Goodness, I don’t even know where to start so much happened this week.
Well, it was a hard thing to have you guys call me and tell me Grandpa passed away. It was good to talk to you and honestly, I’m so happy that I got to hear from YOUR voices what happened and the whole experience with grandpa. It would have been a lot harder just to read about it this morning. So thank you for giving me all the details about the whole trip and the whole experience. It was something I needed.
I am so happy to hear it was a peaceful and spiritual experience for everyone. Death is such a hard thing for the ones that loose a loved one. I saw it this week actually. Our recent convert (baptized in Feb) V.’s mom Z. died. In her case, it was truly better. She hasn’t moved from the couch in about 7 months and because she never moved her body was just frozen that way. Every time we went over she barely said a word when we tried to talk to her and she was always in pain. We tried to help clean her one time to help V. (Z. obviously can’t get up to go to the bathroom so… you can imagine what the couched looked like…) and Z. just wailed in pain. It was really hard to see. But now she has passed on and I am happy for her because I know she is happier. We were able to support V. and go to her funeral on Friday. It was an open casket. It was very interesting to see a traditional Latvian funeral.
The preacher looked a bit like the beast when he turns into the prince at the end of beauty and the beast but a little larger. He gave a memorized lyrical speech while a pianist played Ave Maria on an electric piano on a weird rocky setting. It was hard to see V. with so many tears. It made me cry as well because I thought about Grandpa a lot and how he passed away and I wouldn’t be there at his funeral. We walked about half a mile in POURING rain to her burial site with men in suits carrying her casket. While they buried her, the priest stood in the rain and gave another speech. It was kind of like a really sad movie actually. We all just stood in POURING rain while the friends and family cried and cried. I was happy to be there to support her. V. is the only member in her family and she’s not exactly active. I thought about how much happier Grandpa’s funeral will be because we all know the plan of salvation and we know he is happier and is still with us. I’m grateful for that knowledge.
Just thought I’d give a couple thoughts to Grandpa. He was truly the most loving grandpa I could have ever asked for. I will never forget sitting on the couch time after time while he told stories about his childhood and about my Dad, with his eyes closed as if he were remembering them so vividly. He would stop, smile, and then start chuckling to himself. I always wished I could see what he saw when he closed his eyes. I will always remember him in his baby blue suit, suspenders, and baseball cap with a huge smile on his face. One thing I love so much about him is that he ALWAYS hugged and kissed us and told us that he loved us, and how beautiful we were to him. He was so complimentary. I’ve been singing, “let us gather in a circle to kneel in family prayer” to myself since last night after you called and told me he has passed away. It makes me smile and think of our family reunion and the amazing 30 minute long prayers grandpa would give at the end of the day where he blessed each one of his children and their children’s children. His prayers were the best. I love Grandpa Gallacher with all my heart and I miss him. But I know he is still with us and I know that now he can be here with me helping and encouraging me! I love you Grandpa!
We went to an interesting Ukrainian restaurant last Monday. I tried some authentic Ukrainian food. It was interesting for sure. Also some Russian man yelled and swore at us for being American and how we think we have the best country. Interesting. He was drunk of course. So interesting how people think they need to throw other people to build themselves up. It’s like Elders Holland’s talk from last conference about the laborers in the Vineyard (Kenna I love that talk too! And we used it 2x in our lessons last week!) He says that putting someone else down does not build you up, and when someone else receives a blessing that does not diminish you in any way. I love that he said that it’s like downing another jar of pickle juice every time someone else gets a blessing. Elder Holland is the best!
Friday was the busiest day yet. We had a Latvian wedding, a funeral, a baptism, and a LIGO church activity!! The wedding was that of K. our investigator!!! We helped her get ready at the church and did her hair and makeup. She was so giddy. She’d never been so pampered before I don’t think. We tried to make it a special day for her. It was fun to go to the signing and to meet their families. Her mom is so shy and the cutest little woman, and the father looks like the dad from fiddler on the roof in mini form. He and the son smelt of alcohol and were slightly tipsy. It really is crazy how so many of the men are tipsy (almost always). I’ve never seen so many drunken people walking on the streets, passed out on the ground, or passed out in the buses. It’s sad. I’ve been told that Communism turned many of the men into alcoholics. Anyway… back to the wedding. We took TONS of pictures after! And had some awkward moments when the dad grabbed me, put his arm around me and yelled for someone to take a picture. hahah. What to do? It’s a funny awkward picture so I’ll try to send it to you. It was fun to see K. finally get married and she was so happy. We spent many hours yesterday and today getting the food ready for the Ligo party and everything set up. There are not very many people to do these things so missionaries do a lot here. I guess in Riga missionaries don’t run the branch as much as they do here because it’s more settled and secure.
