sheperd_star_born_jesusInstead of posting my Royal family devotional like I usually do, I’m going to post a talk from my Aunt Darla’s funeral early January.  Aunt Darla really wasn’t my aunt, she was my mom’s cousin’s husband, also related to my cousins on my dad’s side.  But in my mind, she’s Aunt Darla.

Aunt Darla’s passing came suddenly.  She had heart pain and within a few short weeks had passed away.  I remember hearing of her condition and feeling shock.  She was not very old.  She had sons still in high school.

This talk was given by her husband, my mom’s cousin Kevin, who I have always loved for letting my cousin and I change out of our church clothes at a funeral when we were children.  I love his sentiments, his testimony, and his wisdom.  But mostly, I love that you can see his love for Darla through his hope for the future.

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I want everyone to know that I am not here by choice, but by assignment.  For years Darla has said to me, you’re going to speak at my funeral.  My reply was consistent, look at the genetic history, my parents and grandparents all died relatively young, and yours to a ripe old age.  No, I will not be speaking at your funeral.  Unfortunately, Darla was right again.
In behalf of my family, I express our gratitude for your kindness in honoring Darla by presence here this day.  We are overwhelmed by who have been generous in providing prayers, cards, letters, calls, visits, meals, and flowers.  Your mourning and comfort has strengthened us.  I pray that the Spirit will be present to bring comfort and peace, “not as the world giveth”, but, only the peace our Savior can offer this day.
I recall reading in a book by a modern day apostle, Neal A. Maxwell, a thought regarding trials and adversities we face in this day.  Most often when we face personal tragedy and trial, it is easy to ask, “Where is God?” “Why would God let this happen?” “Why me?” Elder Maxwell taught that we need to train our minds and hearts to rather ask, “What lessons am I to learn?”
The Savior invites us, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Two weeks ago today, it was a typical morning in the day of Darla Miyasaki.  She was busy of course, in service and well-doing.  Her morning started early assisting at the high school’s Operation Merry Christmas, squeezing in preparing a pre-game breakfast for the varsity basketball team, shopping and delivering presents, and sending off Christmas cards.  As she slowed down enough to bath, she complained of severe chest pains and pain in her right arm.  I quickly dismissed as reaction to a stressful morning, and suggested she just lie down, but with persistent pain, we placed a call to my sister, Donna, who is a nurse.  She suggested we get her in to get checked.
As we drove from Sugar, Darla commented about how she was not ready to die, I scolded her saying, you are not going to die, and told her why she was not having a heart attack.  Within minutes of this conversation, my Darla was in cardiac arrest, lying on a table in the emergency room, as skilled medical personnel  feverishly worked to bring back life to my sweetheart.
I can honestly say, I have never been so scared  in my life.  I began to think about being alone, of having to tell my children their mother was not longer with us, I questioned my strength to such a task.  Fortunately, my Darla was brought back to life, and after some minor heart surgery appeared to be on a short road to recovery.
As we spent precious time together at the end of Tuesday, holding hands and reflecting on the events of the day and the excitement of progress of the morrow, Darla asked me, “Why am I still alive?”
I thought for a moment and answered, ” I suppose the Lord has many lessons for us to yet learn.”
Darla laid in silence, and analytically said, “I can’t think of any lessons I have to learn, can you think of any?”
My reply was, “You’re right Sweetheart, you don’t have any further lessons, but I do.”
I’d like to share with you some of the lessons I shared with her that night, as well as lessons I have since learned.
In God we trust.
Do we ever stop to contemplate this most common phrase which daily if we stop to observe, it is so forcefully present for our remembering?  Our forefathers wisely determined the need to keep a constant reminder in our hands daily, to help us recall of whom we should really thank, and look to for our dependence.  Each transaction we make, if we just take a brief moment to ponder the inscription, “In  God we trust”, we will be taught and reminded of eternal truths.  God is the great designer of each of our lives, and he does it personally, as he teaches, “Behold, it my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality of and eternal life of man”.  I note from this, each of us is an individual work of our Heavenly Father. He did not say “men”, but “man”.   He knows each of us individually, and our course of life which will benefit us most, if we will but trust in Him in all of our doings.
One evening as we were traveling home from Arizona, in the dark wee hours of the morning, I began to lose control of our car due to the icy roads, as our fishtail radius widened, I sensed my inability to keep control, and shouted for everyone to hold on as we were going to crash.  Darla immediately prayed aloud, “Heavenly Father, help our car!”  And as quickly as her faith based words left her lips so was our car stabilized.
Her simple trust, is now what I grip with hope and faith.  Truly, I trust my God has more need for Darla on the other side of the veil than I on this.   So let us all trust our God as she did.
Husbands love your wives like the Savior loved the Church.
In the New Testament the Apostle Paul taught, “Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church…”  This is a good standard, and one we probably don’t think of much as husbands.
