As ominous as all this might sound, it's not.
Okay, V, cut to the chase.
After nine, almost ten, years of serving as the stake president, Bart, aka Hank, is going to be relieved, or in Mormon terms, released, from his service. Which is and isn't a big deal. It isn't a big deal because, as Mormons know, no calling is forever...well unless one is called to be an apostle and that's a whole different thing. But it is a big deal because we will miss being and see the people of this stake. I include myself in this because on the occasion that I traveled with Bart I was fortunate enough to get to know many of the members of our stake and I have grown to love them. And though I know I will see some again, others I may not. And this makes me sad.
The love we have felt, Bart more directly than I, from the members of the stake is immeasurable. As with all things in life, the good always helps trump the bad. No matter how heavy the load was at times, there were always events and people that made that load lighter.
Today, for the last time as stake president and stake president's wife, we traveled to the farthest congregation in our stake, Idabel, Oklahoma, two hours one way from where we live. This is a small congregation, but that doesn't diminish the obvious love they have for the Gospel and their willingness to live it. The size of the congregation means that, sometimes, others have to pinch hit when someone is gone, Bart got to do that today. The Sunday school teacher was ill and no one else was prepared to teach the class, up to the plate, the stake prez. He was a natural, of course we wouldn't expect anything less. In this congregation there are many members from the Marshall Islands. They are warm, loving, and kind. Many are limited in their ability to speak English, but that doesn't stop them from expressing their love. Take a minute, well actually more like four, to watch this video. Please forgive the sloppy camera work, I was bawling my eyes out and trying to shake hands at the same time.
To say that we felt honored and humbled is an understatement. Let me share with you the detail of some of the necklaces/ties Bart received.
I asked one of the ladies how long it took to make one of these, nonchalantly she said, 'twenty minutes, except for the wall hanging (that's the last photo), that took longer.' In my mind I yelled "TWENTY MINUTES", oh, wow. I'm always amazed at the handiwork of craftspeople. These lovely people also honored me with these...
The earrings are made of coconut shells, the bracelet and ring are made of waxed string. Beautiful.
I made the mistake of admiring a hair clip one of the ladies was wearing, before I knew it, she took it off and gave it to me. I said 'no, please, I was just admiring it and wondering if you'd made it.' Another member of the congregation admonished me to take it so that I wouldn't offend her. I was then told that it is their custom to give what has been admired. I was humbled. This too was handmade.
I've been asked by numerous people if I'm looking forward to having my husband back. I've never viewed his service to The Lord as a loss or that he's been 'gone'. Bart and I have been married for thirty two years, twenty seven of those years he has served in one capacity or another that has required that he travel extensively or be in one meeting or another. I don't know what it's like to have a husband at church, sitting on the same pew as me, every Sunday, or having him home after church every Sunday...this will take some getting used to. Wish me luck.
Photos of Hank by Justin Hackworth (more on him later :) )