Dad is just in the other room.
November 18, 2012 10 Comments
NOTE: My father-in-law, Paul J. Puffer passed away on November 5th. He was a great man with a very strong testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I had the incredible honor of speaking at his funeral. With the permission of my mother-in-law, I have posted the text of this talk here.
As a brief intro, my name is Troy Parker. Paul Puffer is my father-in-law. As Dad would tell the story (and I’ll call him Dad from here on out) he paid me to marry his third daughter, Jill. Of course, he only said that to make me feel like I measured up.
Dad had a way of making everyone feel important. Over the past few months and then in these last few weeks as dad’s strength decreased, I watched his daughters lovingly dote over him and his sons tenderly kiss him on his bald head.
As we visited Dad in the hospital last Saturday, Jim and Ben were there too and each greeted him with that kiss on the bald head. He quickly looked at me and asked, “Don’t I get a kiss on the head?”
I had always felt this special gesture was something sacred and saved for his sons, for his boys and I did not want to encroach. But in his simple question, was a cherished declaration. I kissed him on that bald head and felt like one of his boys – I felt important.
Now, once again I feel that way. I am so honored though admittedly scared out of mind, to participate today.
It is impossible to talk of dad without speaking of mom. They are truly a team that blessed so many and it is so fun watching them in action.
Just a couple years ago, Jill and I were on vacation with them where I witnessed how this team worked. We were staying in an ocean resort and mom and dad were in their bathing suits enjoying the water (which was funny in-of-itself). Now you have to understand that mom is a collector and she wanted to gather some rocks from the sea to take back to grandkids. She would find the rocks she liked and then put them on a picnic table near the shore. Dad was standing next the table and when mom had her back turned, would throw the rocks back into the lake. He didn’t want to take them home on the plane. For several minutes I watched as mom captured those poor rocks and dad freed them back into the wild.
As has been shared, dad has an incredible ability to make everyone feel loved-like everyone is his best friend. One might ask, “How can he be best friends to everyone?” Simply put, dad’s love for people was real – not patronizing. And his capacity to love is so great that he really CAN be best friends to everyone.
Because of that sincere love, dad was able to share anything with anyone without really getting into trouble.
I hope to summon some of that same spirit. The things I share today, I share with love knowing that dad would share the same things. I hope you can receive these comments as if dad, one of your best friends, were sharing them with you.
Dad not only helped build the building we are meeting in but was also a key player in its two additions. We read about buildings or mansions in the Gospel of John:
“In my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2) or rooms.
I’d like to talk about three rooms in our Father’s house or three parts of the Plan of Salvation. First, let’s talk about the room we are all in now…the room of life.
There are wonderful things in this life – family, friends, the beauties of the earth and blessings beyond imagination. We are in this room to learn and we should take advantage of the opportunities presented to us almost every minute.
Dad recognized these blessings of life and always looked for the good in everything. Once while visiting home from college and close to graduation, I told dad I was so ready to be done with school and onto life. Dad then taught me an important lesson, “Don’t wish your life away. Enjoy every minute you have now.”
But life in this room can also be really, really tough. There is heartache, loneliness, sickness and death. And none of us are perfect. We make mistakes. Even when we give our best efforts we sometimes fail.
Several years ago dad and mom set a goal to learn Spanish. Their motive was simply to share the gospel with those who speak Spanish. They read books, they listened to tapes, they took classes at one point mom even tagged every item in the house with what it was called in Spanish. Still, dad couldn’t learn Spanish. His tongue would just get in the way. One Christmas he proudly said to some Spanish speaking patients, “Mariz nardidar” which means absolutly nothing in Spanish. He was trying to say “Feliz Navidad” but just couldn’t get it out. We all have challenges in this room.
A blessing in this room is agency. Think of the hundreds of choices we make daily. These choices are like pushing over dominoes that lead to either good or bad consequences. How we choose, so often depends on how much we understand about ourselves, about the choices we make and where those choices lead.
Those choices can be impacted greatly if we look beyond this room and understand the other mansions or rooms in our Father’s house. If we make our decisions based only on what we know of THIS room we are likely to make mistakes. To make better decisions, it is important we know a little something about these other rooms.
