Consolation

“Here and there, now and then, God makes a giant among men.”
So spoke Thomas Monson today of his leader and friend.  (So he has also spoken of Ezra Benson and Elder Mark E. Peterson, as I just searched out.)  It was a lovely funeral…
On Friday, I stopped and picked up Ashley Fivecoat.  She lives in my ward boundaries but goes to another ward.  Previously, I’ve only known her as a friend of once-liked Jennifer Bolivian, but recently another girl, Cassie, introduced me to her.  We drove to school together…  I was about 50 minutes late for my hour-long class, owing to my Canadian friend Alex calling my home.  Conveniently, the class had also dismissed at least 10 minutes early.  I don’t like that class anyway.
In the afternoon, I dropped my political science class and brokered the 60% tuition fee refund.  Before that, I’d been at the library chatting with my classmate Lee Jae-hyun (who goes by “Joe Hyun” due to a clerical error on his first visa), whose notes I had copied, the class I’d just missed.  We talked and talked about Korea (and Korean politics) before his 2:40 class.  He said he was going to the viewing today, and I said I wanted to go a second time, so we agreed to meet at 3:40 and go together.  After dropping the class (I had to get a certain signature in place of my part-time, non-campus-office teacher’s), Jae-hyun and I drove over.
Parking was difficult to find, and I joked that we were probably better to just walk from the school.  There were many, many more people than on Thursday…  We joined a line at the northeast corner of the Conference Center, the top of that hill.  I showed him my “bom” cement carving there from last summer, referring to Bomie.  The line was wonderfully slow and chilly, but finally we got down the hill and out of the building’s shadow, and it warmed up a little.
I think we spent maybe an hour or more outside, then an hour inside; then they had started sitting people down in the auditorium so as to accommodate the crowd, and I think we spent a third hour waiting there.  He taught me some Korean as we sat.  Finally, in the fourth hour we made it up to the top floor, the casket.  I didn’t cry this time…  Later he told me it was his first time seeing a dead person.  We walked back up to the car, passing by more people outside waiting to get in.  It was almost 8:00.
I took him to Wendy’s and got him stuff, he insisting on returning the favour.  I was happy for the stereotypical Korean manners.  At Wendy’s, he asked me if I “really” liked Bomie, as I’d told him in the first hour that we had been together before.  So at Wendy’s there, I told him the entire story…
I was so happy for that opportunity.  He seemed to listen without annoyance, and without jumping in to criticize…  After that, I felt what I haven’t for a long time: that I had a friend, a confidant.  He told me he had gone through a comparable thing with a girl.  Now he was with a different, nicer girl who lives in Provo, and had forgotten the other.  I felt that he really sympathized with me and understood the cruelty of the situation, and her irrational rejection of me.  As we left to his place, he offered to introduce me to some of his girlfriend’s friends, asking if I minded that they were a little older than I was.  I dropped him off at his dormitory.  We had driven past the Conference Center on the way and nobody was left outside; it was about 9:30.  I heard later on T.V. that it went on till midnight.
This morning, I posted online for Mitt Romney.  He couldn’t defend himself; he was on his way to the Conference Center, like I had planned to be.  I arrived there myself at some minutes past 10:00, having parked at the school and walked over.  I didn’t have much hope of getting in since the viewing seemed so amazingly crowded last night (actually, it was just that the many thousands of visitors had to merge into a single line).

As I came up North Temple, I saw a person holding balloons.  I took a picture…

I smiled as I took the picture as a suggestion for him to smile back, which he did, or else already was.  As I kept walking past him, he leaned at me and laughed, “I’m not with him.”  “I can tell,” I said back.  His sign says: “God Loves EVERYONE! No Exceptions”.  Behind him is Lonnie Lucifer (…uh, Pursifull) with some threat on his chest and back, and a big sign with an indirect message: “READ THE BIBLE!  He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.  Proverbs 17:15”.

