How much do I love this man! I wasn't terribly sad to hear about his passing; I was actually incredibly sad for us because it's hard for me to imagine a world in which President Hinckley doesn't live. President Hinckley has been the prophet for my entire adult life. I think about when I was little, and I have distinct memories of my parents kneeling next to me at my bed, helping me with my prayer, and always including a prayer for President Kimball. I remember when he died, and I learned about the succession of a new prophet. I suppose this will be what it is like for my kids. President Hinckley has been such a central figure in their lives. He is easily recognizable, and Greg and I have knelt next to our children, teaching them to pray, and continually praying for President Hinckley. I was so touched today as I watched his funeral when they mentioned that President Hinckley had felt the prayers of all of us. I thought of the innocent prayers of my children sincerely praying for their sweet prophet. However, I wasn't sad for him. What a glorious reunion it must have been for him to meet his Savior. He has accomplished so much over his lifetime and over the past 13 years. I am sure it was a very precious reunion. I was also happy for him to be with his sweet wife and other family members. I have always been so touched by his love for her and his grief over losing her. President Hinckley truly lived his father's advice to "forget yourself and go to work." I'm sure his father, mother, and ancestors have been so pleased with his life and service.
Everyone has a distinct memory of President Hinckley, and mine is similar to millions of other people across the world. When I was 21 and living in New York, President Hinckley made his first visit to New York City. If I remember correctly, this was the first time a prophet had come to New York in this capacity. Our dear Branch President, President Larson, felt like we were taking his visit a little too lightly. He chastised us for not making his visit more of a priority. He said that if we ever had an opportunity to be in the presence of a Prophet of God, we were to "walk, run, crawl...anything to be in his presence." I love this man as well, and I appreciated his chastisement because we decided to attend. We got up early Sunday morning and took the first train into the city. We arrived at Madison Square Garden around 6 or 7 in the morning. We stood outside until 11 o'clock when they opened the doors. Once inside, we actually got seats on the floor about 30 rows back of the stage/makeshift podium. We had several more hours to wait. We met this amazing woman from the Bronx who was a recent convert and blind, but so excited to be in the same room as President Hinckley. She had this glorious loud laughter and enthusiasm when she spoke about her passion for the church and our Prophet. She obviously didn't have much materially, but had put on her best dress, jewelry, and hat to be in his presence. We also met some Hispanic families from Brooklyn. We didn't speak Spanish and they didn't speak English, but we had fun playing with their children for a while. We met people from as far away as South Carolina and as far North as Canada. They translated the speech into 11 languages. As I remember, President Hinckley's talk was very similar to his Conference Talk the month before, and he spoke a lot about the Conference Center and spreading the gospel. We also had the privilege to hear from Sister Hinckley. After the closing prayer, everyone stood and sang "We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet" a cappella while the entire 26,000+ people in Madison Square Garden were waving white handkerchiefs. Because it had been such a long day, I had actually forgotten that we were going to do this. I think that made it all the more touching. Since I was so close to the stage, I saw President Hinckley stop (he was helping his wife down the stairs), turn around, get out his own handkerchief, and wave it lovingly to all of us. I could see tears in his eyes, and I knew that he loved all of us so deeply. He never knew me by name (although I was able to shake his hand in Jackson, WY one time), but I knew he loved me and truly loved the gospel.
I will always have a special place in my heart for President Hinckley, his wife, and his service. I will miss him dearly.