The funeral I told you about already… so the next activity was K.’s baptism!! Words cannot even describe how happy I am for her! She was just glowing. After the prayer was said she closed her eyes so peacefully and dignified and she so gracefully went under the water. I’ve never seen someone who wanted it so badly and who was so ready. It was a neat experience. Something funny though was her 2-year-old daughter who absolutely hates getting her head wet. She saw her mom in the white outfit and started bawling because she has seen a baptism and knows that her mom would go under water. She was hysterical. It made everyone giggle. Oopps.
You asked about this Mom, and I forgot to explain. Yes it is the celebration of Summer that is HUGE here. It’s bigger than Christmas! There are Ligo decorations all over town and Ligo markets and Ligo parties and music playing. It’s so fun how big of a deal it is. On the actual Ligo day we had to be in our apartments pretty early for safety because everyone gets drunk. But we had a ward party the day after the baptism. We had SO MUCH FOOD! Seriously it was ridiculous. Less people than we had anticipated showed up so we had lots and lots of extras. We all ate together, played games, and they sang their traditional Latvian folk songs. Those were fun to hear. They also make big wreathes out of grass and flowers for our heads. The men wear HUGE ones made out of big leaves. Such a fun tradition! I’ll have to carry it on when I’m home. They wanted to have a sing off with the missionaries where you sing songs you know back and forth (not really sure what the point was… other than to sing…) so the Latvians would sing a folk song and then we’d scramble to think of a song we all knew. The best part was when we stood up and sang the whole national anthem! haha They all started laughing at us but it was pretty funny.
Something that I guess I can consider a tender mercy is that everything I am missing at home I am experiencing here. Our branch President’s wife had a little baby girl with dark, dark hair (like Layna). I got to go to a wedding (Cami’s) and a funeral (Grandpa). Even though it’s obviously not the same as my own family (especially the traditional Gallacher reception… Dance so hard for me please!!) It’s still great that I get to experience it here.
Sports night still continues to be a blast. We played American football this last time. The members think it’s a dumb game. haha. But the Russian/American guy named J. brought a friend so that was fun.
I’m feeling better about my Latvian. Now I can joke around with people and I understand their jokes. It’s so much fun when I can make people laugh. S. D. is a member who is literally the funniest human on the planet. (For sure the funniest Latvian). She cracks me up so much every time I see her. Love her so much! I taught my first gospel principles class. And it was the 1 week President and Sister Boswell were here. Go figure. But speaking of that, the Boswell’s came down and spoke in our branch this Sunday. It was wonderful. President Boswell talked about how all the lost ten tribes have been found here in Eastern Europe and one day their ancient record of when Christ visited them will come forth! How cool would that be!!
We made dinner for them after and ate with the Elders. President Boswell is so hilarious and told us story after story of just crazy things. One time he got a call that President Monson forgot his plane ticket at the hotel and his flight was leaving in 10 minutes! So President Bowsell (then a stake president) drove 130 mph and got to the hotel and to the airport (which was 20 minutes away) and got President Monson’s ticket to him! Then President Monson said, “Please tell me you didn’t speed to get here.” President Boswell replied, “forgive me, for I have sinned!” hahah President Monson told him to go half the speed of the speed limit on the way home to make up for it, but President Boswell said even half the speed limit wouldn’t make up the difference. haha he has some crazy stories!!! It was super fun to get to talk with them and hear lots of great and hilarious stories. They also talked about how some of their relatives, the Woolfs, had a farm next to Joseph Smith’s. Isn’t that our family?? It sounded familiar but I wasn’t sure…
We had some miracles with less-actives letting us in this week. That was great! We got some unexpected lessons with them! I’m really hoping to get some back and in action!
Also Side note: I don’t know how much amber costs in the States but apparently it’s REALLY cheap here. Like 2 dollars for a huge thing. So if ANYONE wants amber earrings, necklace and so forth let me know. It’s super cheap and very Latvian!
Well I have written way too much. haha I hope this doesn’t take too long to read. I love you all so much and I am happy you are all doing well and are happy. It was good to hear your voices. I love you always! Have a wonderful week!!