My Whirlwind Romance part V “The Wedding”

Since Joseph and I had decided that we were officially dating, I wanted to find out all I could about him. I didn’t want to be in a relationship if it was a dead end. So the following Wednesday I had agreed to help out with a choir practice in Jinja and Joseph and I agreed to meet up afterward. We sat on the lawn with a notebook and had a very honest talk. The search was still on for the true Joseph. I knew he couldn’t be as wonderful as I thought he was. I asked him straight out what he felt his biggest faults were and he told me, I told him mine also and we talked about what and how we felt we could deal with these. We talked about many other things as well as we sat under a tree on the church lawn. After awhile we noticed quite a group gathering for a wedding.

There were three couples arriving to be married and President Jackson, the Mission President would be performing the ceremony.  It would be a very simple ceremony that would turn Uganda tradition on its head, proving that weddings don’t have to be big expensive affairs that take a lot of money and planning.

We crowded into the chapel and as I watched the ceremony, with Joseph seated next to me I kept thinking to myself about what a wedding to him might be like.  As President Jackson spoke about the sacred commitment that these couples were about to make I looked at Joseph to find him already looking at me. We smiled surely thinking the same thing and he squeezed my hand.

A mass wedding in Uganda

A mass wedding in Uganda

The wedding was beautiful with all three couples standing in turn to make their covenants with each other and with God. One by one President Jackson made them kiss, not just once but until he felt that they had done it right! He wanted to see a real kiss that showed they were thinking more about their love for each other than their shyness at kissing in public. As the couples kissed awkwardly it looked as though they were trying their best to only touch lips and no other part of their body.

I whispered to Joseph. “We would have no problem with this, I think we could give them lessons,” He agreed with a huge smile just as the wedding ended. We stood around waiting for the couples to take pictures and to be greeted by all their friends. As we stood at the back of the chapel, President Jackson saw me standing there holding Joseph’s hand, your looking suddenly very happy he told me as he passed by. It was true, I was blissfully happy.

I could feel so many eyes on us and I knew that my holding hands in public with the second counselor in the district presidency was causing a bit of a stir. I wanted a minute alone with Joseph. We went for a little walk around the church. As we got to the backside of the building where no people were we stopped and enjoyed the privacy and the quiet, away from prying eyes.

After the wedding, we attended a dinner at Two Friends resort. The food was good and the couples looked so happy.  We were seated at the table almost directly across from President Jackson. As they were cutting the cake Joseph left the table to get us drinks and when he was away President Jackson came to my table looked me straight in the eye and said “I just want you to know, that man is everything you think he is. I haven’t met a better man and neither will you.”

I felt chills go through my body and I knew he was telling me the truth. I knew I had found in my Joseph everything that I had prayed for for so long. It scared me.

When Joseph returned President Jackson shook his hand and told us he would be performing two more weddings that following week. He asked if we would attend. We agreed and then with a little twinkle in his eye he said, “You know we could make it three!”

We both laughed, but later as Joseph was saying goodbye, a van full of missionaries and others from the wedding waiting to take me back to Lugazi, I considered for the first time what It might be not to have to say goodbye to him. He held me and we tried to ignore the eyes watching us. “You have to go, he whispered, they are waiting for you. “ I clung to him wanting more than the simple goodbye hug but knowing it wasn’t possible there with everybody watching, so I said goodbye and started the long drive back to Lugazi. The next morning my first thought upon waking up was, I could be marrying Joseph next week! The thought was surprisingly appealing.

The next day I met with President Jackson for a temple recommend interview. After seeing that here in Uganda a temple recommend wasn’t so much about the ability to GO to the temple but a sign of your WORTHINESS to attend the temple, I felt ashamed at having let mine expire just because I didn’t think I would be needing it in Uganda. President explained to me a bit about blacks and the gospel and about the church’s position on interracial marriage. We also talked at length about Joseph, about my relationship with him, about my fears and my concerns. He offered to give me a blessing. He gave me some very specific counsel and advice about things I should be doing and told me that no one could get this answer except me but that if I would listen very carefully and try my best to follow what my heart told me, it would not lead me astray.

