Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Best Experience of my Mission - Bar None

After Maria's baptism, Brother Mangano, the second counselor in the bishopric, asked me if I could give a talk on the 17th and then sing on the 26th. He told me to prepare two songs because maybe I'd sing twice. I assumed this meant that I might sing both the 17th and the 26th. My district had already prepared a hymn to sing for the bishopric the night they had invited us to dinner, so I told Brother Mangano we'd sing that on the 17th. So the 26th came around, and instead of having me sing as an intermezzo after two talks and before the final talk, he asked me to sing a prelude. It went well and I prayed with all of my heart to not cry while I sang. I just felt so attached to the people in Bresica, and I loved them so much that it pained my soul to know that it would be my final day with them.
I sat down and just started crying like a baby. The front of my skirt was half soaked from tears. The lady sitting near me started patting me on the back or on the knee and comforting me like a mother would do. I felt completely wrapped in love from the ward. Then to add joy to my love Brother Mangano announced that I was finishing, and that they'd been so happy to have had me in their ward. He thanked me for all I had done for them and for all of the gifts I had brought to them. Then he complimented me on my voice that had brought them joy and said that at the end of the meeting they were going to ask me to sing again for the postlude. That surprised me, and I finally understood why he'd asked me to prepare two songs. I cried for the entire meeting and then after the prayer, he told everyone to stay in their seats and invited me to do the postlude. I really had to pray to not cry during it, and luckily I didn't. I could feel intense strength within my body that lifted me up as I sang. I felt happier then I'd ever been in my life when I finished, and I gave everybody a huge smile. As soon as I got done Brother Mangano took my arm and took me to the pulpit. At this point I lost control of my emotions and cried some more, and he thanked me again for all I'd brought to the ward. I don't remember all of what he said because I was so emotional at this point, but I remember it was all beautiful. Then he said that the ward wanted to show me a bit of their appreciation for me, and he went over to the side of the pulpit and pulled out an enormous, beautiful bouquet of lilies. Then the members stood up and gave me a standing ovation as I came down to meet the congregation. It was like a dream. I couldn't have hoped or imagined them doing anything better. My mind was in the clouds for the rest of the day. I came down and nearly everybody in church (even people I didn't know very well) came up to hug and kiss me good bye and thank me. Many of them were in tears too. I then took a lot of pictures and just cherished the moment with all of my heart. There were no baptisms, no confirmations, and no investigators in church, but it was by far the best day in church I've ever had in my life.

When I said goodbye to my good friend Alba, I had a really hard time letting her go. I'd had too many good experiences with her and I felt like I was losing one of my best friends. After about 10 minutes of hugging her I finally let her go and cried all the way to the bus stop. She called while I was there because she'd read my dedicate to her and thanked me for it and told me how much she loved me and was going to miss me. I was sad to leave the people I'd known in my other cities, but I'd never cried for them. Brescia just brought all of my emotion out of me!
I spent my final day in Brescia at the Gargiulos house and Katy and Rino came to pick us up. Alba had been invited to the Gargiulo's, and Katy and Rino took her home after dropping us off. That was really nice for me since I got to say goodbye to three of my favorite people all together. I full on gave Rino a huge hug which shocked my companion. Alba applauded. I then took about 20 minutes to say goodbye. I kept hugging and rehugging. I couldn't let them go. Sister Fitches had to drag me away. When she opened the door to the house I ran back and jumped up and down waving my arms goodbye. I then proceeded to cry like a river and go through the pain of leaving Brescia again.
On the train to Presidents house the next day, I had to write a letter to myself that the office would send to me after a year had gone by. My heart was breaking as I left the city where I'd found a true home. It was really hard for me to leave the people I'd met there. I was glad I didn't have to leave Italy yet because leaving Italy as well as leaving the people I'd known and loved all in one day would have been too much for me. I don't know how well I could have recuperated. We made it to the Milan station, and I was able to see a whole bunch of friends at Milan and tell them goodbye.
After I sent my companion back to Brescia with her new greenie, all of the missionaries who were finishing met at my old church in Milan, and we had interviews while we watched "Life is Beautiful." We then went to the mission home and worked in the office until everybody got there. We watched half of "The Other Side of Heaven" in Italian and then went over to President's house. I received back all of the letters I'd written to my president for my entire mission, and I read through half of them. It was amazing to see how much things had changed and how much my attitude had changed. I felt like the same person I was before but with an experience behind me that had forever altered my compassion for others. I hope I can continue to love people as much as I did on my mission.

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