How does one love their wives, even as Christ loved the Church?  Paul continued with the answer, “and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by his word.  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle , or any such thing; but it should be holy and without blemish.” So should we strive to treat our wives so that we never do anything to tarnish their purity and loveliness, but do all to present to the Lord a glorious wife.
The night before Darla passed away, my daughter-in-law, Jen brought us Chinese food for supper.  We joked about how ridiculous the messages have become in fortune cookies.  As I opened mine, it read, “The evening promises romantic interests”.  We laughed as I shared my very untimely message of fortune.
However, that evening, I asked that I have the opportunity to have the night alone with my sweetheart, and my children to all return to their spouses.  That night, we read many scriptures, we prayed, we conversed, I gave her a blessing, and we held hands all night long.  It was truly an evening of pure romance.  Romance is a spiritual attainment.  It is feeling of one, of unity, of a bonding.  That night, I truly presented my wife to the Lord as a glorious woman, holy, having no spot of iniquity, having no wrinkle of unworthiness, and without any blemish of abuse.  I truly began to understand what Paul was teaching.
It is always easy to run downhill and with the wind, but strength requires adversity.
As we went through the up and down journey of Darla’s hospital stay, we were so excited about her perceived recovery, and then so torn by her fate.  It was so much easier to face life when the news was good and progress evident, than when we were told she would leave this mortality, and we witnessed her deterioration.
Darla loved the underdog.  She loved those who had challenges.  She loved the fight and adversity of coming from behind.  Any time she saw one of her students go on to college, or even graduate from high school, she celebrated.  The same was true throughout her life in all areas.  Our home was frequently the place for people to stay.  Often, she would say, I need to go visit or call someone, and would do it.  How many times did you see her stand up and start a cheer from the fan side of the gym, when it was apparent our Digger team was facing loss, doing a solo of “We are SS” or “Digger Power”. I would marvel as I would see her single effort turn to a gym full of unified hope and cheer.
Brick walls are present in life to see who really wants to get passed them.  They are not there to make us stop, but to encourage us to rise, climb, struggle and become stronger.
An ancient prophet when blessing his son pronounced, “God shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain. ”  So should we learn to appreciate and cherish our afflictions.
Love is life’s energy source
One afternoon as I was keeping my station in the hospital by the bedside of my sweetheart, my grandson, Devn climbed on my knee, and I became his motorcycle, bouncing him about, twisting and turning him.  Growing tired, I told him I was out of gas.  He then said, “I will give you gas”, and gave me a huge hug.
We have been overwhelmed by your love.  You have lifted us and strengthened us.  I appreciate even more the love I have felt as I have witnessed my family rally around each other, noting who needed special attention.  But, I have sincerely appreciated the personal love I have felt from my Savior.  I recall the night of when we first knew of Darla eventual fate of death.  I hurt.  I was in pain.  I recall in the still of the hospital room, crying, wondering how the Lord, could comprehend and even heal this terrible pain.  Then I remembered the comforting words of a prophet who taught, “he shall go forth suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind…that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people, according to their infirmities”  I realized the Savior knew of my pain, and I felt instantaneously, His healing powers.
Look to the star
It is recorded, that a new star appeared  in the east to give direction to the wise men who sought the King of the Jews, that they might worship him.
It seems so appropriate for Darla to leave us at this time of the year, the time when we celebrate the birth of the Son of God, our Savior Jesus Christ.  As you heard in her life sketch, Darla was dubbed the nickname of “Star”, while serving in the Young Women organization.
One of those mutual girls came and visited, and asked, “Kevin, what am I going to do?”
I responded, “Do to a young woman, like Darla did for you.”
Darla life shines as a star for all of us to not just admire, but like the wise men to follow.  If we follow this star, we will find it leads to the true source of all light, just as the star in the east.
Traditionally, we have always placed an angel on the top of our Christmas tree.  Next year, it will be replaced with a star.
To those students, friends, and associates, I pray these few lessons I have shared will help you in discovering your own personal lessons.  To our extended family, I express my heart felt gratitude to you.  To my children, and grandchildren, I bless you as your patriarch, with understanding and remembrance.  Each day you look in the mirror, I hope you would ponder, “What would Mom say to me this day?”  You will find instant guidance, then if you will follow it with exactness, you will be blessed with the an accompanying angel to comfort, guide, and protect you.
I bear my witness of the reality of a God, of whom I love and trust, and divinity of his Son, Jesus Christ, of whom I cherish and thank, in his holy name Jesus Christ, amen.
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