Monday, October 31, 2011

Abiding with Johnny Mac's Memory

Yesterday made 4 years since my dad died. Right after he died, I just started singing "Abide with Me" in Spanish ("Acompáñame") right there in the hospital room because I find that the lyrics resonate with me more in Spanish, because I love the hymn, it fits in my narrow vocal range, and I felt like it would help me deal with my very really grief in the moment.

That hymn now serves as a permanent reminder of that moment and of the loss of my father.

Yesterday, the closing hymn in Sacrament meeting was "Abide with Me." I started crying in the back as I quietly sang it to myself in Spanish. I didn't sob or lose it, but the tears were there. I thought that that was going to be all that would happen yesterday. I felt fine. I came home, sat down at the computer and posted an abbreviated version of what I just shared on my facebook wall. I clicked send, and then started looking at my news feed to see what other people were doing.

My mom posted this photo of my father holding my Marley X at the Cafe du Monde in NOLA. The look on my dad's face and on my baby's face are ones of love and wonder:

And, I lost it. I mean, sobbing, chest-heaving, feeling-like-he-just-died-again-and-I-was-back-in-that-damned-hospital-room crying. My wife came down wondering what was going on and saw the photo and just started gently rubbing my back. Marley came down and just wordlessly hugged me. My little Calliope patted my knee and said "he's sad because he misses his daddy." And my boy, my Jack, the kid who looks at me the way I remember looking at my father, whose Primary education is apparently taking hold in his brain, bluntly but oh-so-lovingly told me in his always-too-loud voice that "DON'T WORRY, PAPI. YOU'LL SEE YOUR DAD AGAIN WHEN YOU'RE DEAD. IT'LL BE OKAY."

When most people talk about the Resurrection after someone dies, I find it annoying. When my son screams it at me, I found it touchingly reassuring. That's my hope and faith.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

RIP Harmon Killebrew

This one is getting to me today. I met him in 1989, and he was among the nicest of all the ball players I've ever met. I wasn't around during his playing days, but I've studied his career endlessly, and he was among the best ever. He was a guaranteed homerun in the old Earl Weaver's Baseball game on the PC in the 80's.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Impact of a Mission

I joined the LDS Church on 1-20-1991. My mother was not a member at the time. Around Christmas of my senior year of high school, my bishop, a wise and honorable man, called me in for an interview. My mother had been attending church each week with us, but as she was a die-hard Southern Baptist, she refused to even consider joining the Church. My bishop asked me what my plans for after high school were. Because of enormous pressure from my mother, I told him that I was going to go to Georgia Tech, get my degree, and then serve a mission. My mother had seen my LDS cousins go on missions first and then struggle to finish college in a timely manner, and she didn't want that for me (her worries about me were based on her own religious prejudice more than logic). My bishop then asked me if I wanted my mother to get baptized. When I responded "yes," he then said, "Mac, in the name of Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the priesthood and calling that I hold as your bishop, I promise you that if you go on a mission before going to college, your mother will get baptized some time during your mortal life." The Spirit hit me like a tons of bricks. I could only mouth "I'll go."

I came home and told my dad. We worked out my part of the bargain....since I hadn't had my entire youth to save the money, he agreed to pay for everything I couldn't earn. After graduation, I worked three jobs (Kroger, McDonald's, cutting lawns) 6 days a week and was able to earn a bunch. My mom was pissed that I was foregoing college for a 'mission' (said with as much scorn as you can imagine) and she never let my dad, the bishop, or me forget it. I was to report to the MTC on February 3, 1993. The night before I left, my mom asked me to give her a priesthood blessing. I did, and in it I felt prompted to tell her to listen to the Spirit when she missed me. Off I went.

The MTC was like prison. I felt like I was being talked down to all the time. I already had some working knowledge of Spanish, but I was mistakenly put in with the new folks. I was asked to stay with the district so I could 'help' them. Since I was a convert, I had a naive and exalted view of missionaries. One week in the MTC and I hated Utahns, Utah, the snow, the food, and everything about the place. I wanted to go home, but I also wanted to serve, and I wanted my mom to get baptized, so I stayed. 9 1/2 weeks later, I get to Costa Rica. I get put in the worst slum in the whole country because I'm a big dude and people are less likely to mess with me (that's what the mission president told me). The sun bakes the tops of my ears and the back of my neck into a pinetree bark mass of scalded skin. I have blisters the size of 50 cent pieces on the bottoms of my feet. I get sick and vomit and blow diarrhea all over the place, uncontrollably, about once a month.

But, people start to listen to what we have to say. People start getting baptized. In one area, I baptize a lady....last June I was with her and her daughter talking about how hard it was for them to get up for seminary every morning. Then one night, I come home and I have a message from the mission home to call them first thing in the morning (the phones used to shut off at 9:30 at night). The next morning, I call. The mission president wants to see's serious....he won't say what. I'm to come in to the mission home immediately...taking a taxi from the parada. Oh crap! Did someone die?

I walk in the door, and I see an elder from my MTC district that I hadn't seen in months, I say 'hey." The president interrupts me, "Elder Williams, come here and read this, now."

He hands me a rolled-up piece of fax paper. I open it, heart pounding....I can taste metal in my mouth. It reads, "Dear Son, I have decided to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Love, Mom."

That's why I served a mission, and stuff like that is why I stay active in spite of all the problems, doubts, and other stuff in the Church that bother me. My bishop was an inspired man, and that promise he made has sustained my testimony in many a dark hour.

Also, without learning Spanish, I would've been a history professor.