down there without a police escort.  We had to go through four checkpoints to get to ground zero.  About 5:15 in the morning, we found ourselves standing on the street in front of where the Marriott Hotel used to be. It used to be called the Vista Hotel.  I’ve stayed in that Hotel many times.  Only I wasn’t really standing on the street.  I was standing on 16 feet of compacted debris.  And as we stood there looking at this horrific hole in the ground, the policeman who had been assigned to be our guide began to tell us his story.

He said, “You know, I was here that day.  I was standing on the street right about where we are.  I heard this big bang, I looked up, and all this stuff came flying out of the World Trade Center.”  He said, “You know, it looked like paper when it all came out until it started hitting the ground.  It was fifty foot I-beams killing everyone it hit.”  He said, “I watched 34 people jump from those towers.  Four of them holding hands.  I watched eight firemen lose their lives from falling people.”  I’m not even believing this.  Then he looked at me and said, “Mr. Smith, how many computers do you think there were in the World Trade Center?”  I said, “Probably a lot.”  He said, “We haven’t found one!”  I said, “How come?”  “3,000 degree fire.  It’s still burning.”  As he was talking, a crane pulled a big I-beam out of the rubble, and the end of the I-beam was dripping molten steel.  Then he said, “You know the second plane hit and then the building started to come down – we all thought we were dead.  We got under a car, and somehow we lived.”  That’s how our morning started.

When we got back to the hotel at about 7:30, we had to shower.  We were covered with soot.  At 8:00, this meeting began.  There were 2,000 people jammed into a ballroom designed for 1,500.  People were sitting on the floor.  It started by two New York policemen and two New York Firemen, carrying the American flag in.  I will tell you, It’s hard.  And then the Harlem girls choir, sixty young women from Harlem, filed in and sang three patriotic songs, and the music that came out of those kids was amazing.  I was very grateful that Steven Covey had to speak first because I was a mess.  He spoke for two hours, and then I had to speak for two hours.  As I approached the front of the room, there were people all around on the floor.  A fireman, about half way back, in uniform, stood up, and he said, “Mr. Smith, are you going to tell us how we get of bed in the morning when we just don’t give a darn anymore?”  That’s how it started.  It turned out to be one of the toughest, and ultimately the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.  I said these words to the fireman – and I want to say these words to you – Emma Jean and the children, and their extended family, and everybody here.  If you don’t remember a think I’ve said, remember this statement.  I said to this fireman, “Pain is inevitable.  Misery is an option.”  And he seemed a little stunned.  Now what do I mean by that?  The fact is, brothers and sisters, bad things happen to good people.  They just do.  Airplanes fly into buildings.  Rivers overflow their banks.  Dams break and flood out villages.  Accidents happen – people die prematurely.  Bad stuff happens to good people.  How we choose to deal with the pain is ultimately a measure of who we are.

That’s why the Lord gave us the gospel of Jesus Christ.  To help us deal with the pain.  Some of the most serene, magnificent, wonderful people I’ve ever known have gone through some major pain in their lives.

Will the Lord forgive?  Yes!  Ten days ago, tomorrow, President Hinckley and Elder Maxwell, laid their hands on my head and restored all my blessings.  Not just some of them.  All of them.  And President Hinckley mentioned three times in the most amazing blessing I’ve ever heard, all the blessings.  I’m here to testify to you today that that will happen to Lowell.  He’ll be there.  He’ll be ready, Emma Jean.  He’ll welcome you with all his blessings.  So the challenge for us as the living – to go on.

When the pioneers came across the plains, they periodically had to stop and bury the dead.  And the scene was always the same.  There’d be a family standing around the grave, and if you looked off into the distance, you could see the wagons – and the wagons were ready to go.  The wagons had riders in them.  They were waiting for the family to get through with that funeral so that they could move on because they knew, “If we don’t move on, then we’ll die!”  They buried their dead, and they moved on.

Well, the wagons are surrounding the building, and they’re ready for us to move on.  We pulled off the highways of our lives to pay tribute to a great human being – who made a mistake that can be fixed.  And when we’re through here today, we’ll get back in our wagons and move on.  We’ll survive.  Don’t ever forget the brutal facts, but never lose faith that they can be dealt with.  I bear you my testimony that God lives.  Jesus is the Christ.  He loves everybody in the room.  He’ll take care of Lowell.  He’ll take care of us too.  I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

~

Here are a few more thoughts from my memory of Phil Wightman’s talk from Garrett’s funeral.  The talk centered around the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 which states, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

In essence, since I went to the funeral with Lowell’s funeral talk in my mind (in fact, my friend, Taylor Willingham, read it to me again on the drive up and I gave a copy to Garrett’s parents) the basics of the talk were the same.  Brother Smith approached it with some practical questions and answers to those questions.  President Wightman approached it from a doctrine side that we do not really know what goes on in the minds of these individuals when suicide is completed.  But we have to have charity, love them and their families, and move forward.  In the end, the Lord will sort all things out.

