I have been spending my time of late carrying out the responsibilities and duties of my Relief Society calling. As well as rejoicing in the blessings and opportunities to see the gospel in action. I feel especially grateful this time around for the experience gained from trial and error the last two times. I feel I should apologize to my sisters of the Camas Ward and the Ramona Oaks ward for doing so much "learning from my mistakes" at their expense. But of course I am still learning and will feel the same way after this time around. I take comfort in knowing the Lord will make up the difference and we can all learn and grow and press forward.
I feel so much like I am dwelling amid the angels when I interact with my Relief Society sisters. Whatever our faults and shortcomings, there seems to be an overall desire to reach for our higher purpose and overcome the world. The process allows us to learn from each other as we do that. I also see over and over the compassion and empathy that are the result of life lived amid the heartache and challenge that we knew would be a part of our mortal experience. We shouted for joy at the prospect of earth life and a chance to prove ourselves, but we only knew what we were in for in theory. The reality is truly a test.
So much of what I am doing right now is personal and tender and recorded in my journal rather than here. You know some of what we have been through here in our little town in Connecticut but now we are in the healing process and I am privileged to witness that. I haven't been here a year yet, so in some ways I feel like I don't have a right to feel so deeply emotional about what happened. A few days after the shooting, we were in the kitchen at the church preparing freezer meals for the families who lost loved ones. It was a subdued version of that usually bubbly dynamic of Relief Society sisters gathered for a good cause and enjoying each other's company. A dear sister said to me with emotion in her voice and tears in her eyes, "Are you sorry you moved to our little town?" My emotions were on the surface as I answered, "No. I see all the good in the people of this little town. I get to see how good triumphs over evil."
Each time I drive through town, I see the ribbons and hearts and signs--so many tokens of love and remembrance from all over the world. I was standing in line at the bank a few days ago and noticed hearts taped up around the teller openings. Each with a drawing and a message from a little child. "You are loved." "Don't give up." I saw that they were from California--so sweet and touching--and yes, comforting.
A few weeks ago our stake had their traditional Senior Recognition Night. They held it in our chapel--an hour away from the rest of the stake. They have been offering thoughtful gestures like that for us. It was well attended anyway and President Checketts gave a very insightful and loving send-off to the youth who will be heading off to college and missions and other adventures this Fall. His remarks included an experience he had with the parents who lost their daughter in the tragedy. It was to remind us that special milestones should not be taken for granted. And also to remind us that no blessing will be withheld in the eternities and that mother would have the privilege of raising her daughter through every milestone.
As each lost child's birthday comes around, their favorite color is splashed with ribbon and balloons on fence posts and mailboxes and businesses. And each time I cry as I drive or walk past the reminders of little ones gone too soon. Time will soothe the rawness of this and we are doing what we can to help each other. I feel like our presidency meetings are giving me a PhD in counseling and therapy. I am privileged to serve with some amazing, insightful women.
And so, I just wanted to let you know that life goes on here in Newtown and in the Newtown Ward. Soon after I moved here I came to that crossroad every mother encounters when the nest is almost empty. I wondered what would be next for me and what I should do. The Lord has answered that for me and I am doing my best to fulfill the trust he has placed in me.