Gordon B. Hinckley 1910-2008
It is with some sadness that I comment on the passing of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. He died this past Sunday surrounded by family at the age of 97. If I ever get to choose the time and place of my own passing, that would be it.
President Hinckley has been the face of the LDS Church for as far back as I can remember. Most of my memories of him center around General Conference where he conducted most, if not all, of the sessions. He was called into the First Presidency as a "Counselor" when the sitting Presidency (Kimball, Tanner, and Romney) were all incapacitated due to illness. He stood at that pulpit and never really left.
His entire life was dedicated to the faith. After returning from his mission to England he took a job in what would become the LDS Church PR office. From there it was one job after another until he was called into the leadership ranks. He married his sweetheart Marjorie and they spent nearly 70 years as husband and wife.
Most church members' interaction with General Authorities is pretty much limited to Conference sessions. These are two-hour blocks of speeches punctuated by music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. While most of the speeches contain important messages, eventually they all blend into a singular drone. Some orators are gifted. Others are not. General Authorities are no exception.
President Hinckley was an exception to that general rule. He had a well developed sense of humor and used it often. For the last few years of his life he was known to treat every conference session as if it would be his last. He made a point of once giving two talks in the same session because, in his own words
I am an old man and do not know how much longer I shall live.
It was on one of these afternoons that President Hinckley took to the podium and looked out upon the overheated crowd, smiled, and said:
We know it's hot in here…and we're sorry.
Then with a twinkle in his eye for which he was famous, he continued:
Its gonna get a lot warmer if you don't repent!
He is now at rest after a lifetime which few men could have kept up with. He is no doubt surrounded by loved ones, especially his wife with whom he spent nearly seven decades.
Rest well, Gordon. You've earned it. Godspeed to you – and welcome home.
Here endeth the lesson.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Berrettini, United States Army
One of the most respected members of any combat team is that of the medic. His is the first name heard when the bullets are flying, the grenades are exploding, and all hell is being unleashed around the soldiers. He dresses the wounds, comforts the wounded, and holds the hands of the dying. His soldiers know he will put their well being above his own and for this reason alone they defend him with their own lives.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Berrettini was just such a medic. He was serving his final few weeks of his deployment to the Khowst Province in Afghanistan as a part of a logistical task force where he provided medical care to his soldiers and Afghan villagers in the surrounding communities. On January 2, 2008 his Humvee was hit by an IED while returning to base. Berrettini was severely injured in the blast and died on January 11, 2008 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Berrettini was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard which means he had a career in the civilian world. When not wearing his country's uniform, Berrettini spent his time giving medical attention to the school children of Port Allegany School District. Yes, this proud Army officer was the School Nurse. By all accounts he had the respect of the students in his care. I know for a fact the soldiers in his care held him in the highest esteem.
Berrettini went to Afghanistan because he knew he could do some good for the people there. He went to heal wounds rather than inflict them. I can think of no better way to bring peace to a region which has known nothing but war for as far back as anyone can remember. No doubt Berrettini believed offering health and hope to the Afghan people would be much more than they ever would get from the Islamofasicst Murdering Thugs bent on subjugating that people to their will.
He leaves behind a wife and two grown sons – both of whom have followed their father's trail and are currently serving in the US Army.
Godspeed to you, Colonel. Welcome home.
Major Andrew J. Olmsted, United States Army
“How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.” – Captain Kirk, Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan
I owe thanks to my dear friend Cinnabari for pointing me to Andy Olmstead’s self-written eulogy. His final post is truly one for the ages, and one to which I have little to add.
Major Andrew J. Olmstead was killed on January 3, 2007 when he and his team came under intense small arms fire in As Sadiyah, Iraq.
His thoughts on his life, his chosen profession, and the possibility turned reality of his own death are truly riveting. I’ve spent the past hour reading and re-reading his eulogy trying to find parts of it I would like to excerpt, but I’m unable to do so. I’ll simply state this – go read the whole thing. Now read it again.
So, Andy, per your request, I’ve poured myself a tall cold Coke (albeit of the Diet variety) and have dialed up some classic 1980s Journey on my iPod in your honor.
Godspeed, Major Olmstead. Thank you.
Here endeth the lesson.