Rest in peace Garrett and Lowell.  I look forward to meeting up with you both again some day.  Until then, I hope we all can appreciate the suicidal act and hopefully help avoid it in the future, and work forward from those who do commit this unthinkable deed.

First published 5 Jun 2011.

Mozarteum

Mozarteum Doors

I once took some private lessons with a man by the name of Terry McCombs (1945-2007).  He studied for a time at Universitat Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria.  He showed me a number of photos and told me of his experiences there.  I felt and relived many of the experiences he had there.  While I was on my mission, he helped prepare an application for me and even had a friend of his come do an interview with me in Manchester, England.  In the end, the costs and personal inadequacies lead me to make decisions that took me in other directions away from music altogether.  At any rate, when I was in Salzburg, I made a point to stop and visit the Mozarteum.  I have thought about the Mozarteum some over the past few weeks and have those “what might have been” thoughts.  I don’t know they would have accepted me, and I certainly know it would have been a battle to learn German as well as music.  The thought still scares me.  But here are the doors which could have been an entirely other world.

The MTC

With my brother-in-law entering the Missionary Training Center (and now already left for his Carlsbad California Mission) I looked through some of the photos I have from the MTC.

That morning we met with the Stake President to finalize everything before driving out to Provo, Utah, Utah.

The morning to go to the MTC with Milo Ross, Colleen Lloyd, and Jackie Melycher (aunt)

The morning to go to the MTC with Milo Ross, Colleen Lloyd, and Jackie Melycher (aunt).  My Grandma particularly liked this photo because it also gives a side profile of me as well as the front.

One final blessing and setting apart before leaving.

Gene Hansen, Paul Ross, Milo Ross, setting apart (again)

Gene Hansen, Paul Ross, Milo Ross, setting apart (again)

The first picture is at the front doors before going in.

Arriving at the MTC

Arriving at the MTC

My first companion Elder Kody Young from St. George, Washington, Utah.

Kody Young and Paul Ross, companions at MTC

Kody Young and Paul Ross, companions at MTC (the camera is incorrect, this was December 1998)

Our first snow while at the MTC.

Snow at the MTC

Snow at the MTC

One of my most distinct memories from the MTC was the heating.  I don’t know what it was, but I ended up with a bloody nose at least once a day.  I was not the only one.  Apparently it had something to do with the dryness of the air and the ventilation systems.  It made for long days where my head was not always in the lessons but often worrying about the next nosebleed and whether I had tissues nearby.  If I had to go to the bathroom, the paper towels only seemed to make the problem worse.

Elder Holland came and spoke to the MTC while we were there.  He insisted on the opening hymn as “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”  After we sang it, he wanted us to sing it again with the silly extra phrases we all know.  It was quite a bit of fun hearing an organ play the introduction and then for us to sing along.  It was also in this talk that he told us that if we had to come home before our time was up, we better come home on a stretcher.  Even at the end, we should have worn out our days as missionaries.  We were so close the the Christmas holidays that we regularly sang Christmas music.

Our MTC District attending the Provo Temple.  Four of us were going to England, the remaining ones were headed to Peoria, Illinois.  The thing I remember most about the Provo Temple were the white escalators.  Years later when I went back, they were gone!  I was a bit disappointed not to see the white escalators again.

Our MTC District, I only know four of the 11.  From l-r, #5 is Elder Olson, #9 Elder Scow, #10 Elder Young, #11 Elder Ross.  The rest were going to Peoria, Illinois if I remember correctly.

Our MTC District, I only know four of the 11. From l-r, #5 is Elder Olson, #9 Elder Scow, #10 Elder Young, #11 Elder Ross.

There were a few things in the MTC that disgusted and horrified me but I will not relate them here.  They were not becoming of missionaries and I let them know.  There were also plenty of fun and enjoyable times.

Then the five of us were flying off to Manchester, England just in time for Christmas.

Elder Olson, Elder Scow, Sister Dunn, Elder Young, and Elder Ross at Salt Lake City airport flying out

Elder Olson, Elder Scow, Sister Dunn, Elder Young, and Elder Ross at Salt Lake City airport flying out

Some good friends and family came to see us off.