Usually his signs are a little more obvious and provocative.  This time, it was very unclear exactly whom his audience was… unless it was himself.  He certainly was condemning the just, coming to this funeral of a man of God, perfect in his generation; and a cynic might argue that the “love” guy was justifying the wicked… and if so, Lucifer’s sign there was hilariously ironic.  But I rather take the broader view of the young man’s sign, that God does love us all intrinsically, though condemning most of us extrinsically (which I guess applies to Lonnie too, lucky for him).  He was a friendly lad with a handsome grin.  I probably should’ve donated a dollar to his balloon fund…

Anyway, as I went past Lucifer, I half-turned and said by greeting, “Hey Lonnie.”  He shouted after me, “You’re still in this?” (meaning the Church), and went on shouting a number of other things that I was then too far away to hear clearly.  Probably something about the devil, knowing him.  At least he’s still sane enough to recognize me…

I crossed the intersection both ways, and on the opposite corner was a man handing out tickets, asking if people needed any.  I got one and headed to the doors…  There was no line like there was yesterday, as all the doors were in use.  There was no wait at all.  I felt bad later for those who had gone early to wait for tickets…

(the corner where I got my ticket)
(the doors I went in)
(the people going in to the auditorium)
(Shortly before the funeral began; those empty parts stayed empty.  Could be anywhere from 15 to 20 thousand in attendance, I estimate.)
(after the funeral; you can’t tell, but the people are much more at peace than they were going in)
Well, these pictures skipped over the funeral.  What happened was, I walked through the detectors at the door, made my way to my seat, sat down, and waited.  I saw my acquaintance Masami there sitting eight rows ahead and went down to talk to her, suggesting that we practice driving afterwards (when the time came, she ended up not wanting to).  I waited for about 25 minutes more, then the front rows stood up on some false cue, and everybody was forced to stand up with them since we couldn’t see any better.  After another 10 minutes, the screens started up, introducing the event and telling the visitors to “take their seats”, at which time whoever was left standing sat back down.  The screens started showing the convoy driving up the spiral ramp from the administration building, down State Street to South Temple, down to West Temple, then up across North Temple and down into Conference Center parking.  The hearse finally stopped outside some doors; we all stood up again.  It was another short wait as all the apostles and family members made their way inside.  The apostles made two lines on the podium near the door, facing each other, and everybody else passed through to the front seats, and then the casket was rolled in.  Maybe the casket came before the people; I can’t remember.  Then the apostles went to their seats and a bunch of presidents of seventy came in and headed to their seats, almost all arriving by the time President Monson sat us all down with a downward wave of his hands.
I took out my smallish ticket and started writing tinily on the back…
President Monson welcomed us and introduced Mike Leavitt (here for the White House), then read President Bush’s statement of condolence.  (There sat Harry Reid next to him, a wife away.)  The “LDS Tabernacle Choir” sang beautifully the prophet’s hymn, “My Redeemer Lives”.  The prophet’s son Clark gave the prayer, then his daughter Virginia gave her speech.  She talked a bit about his ancestry first, then retold how at BYU he had remarked that with his great-grandchildren, he was in the middle of seven generations in the Church, and intended to do his best.

After her was the choir again, some song going “When I’ve crossed the bar”.  President Monson then introduced Bishop H. David Burton and Earl C. Tingey.  The bishop remembered the prophet praising his daughters.  He noted how the youth with their text messaging had “led the way” in eulogizing the prophet with their church dress last Monday.  He remembered how the mantle had fallen on the prophet, the senior apostle at the time, when President Hunter died.  He said the prophet had made many contributions that we could sort out in time.  He opposed poverty, and built temples (Rexburg will be the 125th next week; Boston was the 100th, in October of 2000).  The bishop recalled how the prophet refused to change from “Little Cottonwood granite” for the Conference Center.  He made note of the prophet’s hymn.  He concluded by hoping we could all be a little better and stand a little taller.

Oy, I’m tired…  More later.

-Steve
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