Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 “Translados”

While we were at the “Capilla de Translados” Hna. Almonte told us that our dear Hna. Mecho passed away in her sleep at 6:30AM! She’s our dear sister in the wheelchair in Duvergé. (See: Dec. 18, 2009, Feb . 6, 2010, March 10, 2010 & March 18, 2010) We were shocked and devastated. We knew she had been sick with the flu but had no idea her illness was life threatening. It was very hard for us to finish our duties at the Transfer Chapel. Hna. Johnson really took the news hard. She had to excuse herself for a while until she could regain her composure.

We have been very close to Hna. Mecho since we arrived in the mission field. Hna. Johnson described her on many occasions as: The most beautiful person she has ever met. From the moment we arrived and I became the Branch President she expressed her desire to go to the Temple and receive her own endowments. She worked very hard on her goal constantly. She helped the Elders put together a Branch Temple Prep. Class. It was held at the chapel every Sunday night for two months from November to December. In spite of huge obstacles to overcome (See February 10, 2010) she finally went through the Temple in March (See March 19, 2010).

Hna. Mecho was the consummate “Member Missionary”. Whenever the Elders needed a member to accompany them to a discussion, Hna. Mecho was always the first to volunteer. Without a doubt she was the heart and soul of the Branch missionary work. Rain, shine or sweltering in 90% humidity Hna. Mecho could be seen being pushed in her wheelchair by the Elders to another teaching appointment. She participated in the discussions and always bore her fervent testimony of the restored gospel. Every Fast & Testimony meeting she always bore her testimony.

She has been ill with the flu for several weeks. As a result of her weakened immune system she has spent several days in the hospital in Barahona as well as in the capital. But last night she was back at home. Her mother wanted to take her back to the hospital but she insisted that she felt better. The 4 full time missionaries in Duvergé went to her house and sat at her bedside for FHE singing her favorite hymns, reading and quoting scriptures from PMG (“Preach My Gospel” missionary manual) and discussing its gospel topics. The Elders said they would pat her on the back occasionally to break up her congestion so she could breathe easier. She always enjoys the visits by the full time missionaries. She was relaxed and at peace when she went to sleep last night.

I would like to correct a statement I made earlier. I said there were two major events today. Well, really there was only one, it was “Translados”. This morning at the same moment Hna. Johnson and I were involved in the “Translado” here in the Santo Domingo West Mission, our sweet Hna. Mecho received her change of mission assignment. Our Heavenly Father transferred her from her earthly mission and has given her a new assignment in the spirit world. I have no doubt that she is there at this moment preaching, teaching and bearing her fervent testimony. This morning there weren’t 14 Elders & Hermanas involved in “Translados” here in the Santo Domingo West Mission, there were 15.

Hna. Johnson and I loved Hna. Mecho. We will miss her greatly. But at the same time we are so very happy for her. Today she is a “Whole Human Being”. She has left behind her small twisted mortal body and is now free of her mortal coil that has kept her captive. Today she is free and whole again.

As soon as we were told of Hna. Mecho’s passing this morning Hna. Johnson and I knew we would be going to the funeral. By 10:00am the Elders in Duvergé told us the funeral was set for 5:00 and 6:00pm today. I phoned Pres. Almonte for permission for Hna. Johnson and I to go to the funeral. Pres. Almonte told us he would not be able to attend because of all his responsibilities with “Translado” so he asked me to express his sympathy to the family. Back in the office Hna. Johnson and I only did the “Translado” work that was absolutely necessary and we were on the road for Duvergé by 12:30pm.

We were very surprised to hear that Hna. Mecho’s father (not LDS) had insisted on a Catholic Funeral Mass for his daughter. President Almonte agreed to allow the service as long as our Branch held its own funeral for Hno. Mecho and the only dedication of the grave would be by an Elder holding the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Our funeral service was held at the cemetery. The Elders had originally planned to hold it at the chapel but the cemetery is quite a long way from the chapel. The bigger consideration was the crowd of people. At the mass the Catholic Church was full and there were another one to two hundred people that had to wait outside. The crowd of people that wanted to attend her funeral service was huge. Our chapel could have only held 50 to 60 people. Being outdoors in the cemetery was the only real option for us.