Elder Scow, Elder Young, Bryan Jensen, Elder Ross

Elder Scow, Elder Young, Bryan Jensen, Elder Ross

More friends and family.  My Sister, Dad, and Great Aunt Andra and cousin Denise, all came to share.  Sadly, my Grandma was told I was leaving from the wrong gate and was not present so I did not get to see her one last time.  She made it to the concourse just as the plane was about to leave and they let her send a package on the plane to me.  Very good friends to come say goodbye!

Andra Ross, Elena McBride, Milo Ross, Elder Ross, Denise Andra, Brenna Barnes, Adelaide Andra

Andra Ross, Elena McBride, Milo Ross, Elder Ross, Denise Andra, Brenna Barnes, Adelaide Andra

Maybe I can start sharing some more photos of the mission as time goes on.  I should get out my journals to add some more flavor to these entries than just photos.

Apostolic Brush

Ruby and David Haight, Paul Ross, Rose and John Byrom

Ruby and David Haight, Paul Ross, Rosie and John Byrom

I stumbled upon this picture the other day and thought maybe it was time to share it.  This picture has an interesting story behind it.

On the far right are John and Rosie Byrom.  Rosie is mostly in the shadow so it is difficult to make her out.  I served in the Runcord Ward from around December 1999 to around August 2000.  John served as Ward Mission Leader and Rosie as a Ward Missionary.  (The Byroms have since separated and divorced).  I served in the ward for a long time and they remained in their callings for the entire time, so we built a friendship which, I feign to believe, still exists to this day.

I returned home from my mission in December 2000.  It was not long into 2001 that I learned the Byroms were planning on visiting Utah.  Of course, I invited them to spend some time in Idaho.

During the majority of time I served in Runcorn I had a companion by the name of Brad Hales.  Also in our district was a senior sister companionship of Meriel Peterson and Patricia Kleinkopf.  We were all native Idahoans and were in close proximity of each other.  It was natural that the Byroms also wanted to visit each of them while they were in Idaho.

This particular day we drove to Oakley, Idaho to visit Sister Peterson.  We had an enjoyable breakfast and conversation.  Sister Peterson decided she wanted to give us the tour of Oakley because there were some architectural gems that she thought the Byroms would enjoy.  I grew up near Oakley so I was familiar with many of these local landmarks.

We all piled into my little Camry and away we drove.  We had not made it very far driving down some of the streets of Oakley when Sister Peterson announced, “Wait, David is home, he will want to meet you!”  She had me turn around and we pulled into a little home in Oakley.

I had no clue who David was and I was not familiar with the home we were now pulling into the driveway.  We all exited the car.  In the yard there was a man trimming his hedges with a large straw hat and a large set of sunglasses that you only see old people wear.

Since Sister Peterson indicated that David would want to meet the Byroms because they were from England, I remained at the front of my car in the driveway and leaned back against it in the hot, summer, morning sun.

I have to give a little bit of background on the month prior.  We are in the latter half of July 2001 at the point of this picture (I recollect it was the 21st, but may be wrong).  I had just spent considerable time in Hawaii with family at the beginning of the month.  During that time I picked myself up a shirt and a shell necklace among other items.  As you can see in the picture, I am wearing my red shirt (not the blatant Hawaiian design you regularly see).  For years I thought I was in a pair of board shorts too, but this picture corrects my memory on that tidbit.  But I had continuously wore my new puka shell necklace since the trip to Hawaii.

Back to the story, I am leaning on the front of my car watching the Byroms enter the back yard through the hedge and approach this old man in a large straw hat and holding an electric hedge trimmer.  The man stopped trimming and turned to greet his trespassers.  Curiously, after what was a short couple of moments, probably no more than 20 seconds of conversation, this man leaves the Byroms and Sister Peterson and headed my direction.

My first reaction was that I was doing something wrong so I looked around to see my misstep.  Alas, not seeing I had done anything wrong I approached the man and met him near his hedge.  He had set down his trimmer before arriving to me and he pulled his hand out of his glove to shake my hand.  I shook hands with him and he with his free hand reached up and took of his hat and glasses and asked me my name.

My first thought was something along these lines, “Boy, this David fellow sure looks familiar.”  He asked my name and I gave it.  He asked about my Ross name and whether or not it was Scottish.  I informed him it was my name but not the name of which my ancestors carried.  He then informed me that Ross was a common name in Scotland where he had served as a Mission President.

He then grew quiet and he sidled up closer to me and put the hand with the hat and glasses in the small of my back while still holding my other hand in a handshake.  He was now close enough that his face was in my shadow (and he was considerably shorter than me).  He then broke the handshake and with that hand reached up and touched my puka shell necklace.

