It's been some months since I've blogged. Two things are now prompting me in the blog direction: the fact that I'm now in London with my family, having lots of amazing adventures, and the fact that I had some thoughts today--not so directly related to London--that I want to share.
The thoughts: We--my wife Margaret, my son Michael, and I--attended church today at the Hyde Park Ward in London. The sermons (i.e., sacrament meeting talks) were good, thought provoking: one, by a teen-aged boy, on service; another, by a British woman, on personal purity (she helped me see the connection of purity with integrity and unselfishness and the necessity for self-discipline aided by divine power); the third talk, by Roger Macfarlane, our Study Abroad program director, on several related topics--receiving the Holy Ghost, rejoicing and experiencing a change of heart NOW as we have in the past, seeking to move steadily and even seamlessly from each step in our progress to the next, the needed course corrections (aka repentance), and finally the need for patience, which, when deeply understood, turns out to be essentially synonymous with faith (and, I would add, with hope and with diligence).
But it was in Sunday School that I was really touched and softened. The class was taught by a wonderful African woman. The topic was mainly the book of Ruth. (During the class I remembered lines from Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale," a poem I just read and taught two days ago: "Perhaps the selfsame song that found a path / Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home, / She stood in tears amid the alien corn.") Interwoven with the discussion of Ruth and Naomi and Boaz today were questions about our own willingness to leave the familiar for the unknown, our bonds with others, our gratitude.
For some reason, in the course of the discussion I thought about my parents, both gone from this world for over a year now, my mother for almost two years. I thought about them, with their flaws, of course, but my thoughts were mainly about how they had devoted themselves to me (and my siblings), teaching us the gospel, seeking to prepare us for life, caring for us.
Scenes from my childhood went vividly through my mind--times at the dinner table, other times at home. In a way, it was like a vision, or a re-vision. I've had mixed feelings about my childhood, remembering the rough patches and imperfections as well as the good times. But it's as if I saw things anew today, more truly, more fully and deeply, not really with the flaws removed but with them receding to their proper place in the whole picture so that the true essence prevailed: the devotion, the love, the sacrifice, the offering of heart and time and effort that blessed me day after day and year after year. I felt a strong sense of who my parents are--of their goodness, of the cries from the heart and the quieter yearnings that revealed their deepest desires: that there be love in our family, that their children be happy and good.
That feeling has remained with me through the day today. I guess these are appropriate feelings for Memorial Day weekend--interesting because I had forgotten that Monday is Memorial Day until I read an e-mail from a relative this afternoon, well after returning from church, commenting on the upcoming day. Remember, I'm in England, and we won't be taking the day off on Monday or visiting the grave sites of my parents or of my sisters or other departed relatives. But I'll be visiting them, as I've visited today, in thought.