Dear Family and Friends,
Our week with our kids was heaven sent. The break in routine, the opportunity to see more than we have ever seen of Samoa, and to share it with Leslie and James, Ben and Brianna was such a gift. We were blessed to be given time off from the temple, which we hadn’t asked for. We relished every moment we were together.
Seeing our missionary friends at church on Sunday and then again last night at FHE, I had to ask myself if I am normal. The sisters were so solicitous, expecting that I would be devastated that our family had gone home. I assured them that I am okay. Tiffany has a plaque hanging in her guest room that reads, “Don’t be sad that it’s over. Be happy that it happened.” That is exactly how I feel. Part of the lessening of separation anxiety for me is that we talk on the phone often. [May we recommend Magic Jack for your landline phones? We pay about $20 a year after the initial $80 for equipment. ] We email, send pictures back and forth, and feel quite connected to our loved ones.
We’ve posted LOTS of pictures on Facebook, but I know not everyone who reads the blog is on Facebook, so I will include some here. Rather than a play-by-play of our week, I will share some of my favorite moments.
- · The arrival at Faleolo Airport. It must be like this in heaven when we meet our family there. No words can describe the joy of seeing those angel faces. Granted, they were tired faces, but nonetheless angelic.
- · The email I received from eleven year old Ben before they even left home: Hi grandma I can't wait to visit I just got new clothes that are for Samoa I can't wait to see you! XOXO love Ben
- · Ben buying a lava lava and wearing it proudly.
- · Brianna hearing sounds from outside, opening the door and saying, “This is a good day to chase chickens!”, and out she went. (Did you know chickens can fly? Over a building? So… what’s with Chicken Run??? I’m so naive.)
- · 75% of the Merrell’s trying the traditional Samoan food, and liking it! James and I are still alone on the Cocoa Samoa.
- · Leslie and James cooking a Samoan dinner for us, introducing us to an innovative way to use taro and palusami. Note: I dreamed of the day I would be able to eat taro and palusami again. It’s that good. And you can only find it here, at least cooked fa’asamoan style.
- · Seeing them love the places we love and experiencing new places together.
- · Sharing our ward with them. Those wonderful Aaronic Priesthood boys in their white shirts, ties and dress lava lava’s. And flip-flops. The reverence. The joy and total participation in singing the hymns. The inspiring talks and lessons. The friendly smiles. I know your ward is just the same. But your bishop doesn’t say, “Let’s bring this meeting to a beginning.” And when sustaining those who have new callings, he doesn’t say, “As I call your name, please be upstanding.” Please understand, I am not mocking. I delight in the new ways to say the same things. And it’s not a bad thing to challenge people to be upstanding in their new responsibilities.
- · The crystal clear ocean water with children who find sea life and are amazed and enthralled with all living creatures: tiny crabs that walk sideways up your fingers, a very patient star fish, and a sea cucumber. Really. It looks like the ones in my pickle jar.
- · James choosing for his souvenir a huge conch shell.
- · Ben surprising us all by blowing into it and producing the intended, but illusive to the beginner haunting sound similar to a ship’s horn, that called villagers to prayer for centuries.
- · Watching James, Ben and Brianna fearlessly cliff jumping into waterfall pools straight out of the Garden of Eden, and sliding down natural rock waterslides that their uncles slid down when they were young. Even their Grandfather slid down them. And maybe me. I may have blocked it out. Or maybe it didn’t happen. Anyway, I’m sadly happy that Leslie takes after me and that Grandfather has gained some wisdom through the years so I had company in the spectator section.
- · Laughing at the rain and not letting it spoil our fun.
- · James driving the rental car with the steering wheel on the wrong side, using the windshield wipers to signal his turns, and laughing when Leon calmly said, “You might want to get over to the other side of the road. Soon.” Seriously, he did great.
- Sharing our beautiful temple with them.
- · Never seeing the jet lag drag them down. Oh, they must be sleeping late now. Or wanting to.
I wish we could share this experience with all of our children and grandchildren. That is highly unlikely. I’m happy that if only one of our kids makes it here while we are here that it was Leslie who was born here. April, you would make up the other half of the miracle if you found yourself here someday as well to see your birthplace.
I don’t know why we are here. Oh, I know we requested and hoped and it happened. But why? Why were the stars aligned to bring about the opportunity in the early ‘70’s? Being here again, I have to ask why? It is clear that people come and go and little changes. But the people who come and go, do they change? I truly hope so. I hope we can learn all there is to learn here.
I promised pictures. Here are a few favorites.