“What is this?”

“My necklace?”

“I am disappointed that you have fallen from the principles of the gospel that we teach as missionaries.  We teach than men and women have separate and distinct roles and this is confusing the two.”

My first impression was, “How did you know I served a mission?”

This man then turned to walk away back to the Byroms and Sister Peterson.  As he walked away, the thought occurred, “You have just been rebuked by an Apostle.”

Then it dawned.  David was David B Haight, one of the twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This was an individual I recognized as a Priesthood Leader and on my first meeting with him, I had been rebuked.

I stood there reeling from what had just happened.  It stung.  David went to the back door of his house and summoned his wife Ruby.  Ruby appeared and they all stood 25 feet away from me chit chatting about England, Scotland, and whatever else they were talking about.

What seemed like an eternity was likely only a minute or so, if that.  I remember reaching up and taking the puka shell necklace off and holding it in my hand.  I dwelt on what was really an unintended and probably unwanted visit that was a bother to me and this old man.  Sister Peterson just commented he was home and a few lines of dialogue just ended up potentially effected my eternities.  According to him I was already on the path, so I guess it did not matter what he said except to correct my backsliding ways.

Next thing I knew, the distant conversation between the Haights and Byroms had stopped and this Apostle was returning to me.  He again held out his hand as if to invite another handshake. I held out my hand with the necklace in it and he cupped his hand to receive whatever I was offering.  I dropped the necklace into his hand and once he realized what it was he let it drop to the ground.

He held out his hand again inviting mine in a handshake and I clasped his.  He sidled up close to me again, put his other hand in the small of my back, and was close enough to be in my shadow and that I could smell the salt in his old man sweat, and he continued…

“Where did you serve your mission?”  (I remember thinking that was an ironic question since the Byroms were from England, Sister Peterson served in England, and he asked where the fourth member of the party served his mission?)

“England Manchester Mission”

“How long have you been home?”

(After a quick mental tally) “Nine months”

“Elder, you hold the Priesthood.  You have a duty to uphold that Priesthood.  You should have been married by now.”

He released my hand, pulled his hand from the small of my back, turned, and walked away.  Maybe 4 steps later he turned around and said, “When it happens, I want to know about it.”

He returned to a conversation with Ruby, Sister Peterson, and the Byroms.

I stood there while they chatted for a few more minutes.  I do not recall hearing anything of the conversation between them, even if I was close enough to have heard.

Rosie had a picture taken of the occasion.  Sister Peterson sacrificed herself in the moment to take the photo that now memorializes this occasion.

I shook hands again with Elder David Haight and Sister Ruby Haight and we headed on down the road to see some other homes.  I ended up driving many more hours that day to Boise, Idaho City, Stanley, and elsewhere chauffeuring the Byroms through some of the sights of Idaho.  Rosie Byrom teased me about the moment the rest of the time I was with them.  After all, it is not every day that you get rebuked by an Apostle.  I cannot recall if they overheard the conversation or if I told them about it.  I cannot imagine that they overheard the conversation due to the close proximity in which David and I spoke that day.

Oddly enough, it weighed on me for a long time.  It became the butt of jokes as time went on, especially as David continued to age.  He was already over 95 at the time of my meeting him.  Roommates and friends would indicate that I better hurry or else I would not fulfill the rest of my duty to let David know when it happened.  I will not lie, it became a great story to tell people.  People loved to hear about my rebuke by an Apostle.

I regularly tell the story to individuals I am close to and that wear a necklace.  Missionaries I worked with I regularly told the story, especially if they wore a necklace.  I admit, I never wore a necklace or bracelet of any type since that date.  I know a number of missionaries who have “fallen from the principles we teach as missionaries” and forsaken their evil ways.  Honestly, I do not know that the story is one that should be heeded by others.  But for the deep effect it had upon me at the time and the power in which he spoke to me, I recognize it was for me.  Others should be careful about applying revelation of others to themselves.  But I do believe there is a principle here that we can learn, I just don’t know that I can very clearly articulate it.  I know the principle clearly for me, but don’t know how narrow or general to make it in application to others.

I remember Rosie reminding me that if I properly repent, I would be married within another 9 months.  Boy if that did not apply a little pressure!

As a side, I did pick up my little puka shell necklace and ended up giving it to a friend when I returned to Missouri later in August.  I don’t believe she has any clue what that little necklace meant to me.

There is more to the story.