President Jackson with a few members from the district.

President Jackson with a few members from the district.

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I Love Sundays!

Today was the district conference for the Jinja area. It was wonderful. The first few days I was here I woke each morning half hoping that when I opened my eyes I would be home. Today is one of those days when I feel like three months here won’t be nearly long enough. I meet people and I want to get to know them, to be a part of their lives. I want to be apart of watching the church grow here. And there just isn’t enough time.

I am starting to love being here, I don’t notice the smells so much anymore, My stomach has adjusted to the food, I am sleeping again. It’s all good again and I can begin to really enjoy this experience.

The branch here hired a couple of buses to take us all to Jinja. When we arrived there were a whole bunch of missionaries waiting to greet us. I went and met them, several of whom were from Utah. The missionary couples and the Mission president were there as well. I got to meet the Mission president. He is leaving in just a few weeks and he was very emotional as he has been here for six years. As the congregation sang God be with you till we meet again, and he was waving to them from the stand, the whole congregation was waving back and he was crying. It was so touching.

President and Sister Jackson with Emined and I.

President and Sister Jackson with Emined and I.

Emined was the first Ugandan member that this mission president sent out. Now they have many. He was very excited to get to see him. As he shook his hand President Jackson said ‘Emined I started this off with you and I now I will end it with you” and he gave him a big hug. It is touching to see how much the people here love him and how much he loves them.

I was amazed during the conference at how direct the speakers were. They talked about several issues that I happen to know are quite cultural issues. I would have thought they would be hesitant to address. But president Jackson was very clear about the fact that these things are chains that are still binding this people. They talked about bride price (the tradition of paying a large sum of money to the brides parents) and how the church was really discouraging this tradition. They talked about modesty and president Jackson said they had raised the expectations and that more was going to be required of these people. He talked about paying tithing and so many things and I left feeling that surely if these people could change so much and walk away from their traditions I can do as much to become a better person.

After the conference So many members came and shook my hand and wanted to stay in touch and take a picture that if Emined hadn’t insisted that we needed to get going I don’t think I ever would have made it out of there. We went to a members home for dinner. Sister Gertrude was one of the very first members in Uganda. She is an amazing woman who is a single mom. She has raised her daughters in the church and she is so strong. Her testimony is so vibrant and real only someone who has really sacrificed to live what they believe would be able to speak with the conviction that she has.

Sister Gertrude and her two daughters with Emined and his mission president.

Sister Gertrude and her two daughters with Emined and his mission president.

She kind of adopted Emined. When he was just new in the church his family had disowned him and he had nowhere to go for shelter. She took him in and he stayed with her until he was able to get on his feet. She says he is her son and her home is his home. So we had dinner with her and her daughters. Her daughter recently served a mission and is a beautiful strong woman also. I think we will be good friends. And I look forward to knowing her.

After dinner we rode back to Lugazi just in time for a little goodbye party for Ellen. We had a picnic at a little park just outside a local church. It was quite interesting to see the pastors there playing games with us and joking with Ellen who has been so vocal about being atheist. That is one thing that I love about Ugandans. You can disagree with them and have little arguments without anyone getting their feelings hurt. The pastor jokingly referred to Ellen as his enemy and asked me if now that she was going if I was going to be his new enemy. I told him that I didn’t think that was necessary. That in spite of the fact that our opinions differed a bit on religion we are still Heavenly Fathers children and we can be friends. He laughed good-naturedly and went on his way.

Saying goodbye to Ellen

Saying goodbye to Ellen

There is nothing good about good-bye

Its something I’ve never been very good at. I don’t know if that’s because it wasn’t something that I experienced very often in the first 20 years or so of my life, or if either way I would have had the same struggle with letting go and saying goodbye.

I remember when each of my older sisters got married and in a sense I said goodbye to them. I said goodbye to the life that we had together, I said goodbye to sharing everything with them and I knew they would change tremendously so in a sense it was saying goodbye to the person that they were. Soon they would be mom’s and wives and they would leave me behind.

I remember when Aunt Hannah died. She was about the closest person to me that I had ever experienced losing. I remember wondering if I would ever have a day where I didn’t ache with missing her. Its been about 18 years since she died. I still miss her but not only are there days when I don’t ache but there are often weeks where I don’t really even think about her if I’m honest. Somehow life has resumed and while I loved her and still do, and while I do think of her often with fondness and a little sadness that she is gone, I have moved on, found peace, and it is not something that really affects my life anymore.

Joining the LDS church was saying goodbye in a way that I hope I never experience again. It was saying goodbye to everything all at once. It hurt more than anything ever has and it hurt for a very long time. In fact it was something that I shed tears over probably almost on a daily basis for the first 6 years or so.

Sometimes saying goodbye is something that happens all at once, like when our dog Meg was put to sleep. One minute she was there and the next she was not. Like when my Grandma Vilate and my Great Grandma were hit by a truck as they were crossing the street together. One minute they were two little old ladies enjoying an afternoon together, we were planning to visit as soon as our schedule and our lives settled down. The next they were gone.

Other times it happens slowly. Like with my dad. Over the last couple of years I have watched as little by little I lose my dad. He is still here, he is still alive and actually doing pretty well which is something that I am so grateful for. But he is not the dad that I knew. He is not strong, and jolly and wise. He is old and frail and forgetful. I cant go to him for advice because he can’t remember what the question was long enough to give me much of an answer. I can’t count on him to be there for me because he is more like a child than a man. I love him, he is still my hero, my rock, and I will always love him. I’ve actually been glad that he is going slowly. It gives me a chance to make those adjustments to him not really being there while I can still put my arms around him and hear him call me his little ladybug. I can still hear his voice as he whistles popcorn popping. I can still see the twinkle in his eye. One day I know I will lose that too but I am glad that I get to make this adjustment a little at a time.

And that brings me to the crux of this post. Ryan is moving to Hawaii. I know I should be ok with it. I have felt for some time now that its ok that we are not together, that I believe we can be happier with someone else. The problem is that I love him. I love him so much that I didn’t even know how much until he showed up at my house unannounced and told me that he is leaving. In just a couple short weeks he will be gone from my life for at least two years. It might as well be forever. I can’t say goodbye to him all at once. I need it to slowly die out while we can still be friends, can still see each other and still be a part of each others lives. I wanted to slowly grow apart.

I really wasn’t hanging on to hope that things would change and we would get back together. I wasn’t. But I also wasn’t ready to let go of him completely. Ryan was so much more than my boyfriend. He was my best friend and the one person that I felt completely myself with. He was the person whom I loved so much that it hurt. He was my first kiss and my first love. He was… well there just aren’t words. When he told me, I wasn’t expecting the hammer that slammed down in the pit of my stomach almost making me lose the dinner that I hadn’t eaten yet. I wasn’t expecting the room to start to spin or the tears that came almost uncontrollably and certainly unwelcome to my eyes. I wasn’t expecting my esophagus to suddenly swell to twice its normal size and make it difficult for me to breathe. I wasn’t expecting the panic that set in after he left as I realized that I would have to say goodbye to him for good and there was nothing I could do about it.

I tried to compose myself to talk to him like a sane, rational person. I kept my voice calm, I kept my mouth in the shape of a smile so that I wouldn’t cry and I talked to him about the things he wanted to talk about. But all the while I just wanted him to hold me and tell me that it was all going to be ok and that he loved me still and that he was leaving…but I could go with him. I wanted to beg and plead with him to see reason. To see that no one will ever love him as much as I do or that no one will ever make him as happy as I can.

In the end I did cry. When he tried to say goodbye and he did give me a hug. The familiar feel of his arms around me broke whatever reserve I had and the tears flowed shamefully. I want to tell him I love him. I need to tell him I love him. I need to hear him tell me the same. What I don’t want, what I don’t know how to do…is say goodbye.