Just like there is a room or foyer you passed through to get to this room, there is another room before we came to this life. In Jeremiah it says:
“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the enations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
The apostle Paul taught further,
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Timothy 1:9, italics added)
Let me describe this room a bit. We lived with a loving Heavenly-father and family including our brother Jesus Christ. We learned and progressed in this room. In fact, we progressed to a point that in order for us to become who our Father wanted us to become, we had to leave the room and face mortality.
Our Father wanted us to progress and become more like Him but leaving the room would be a huge risk. We would leave the safety of living with our Heavenly-family to come to this life, this room. And here we would make mistakes and become unclean, unable to return back with our Father. It was then that Jesus stepped forward and said he too would enter this harsh room, would show us the way and would help us get back.
We all entered this room at different times. Dad entered January 29, 1935. We are here, in this room, to take our own weaknesses and through the atonement, make our weaknesses strengths. In short, we are in this room to become who Father wants us to become.
Our goal, our purpose is to learn from every situation. Elder Orson F Whitney described our life experiences this way.
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.” (Ardeth Green Kapp, The Joy of the Journey, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992 p. 139)
Every situation is an opportunity to become kind, become caring, become loving, become patient, meek, faithful and forgiving; an opportunity to become truly, sons and daughters of God.
But as mentioned before, in this room we sin. We make mistakes and are unclean and unable to live with a perfect Heavenly-father. Because of this truth, Christ did what He did. He overcame sin. He drank of the bitter cup. He also triumphed over death.
“Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.
The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time,…” (Alma 11:42-43)
Father has graciously left us some helps to get us through this room. One of dad’s most favorite helps is the scriptures. He loved and knew the scriptures. Among his most read were the Holy Bible, an ancient record of God’s dealing with his children in Jerusalem and surrounding areas and the Book of Mormon, not the play, but an ancient record of God’s dealing with his children on THIS continent. It is another testament of Christ. It culminates in the visit of the resurrected Christ to His other sheep in the Western Hemisphere (John 10:16).
It is among these people that He visited, established His church, healed the sick and taught His gospel. Dad loved the words Jesus spoke when he first appeared to these people.
Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.
Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world. (3 Nephi 11:10-11&14)
Then each person there had the opportunity to not only feel the prints and the wounds but look into the Savior’s eyes. Can you imagine, Brothers and Sisters, the blessing of gazing into the Redeemer’s eyes. Dad loved the Book of Mormon.
There comes a time while in this room, just like in the previous room when we must leave; a time to walk through another door and enter the next room. Dad walked through that door early Monday morning. And what a greeting he received from others who have gone before, his father, his mother, his daughter Kim and many others. It makes me wonder, what were his first words? I have to think it was a joke of some sort – perhaps something about having hair again. Whatever they were, I’m sure they were followed with a huge smile.
Though he is just in this other room, it can be hard for those of us left behind. We feel much like Abraham and Isaac did when Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his only son.
“And the hearts of Abraham and Isaac rejoiced at this thing which the Lord had commanded them; but the eye wept bitterly whilst the heart rejoiced.” (Jasher 23:64)
But we take comfort in knowing that he is just in the next room. We can’t see or hear him but he is there. And he still has stewardship over his family and will, from time to time, stop in and let us know that he loves us. And someday, sooner than we think, we will all step through that door.
And when we step through that ultimate door of judgment we will be asked what kind of person we’ve become. As Elder Oaks describes it:
“[T]he Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.” (The Challenge to Become, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October, 2000)
So, there are three rooms. A premortal room where we lived with God and learned up to a point. A mortal room or life where we learn and grow trying to become the person God knows us to be. And a room after life where we go to be with others who have gone before – a place where we go to learn more than we ever imagined.
As we live and learn within THIS room may we remember that there are other rooms. That decisions made here will affect the circumstances of the next. May we remember during the bad times and the good times that we are here to become who our Father wants us to become.
May we remember that we can’t do it alone. We need family and friends.
Most of all, we need our Savior-His guidance and love. We will never be able to enter HIS room without applying the atonement in THIS room.
And today, let us remember that dad, though he has left us, is just in the next room.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.