On the following Monday, I believe 23 July 2001, I was in Salt Lake City with the Byroms.  After an endowment session, Rosie announced we were to go to the Church Administration Building.  She did not tell us why and I thought she just wanted to see the sights from the Church Office Building.  We walked in the Church Office Building and after Rosie talked to the man at the desk, she said we were in the wrong building and we needed to go to the Church Administration Building.  I informed her that the Church Administration Building was not really open to the public.  Rosie announced that we had an appointment.

In light of my experience a few days before, I was not really thrilled about our appointment in the Church Administration Building.  We walked around to the front door of the Church Administration Building and walked in.  As we approached the man at the security desk he asked,

“Are you the Byroms?”

Rosie responded, “Yes.”

“We have been waiting for you.”  (Never a very heartwarming phrase, whether the morgue, jail, CIA, bank, or Church Administration Building)

The man then responded, “You will need to leave your bags here, take the elevator to the fourth floor, take a right, and it is the last door on the left.  I will let them know you are coming up.”

We entered the elevator and headed to the fourth floor.  Rosie then turned and commented to me, “John helped provide security and drive for Elder Ballard while he (Elder Ballard) was in England for the Preston Temple Dedication.  He told us that if we were ever in Utah to stop and pay him a visit.”

Suddenly the realization came to me that I was going to visit with my second Apostle in less than a week.  I am a fairly laid back guy but felt some apprehension after the experience just days before.  We turned the corner and there stood M Russell Ballard in the doorway.  He invited us in to his office, introduced us to his secretary, and then ushered us into his office.  Across from his desk, I think, there were two nice wing-backed chairs.  Another chair was already there for me, or we pulled up a chair.  Elder Ballard left the office for a moment and then reappeared pushing a little chair toward me.  We were already all seated and he asked,

“Where is your wife?”

“I am not married.”

“Oh, that is something you will have to fix.”

He turned to push the little chair back out the door.  I heard Rosie chuckle and comment, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses…”

Elder Ballard returned and took his seat and we had a nice conversation that probably did not take more than 15 minutes.  Once again, Rosie had a picture taken.

Paul Ross, Rosie and John Byrom, Elder Ballard

Paul Ross, Rosie and John Byrom, M Russell Ballard

That was the extent of the interaction and I felt some sting from the second witness of my duty to uphold the Priesthood.  But it was a pleasant experience.  Rosie reminded me often after that, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

Well, time passed and eventually Elder David B Haight did pass from this veil of tears at the end of July 2004, three years after our encounter.  Fortunately, Elder Haight and I did have an opportunity to talk again regarding our first interaction that lessened the blow of the occasion.  Nevertheless, roommates and many friends called after Elder Haight’s passing to let me know how dire my situation was now that the revelator had passed and I had not fulfilled my duty.

Rosie commented to me that I could fulfill my duty by reporting my marriage to Elder Ballard when the time came.

Well, forward a few more years and I became enamored with a little red-headed girl from Kaysville, Utah.  She came to enjoy her time with me and after a while we would end our walks with a little dancing on the porch of the Alumni House at Utah State University.  It became a regular thing to end our walks and evenings out with a dance and closing conversation on the porch of the Alumni House.  I dare say we danced on the porch of that building more than 60 times.  It was on the porch of this little Alumni House that I made an unofficial proposal to Ms. Hemsley.  It just seemed like the right place.

Months later, Amanda and I returned to Logan under the guise of visiting some friends.  While on the campus I took her to that little porch of the Alumni House and there after midnight, now on 4 July 2005, I fell to my knee and proposed to her.  Of course she said yes and we danced and kissed there on the porch of the Alumni House.  Interestingly, before we left that night, I caught sight of a huge portrait hanging inside the doors that open to the porch that had become an important part of our courtship.  As I looked closer, I could see the familiar sight of a man whose face I knew.  As I got a little closer to see in the dark the portrait lit only by fire escape signs it dawned on me it was a portrait of David B Haight.

If that was not a little coincidental, and perhaps a little creepy, I do not know what is.  Elder Haight’s portrait had actually witnessed some of the most personal moments of my courtship.  The building I had only known as the Alumni House is properly named the David B Haight Alumni Center.  Somehow it seemed the whole experience had just came full circle.

We sent a wedding invitation to Elder M Russell Ballard with a short note explaining that due to Elder Haight’s passing I was sending the note and invitation to him to fulfill my duty.  He responded with a card thanking me for my note and invitation and suggested I consider my duty fulfilled.  He also apologized for not being able to attend our reception (which I am glad about, surely some further duty might have been laid upon me if he had!)

There is my story for the above photo with the Haights and Byroms.  Maybe some day I can tell my story about Elder Hales (the Apostle, not my missionary companion)…

%d bloggers like this: