Friday, June 3, 2011

Those Last Words in the Doorway...

Last Sunday night we went to a fireside the San Jose Mission holds intermittently for outgoing missionaries to share their testimonies combined with outstanding musical numbers. We’ve been about four times, there’s always a wonderful spirit there, my only pet peeve is that it’s usually a little long.

One common theme at the fireside was how difficult it is to wrap up two years of memories in a three minute testimony. One sister missionary noted several places in the scriptures where famous last words were expressed (most notable might be Moroni).

Sharing final words, saying farewell, concluding remarks; all of these remind me of some thoughts the actor, Alan Alda (think M*A*S*H), gave in a speech years ago. I saved his comments because they resonated so strongly. I’ll intersperse a few quotes from Alda with my ad nauseam commentary below:

“Deep in our hearts we know that the best things said come last. People will talk for hours saying nothing much and then linger at the door with words that come with a rush from the heart." (Alda)

I’m a classic at this behavior, talking about this, that, and nothing important, until the last minute of absolute departure. And that’s when a rush of heartfelt feelings bubble over. Happens to me all the time! So, Alda continues:

"Doorways is seems, are where the truth is told....We linger there with our hand on the knob chattering away...the very best things said often slip out completely unheralded and preceded by the words, 'Oh, by the way.'” (Alda)

Again, how often I’m guilty of incessant chatter and then at the end comes that, 'Oh, by the way your example has had a profound impact on me’ utterance of gratitude or those kind of remarks. I’m quite artful at dodging the tougher things to say, but at the very last moment, they might rush out in a bit of an awkward spew.

"I hear that patients will talk to their therapists for an hour, hardly saying anything, and just as they’re leaving, turn at the door and say, “Oh, by the way,” and in one sentence reveal everything they’ve been avoiding for 50 minutes.” (Alda)

If this practice is common among patients/people then therapists/bishops/etc. could clearly learn that those final words are a great time/way to uncover helpful or perhaps, more accurate, information.

But back to the fireside, the missionaries last words were poignant, not so much confessional as wondering how to adequately express their feelings at the bittersweet end. President and Sister Jackson’s family will also be returning to their home and life in Mesa, Arizona so they shared parting thoughts too. While they are never shy about sharing the gospel message, their last words were definitely filled with great tenderness and deep love for all their cute missionaries as well as the people they’ve served and come to know and love in the San Jose area.

All the testimonies were spoken over the podium but in my mind’s eye (thanks to Alan Alda), I could envision each of them standing right in a doorway!