The Real Elder Price
The Real Elder Price, Part 4: Nightmares and Dreams
The fact that Jacob's own son was serving as a missionary in "an outside place" made his observation poignant and personal. Indeed, Elder Chirwa would make an inspiring subject for a Church video or a film. Having already suffered with malaria and chicken pox, he was now bearing the burden of his father's death. He acknowledged the challenges with a very Mormon insight on the ways pain catalyzes our personal evolution: "There just seems to be no end to the obstacles on my mission. I can't help but wonder what the Lord is molding me into."
I sent Jacob's interview to Chiloba.
He could have returned to Zambia for the funeral, but elected to remain where he was. He sent these words to be read at the memorial service:
|Elder Chirwa and Elder Lisowski with a family in Pointe Noire|
I am realizing quickly that the comfort of the Spirit is not only a voice telling you all will be all right, but it is a deep, even limitless understanding of eternal truths. The Spirit tells to trust in the knowledge of God, giving us understanding of His omniscience. It also helps us understand the time-defying state of forever—that perspective which we call Eternal. In this comforting scope of understanding, death is a mere temporal separation . . . I love you all. I am with you in spirit. I love my father and all he was and did. Let us remember him, let our hearts not be broken but filled with love and appreciation for Jacob Chirwa. Let us remember that God's grace is sufficient for us. He will see us through.
Just over a year later, my own father appeared to be dying. He had already been on dialysis for three years, and was now bleeding internally. When the doctors stopped the bleeding, Dad had heart attacks. When they prevented the attacks, his bleeding worsened. It appeared that we were in a Catch-22 which would end his life.
I continued to communicate with Elder Chirwa, who was now in the final stretch of his mission. Though he was half my age, I knew he understood what I was going through in a way the others in the "band of brothers" couldn't.
"You were there for me," he wrote, "and I will be there for you."
I poured my heart out to this young man I had never met, this remarkable missionary whom I had so grossly underestimated when first introduced to his name. How I loved him! I wrote: "This process of losing my father—and I don't know how long it will take—is so much harder than I ever imagined it would be. I wish we didn't have this one thing in common, but it helps to know that you know."
|The Youngs with Robert Blair|
In reply, he sent me the lyrics to a country song:
And when you dream, dream big
As big as the ocean blue
'Cause when you dream it might come true
When you dream, dream big
"Sister Young, dream big," he added. "The plan of our Heavenly Father is greater than we can understand. Today I received a birthday card that Dad had gotten me but never got to sign. My aunt found it in his diary. I was happy. My aunt said that Dad would have loved to give me the keys to the world. Despite him not being there to do so, I have a Heavenly Father that surely will."
Margaret Blair Young is the president of the Association for Mormon Letters and has published eight books—six novels and two short story collections. Three of the novels were co-authored with Darius Gray and give the history (documented) of Black Latter-day Saints. She and Gray made the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons, which is currently under contract with the Documentary Channel and showing nationally. She has written six encyclopedia articles and other scholarly papers on Blacks in the western United States, and particularly Black Mormons. She teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University.