The book of Malachi talks about the hearts of the fathers turning to the children and the children to the fathers. We understand this to be in reference to genealogy and particularly temple work, but I’ve always appreciated the very literal interpretation of children actually looking to the lives of their ancestors and the ancestors looking to the welfare of the rising generations.
My uncle Donald is one such person. He, like me, served a mission in Brazil, and for that he has always been someone I’ve thought about. He also shared the double D in his name, like me (David), and when I was a kid that seemed… important for some reason. The problem is that Donald died shortly before I was born.
I never knew him, although I have heard that he died in a sledding accident shortly after Christmas many times. I’ve seen his grave many times as well–My brother, Blaine, my grandparents, and a nephew are all buried there in a family plot. But that’s about all I knew.
This morning, I received a somewhat random invite through LinkedIn to connect with someone. His message to me, written in Portuguese, asked if I remember Tagautinga, a federal district in Brazil. My mission was in Sao Paulo, and I have never been to Tagautinga. I did notice, though, that his last name was the same as a good friend of mine, so I asked that friend if the person who contacted me was related. Yes, he is my friend’s dad.
Another quick question proved that his dad had served with my uncle on the mission.
I kind of just sat back when I learned that. I really didn’t know how to respond. I’m blown away for two reasons:
- Here we are, more than 35 years later, and I find that the dad of one of my best friends served as missionaries with my uncle in Brazil. I just don’t believe in these kinds of coincidences, especially with this friend. Kiffen has been nothing less than a miracle for my family, particularly for Myron. Kiffen was the first person who got Myron to communicate and interact, a miracle in and of itself.
- Perhaps the biggest one for me, though, is I hunger to learn of Donald. There’s so little I know about him and his life, yet I’ve long felt a connection to him. I want to know more. And now, out of the blue, one of his old mission companions drops out of the wood work into my lap. The stories that no one else knows, this man knows.
Donald may have passed from this world before I was ever born, but the memory still lives on, and I suddenly have access to that memory. I’m looking forward to putting together the pieces of Donald’s life.