Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle
I am honored to be asked to speak today, especially since I know it was Anne who requested it.
I was Anne's home teacher for many years. In the Mormon Church, we don't have any paid clergy, so we are all expected to help each other. Most men are assigned as home teachers for several families. Basically that means we watch over our assigned families. We visit them, share a message, and help them with whatever they need. If a member has a problem: moving, illness, etc. their home teacher is the who they should turn to for help from the church.
I had many opportunities to visit with Anne, but I think I got more from her than she ever got from me. Carole once told me that I was like the son Anne never had; I would have been honored to have her for a mother. She was a very special lady, and we love her very much.
In addition to home teachers, the women serve as visiting teachers. They are assigned several women to visit. Anne was a faithful visiting teacher, and helped many people in our church. A few years ago, people were having problems contacting an elderly lady from church. She hadn't been at her apartment for a while, and nobody seemed to know where she was. Anne had worked at the senior center, so she called several of her contacts and was able to find that the lady was recovering at an assisted living place after an operation. The other sisters from church awarded Anne the “Nancy Drew, Girl Detective Award” for her efforts.
Anne was amazingly healthy for most of her life. It was only in the last few years that she slowed down. She had a sharp mind and a good sense of humor. She read and worked crossword puzzles all the time. After she sold her house, Anne took turns staying with her daughters. Once when she was changing from one daughter's home to another, the family met at a restaurant for dinner. After the meal, Anne went home with the next daughter. Shortly after pulling out of the parking lot, it was Anne who asked “Where is my suitcase?” Her daughters had forgotten to move her suitcase from the car she came in to the car she left in. So they had to double back to get the suitcase. When she was being admitted to a hospital last year, she told the receptionist that she was 90. The lady looked at her disbelievingly and said “Where are the wrinkles?” Anne was beautiful inside and out.
Anne was very proud of her family. She would talk about how wonderful they were. She loved to tell stories about what they had done, and especially of the things they did for her. She never complained, although I could tell that she missed her husband and her mother. She never said it directly, but you could tell the way she talked about times spent with them that she missed them very much. One year, my wife and I were going to drive around looking at Christmas lights, and we asked Anne if she wanted to come along. We found out that this was something very special to her. Anne told us that when her husband came home from work around Christmas time, he would walk in the door and say: “Get your coat”, then take her out looking at Christmas lights. Each night on his way home from work, he would drive around different areas looking for the best lights so that he could take her to see them. From then until she sold her house, we would take Anne with us each time we looked at Christmas lights. To this day, I can't drive past Christmas lights without thinking of Anne.
One of the things Anne wanted me to talk about was how Mormons view death. Mormons believe that families are forever. It is interesting that most people believe that when we die we will see our loved ones who have passed away, but very few churches teach that belief. Most wedding ceremonies include the line “Till death do you part” but when Mormons are married in one of our temples, we believe they are married “for time and all eternity.” We believe that in the next life, we will continue as a family. Not only are husband and wife sealed to each other, but to all of their children as well. And so, I believe that Anne has been reunited with her husband, her parents, and all the other family members who had passed away before her. And I also believe that she was there to welcome her dear daughter Debbie home. (Anne's daughter Debbie died from cancer after Anne's death but before her funeral.)
If you think about this, eternal families make lots of sense. Heaven is supposed to be where we will be perfectly happy. How can you be perfectly happy without your spouse? Without your children? Without your parents? Without your brothers and sisters? I don't know about you, but I can't imagine being happy without my loved ones. We believe that after the resurrection and final judgment, those of us who have been sealed together can continue to live as a family for all eternity.
Mormons believe that everyone - everyone – can have the chance to go to heaven, and to be sealed to their families forever. If they didn't have the chance to be married for eternity in this life, they can choose to accept it in the next life. Mormons act as proxies for their ancestors at ceremonies in our temples to give those ancestors the opportunity to choose to be sealed together as a family. It is their choice, and only they can make it. All we can do is give them the chance to be sealed.
Imagine that you are going to have a family reunion. You send out invitations to all your relatives. But then there is uncle Marvin. Uncle Marvin lives on the other side of the country, and he hasn't been back this way for ages. Surely he won't come. But you still send him an invitation and let him know you thought of him, and that he would be welcome to come if he wanted to. That is what we are doing in our temples – sending out invitations to all our ancestors to join in our family reunion on the other side of the veil. There may be some that decide not to join us. That makes us sad, but we respect their decision.
Mormons don't view death as an end, but rather as the beginning of a new life. A life reunited with our loved ones who have gone on before us. It is a time of great joy as we are reunited with our loved ones and meeting all your ancestors.
So, if that is how we view death, why are we sad? I would guess nearly every person in this room thinks that Anne is at a better place, and yet we are sad. We are sad not for Anne, but for ourselves. We are sad because we won't be able to see her, talk to her, or laugh with her. Not until we join her on the other side. Mormons are comforted by the knowledge that our separation is only for a while. It hurts to let our loved ones go, but we take comfort in knowing that we will be reunited. Just like Anne is reunited with her loved ones.
It is my prayer that each of us will take time to think about Anne, and what she meant to each of us. Although we are sad that she has gone on ahead, we take comfort that she is happy and in a better place. We can also take comfort in knowing that we will be reunited with her some day. And I leave this with you in the name of Jesus the Christ.