I slowly crawled back into the daylight of the living over the week. I was able to make it into work on Friday, although I did end up coming home a bit early (thank you, Pebbles!). Amanda had my kids Friday night, so I actually went to sleep and slept soundly, without interruption, which went a long way in helping me recover.
Saturday morning, being tot-free, Doug and I got up fairly early and headed up to the temple in Fresno. We wanted to attend the 10am session, so we arrived just before 9:30, but we barely made it in. The session was FULL. There were three living Endowments and the session was conducted entirely in Hmong (with closed captioning in English). It was the first time I'd been to a session that wasn't in English (even with all the languages they use in the Laie temple, we only ever went to ones that were in our native language), but I actually really enjoyed it. Having to read the words rather than just listen to them really helped me to focus. We ran into the Hammonds from Tulare when we got there, and I actually sat with Sis Hammond throughout the session. Its always pleasant to see them, they're just such nice people. I'd been rather tense and exhausted all week, and being at the temple went a long way towards relaxing and refreshing me.
Saturday night, we went to the Lindsay Chamber of Commerce awards dinner. They held it at McDermont this year and it went really well. I'm so glad that the facility is getting so much use already. Anyway, they give a number of awards (business of the year, volunteer of the year, etc.), culminating the evening with the award for Man of the Year. This year it went to Scot, Doug's boss (and Lindsay's city manager). Hard to imagine anyone more deserving. He came to Lindsay 20 years ago as a newly wed. Then and now, a lot of people view Lindsay as a poor (some might say financially crippled), used up town, or even a gang town. Scot always sees everything--towns, people, places--for what it could be, rather than what it appears to be on the surface. Under his leadership and hard work, more than $50 million in grant money has flowed into the city and, even more amazing, every penny has been wisely and well spent. Where 20 years ago everyone else saw only abandoned, ugly, useless railroad land, Scot envisioned a beautiful public park and plaza. Fifteen years of his hard work and continual persistence made that project a reality--the townhomes we live in were part of that design--and we now have a gorgeous gathering place where every Friday night from March through November there is a farmer's market and street fair that draws thousands of people. Last year the citrus freeze threatened to once again cripple a town that relies heavily on orange crops, but Scot saw it as an opportunity to create jobs and put people to work on a joint city-school board project of creating a new sports field complex at the high school, all in professional grade turf. People were feeding their families without having to wait for state or federal freeze relief checks. Where others saw an abandoned packing shed and really didn't think much of it, Scot saw what is now quickly becoming a state of the art, nothing-quite-like-it-in-the-Central-Valley family sports and recreation facility that will provide hundreds of jobs, endless hours of fun and will draw people to Lindsay from all over the valley. And when he accepted his award, he said he almost felt guilty because the other people who had been honored during the evening were almost all volunteers, and he was just doing his job. But everyone there knows that Scot sees his job as something so much more than just keeping things running smooth and overseeing city projects. He has amazing ideas, he solicits great ideas, then says, "How can we make this happen?" and doesn't stop until he finds a way. And ten minutes after he got the award, he was up playing with his 7 kids. How can you not love that guy? And what Scot knows, but I'm not sure everyone else in the room appreciated, is that those 7 kids are more important to him that anything that was talked about that night and everything he does is made possible by everything that his amazing wife, Carolyn, does. She runs their household with amazing skill, patience and love. They are quite a couple, in so many ways.
The dinner was a relief since I spent so much of that time thinking about the Townsends and not about myself and the fact that I had to speak in Church the next morning. Giving a talk is always nerve wracking and emotionally exhausting for me. Its not that I'm afraid of doing a poor job (well, its mostly not that), as I always get a huge response, and an overwhelmingly positive one, when I speak. Its just that, despite my wishy washy tone when I write and my demeanor when I'm actually standing at the pulpit, I am most definitely NOT someone who likes to share my feelings with other people--that's why I make so many jokes and spend so much time being sarcastic. Anything pertaining to the Gospel becomes deeply personal, because it all goes back to the core of who I am--of what I believe, of not just what but of how I think, of every good decision I make. And so I know of no way to say anything that really matters about any subject relating to the Gospel without speaking directly from the heart, and that is a very difficult thing for me to do any where, let alone standing in front of a group of people. I am always bettered and strengthened by it, and consequently am glad that I've done it. But the entire time I'm there, I feel a bit exposed and very, very uncomfortable and have to constantly fight the urge to flee or simply switch into a mode of more detached, academic style speaking. I survived, anyway, and it did end up going quite well. As it turned out, it was also an informal fare-well for a young man who is leaving on his mission. He's going to be an awesome missionary.
After Church we decided we could all use a break, so we went for a drive. Somehow we ended up down at Hwy 46, so we just drove over to the beach. Keilana's wanted to go for months, so why not? We got the kids out at the San Luis Pier in Avila and they both were very excited to see the ocean again. It was overcast and in the mid 50s, so the ocean was pretty choppy, which Dylan loved. He was listening to the large waves crash against the shore and the pier and started bouncing up and down on my shoulders going "boom! boom". Keilana loves seals and sea lions, usually her favorite part of any trip to the beach, so she was pretty excited to see the "arr arrs", as she decided to call them this time. Dylan really liked the sea lions, but seemed to find observing the pelicans at close range just as exciting. We drove the kids around SLO a bit, showing Keilana where we used to live and where Dylan was born and were a little sad to realize that her memory of the place is completely gone. Why would she remember? She was younger than Dylan when we left. It made an 8 1/2 hour trip out of a Sunday drive, but we all needed it.
On the way home, I got a phone call from Doug's sister, Melissa (at nearly the exact same time that I got a phone call from his sister Christa, his cousin Sarah and a text message from Sam) informing us that President Hinkley, the president (and, we believe, prophet) of our Church had passed away. It was a strange feeling. I'm sad, because I love Pres. Hinkley--everyone did. He radiated energy and joy. Its still a bit surreal to me, actually. He was 97, after all, it shouldn't be a surprise. But he was SO dynamic, so full of energy and spark, that you could almost believe that he could go forever. Both what he has accomplished and what has been accomplished through him is so incredible, I couldn't possibly name it all. But suffice it to say he was a man of great faith, energy and hard work who served continually and happily. I imagine the load he had to bear has seemed much heavier the past few years since the passing of his wife Marjorie and for his sake I am glad to that they are reunited. He has left an impressive legacy. I think its fair to say he revolutionized a lot of ways the Church does things and its hard to imagine someone more universally well liked, both inside and outside the Church, than he was. He will be remembered probably almost as much for his good humor as the many, many things that he made happen, and I'm sure that's a legacy that will suit him just fine. There are others prepared to take his mantle and assume his job, but no one will ever quite take his place.