The crowd of people that wanted to attend the grave side funeral was even too huge for the cemetery. People were packed in between all of the above ground crypts. To make more room people climbed on the tops of all of the nearby crypts.

Under the direction of the Neyba Branch President, Pres. Norberto Tejera “Hijo”, Elder Carrasco was asked to conduct the funeral service. His companion, Elder Mower was asked to give the talk on the plan of salvation. Two wonderful hymns were chosen, they were Hna. Mecho’s favorites, the same ones the 4 Elders sang at her bedside the night before. In the Spanish Hymnal they were Hymn #88 “Placentero nos es trabajar” (there is no equivalent song in English) and Hymn #50 “Nearer My God to Thee”. Wow, what powerful and wonderful songs for a funeral, plus they exemplify Hna. Mecho’s desire to work hard and live the gospel.

Elder Mower’s talk on “The Plan of Salvation” was particularly well presented and powerful. After the service there were a lot of people that stayed and asked for more information about the church. Even at her funeral Hna. Mecho’s spirit of missionary work had an impact on many people.

During the funeral service Hna. Mecho’s mother, Ana Josefa Pérez, was inconsolable. She was crying and wailing through most of the service. The death of her daughter has been very hard on her. After the service she was taken back to her home where her family laid her on her bed and she continued to wail inconsolably. Many people passed by her bed and offered their support and comfort but she was under too much distress. When it was Hna. Johnson’s turn to see her she saw Hna. Johnson and threw open her arms and shouted, “Hermanaaaaaaa”. Hna. Johnson hugged her and comforted her. I was standing behind Hna. Johnson and I bent over to whisper in Hna. Perez’s ear. I spoke to her for about 3 minutes and told her that her daughter was now whole, healthy and perfect. And, now she was in the presence of our Savior. She seemed to have listened and understood what I said. When we left Hna. Perez wasn’t wailing anymore, it was the first time since the funerals started.

After we left the Perez home Hna. Johnson and I had a chance to visit with a lot of the Duvergé members. We really enjoyed the visit. We stayed and talked to all of them for about 45 minutes. Tuco & Yazmin, Dehika & Alexis and Hector Mendez were all there. Iris, Hector’s wife was not able to attend the funeral. She is attending college and this afternoon happened to be one of her big exam days.

Hna. Iris was at the funeral home earlier in the day with Hna. Yazmin. These two ladies are now the only two endowed sisters in the Branch and they dressed Mecho in her specially made Temple dress and Temple robes. They reported what a special spirit they felt as they dressed Hna. Mecho.

Hna. Yazmin told the story of their visit to the Funeral home earlier in the day. The funeral home is all Catholic complete with all the images, candles and adornments. She and Iris were with the funeral director as they walked into to room to dress Hna. Mecho’s body. As is their custom the funeral parlor had lit several candles in glass containers with Catholic imagery on them. Hna. Iris walked over to them and blew them all out. She turned to the funeral director and said, “Mecho doesn’t need these, she has her own light!” Hna. Iris is one of a kind, we love her.

We didn’t leave the cemetery until very late, after 7:00pm, but our day still wasn’t over. Elder Carrasco and Elder Mower needed a ride to Barahona tonight. They will spend the night in the apartment of the Barahona Zone leaders. Tomorrow morning at 6:00am all 4 of them will catch a “Caribe Tours” bus for the capital. All of the Zone Leaders in the whole mission have their training meeting with Pres. Almonte at 9:00am at the La Paz chapel. If we hadn’t given them a ride, the only bus out of Duvergé that would have gotten them to the capital on time leaves at 2:30am tomorrow morning. We were glad to give them a ride so they could get a couple extra hours of sleep.

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