"Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our Church callings, and in our livelihood. Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk." Oct 2009 session The Love of God Dieter Uchdorf
I would like every one to close their eyes. Now picture yourself in 1946 in Dordrecht, Netherlands. You are a 16 year old boy and world war II has just ended. The war hasn't left you much, but what it has left is a strong sense of hope. Hope of a life. A life filled with a future of choices, and freedom, and love. Your country is starting to pull itself together . There are celebrations everywhere. After years of being censored, Jazz music can be heard everywhere and young people have begun to dance again. They dance to mourn their losses. They dance to celebrate living. They dance to the future they see in the horizon. At that moment you realize you don't know how to dance.
This was Rein, my Opa, my grandfather.
He gathered a couple of his friends and they decided they would have to learn to dance if they wanted any kind of social life. After some lessons the first "dance" they went to was being hosted by a local company. Rein and his friends were reluctant to actually get up and dance so they moved between the refreshments and the pot belly stove. Something, or should I say some one had caught his eye. As he sat and watched this beautiful young girl dance around, he knew he had to get to know her. He then found her brother Pete and asked permission to walk her home. The 15 year old Lanie agreed and it was the beginning of the rest of their lives.
The two were together non-stop after that. They went dancing all the time. Even after a play, the chairs would be removed and the dancing would begin and wouldn't end until 2 am. When the walk home became too long. Rein save his money and bought Lanie a bike. He borrowed his mothers and they would bike to and from the dances.
When the two became obviously serious about each other Rein's catholic priest came to tell him that he needed to stop seeing the Mormon girl. When he refused and brought Mormon missionaries to the priest office, he was quickly ex-communicated from the Catholic church. This would not be the last time that his beliefs in God would come into play in their relationship.
After about 5 years of dating Lanie's family decided to pack up their lives and move to Utah in the United States to be close to their church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They were engaged, and even though Rein had been baptized into the LDS faith, Lanie decided with the love of her family and the love of her savior she would leave Rein behind. She was "pretty sure" he would follow her. But she knew she needed to leave him there or she would never leave at all.
Rein was beside himself without his love. He tried to live without her, but failed. He would write her love letters in his tiny penmanship that she could barely make out. Eventually she received a letter that said he could not live without her and was crossing the ocean to be with her again.
After 2 weeks on a ship and 1 week on a bus, he arrived in Utah. 1 week later they were married in Lanie's parents family room. She wore a turquoise dress and he wore a suit he had tailored himself. For their honeymoon they borrowed $5 from Lanie's brother Pete and stay in a hotel.
After about 8 years, Rein took his true love as a bride again. This time she was dressed in white and was he and their 3 small children. This time they went to the temple to be sealed as a family, together forever. Oma described the scene to me of her husband, herself and their 3 small children all dress in white in the sealing room as one of the best days of her life.
As the years went on, there were high points and low points. Triumphs and disappointments. All the things that constitute a life lived well. They learned as did Joseph Smith learned in D&C 121:7-8, "thine badversity and thine afflictions shall be but a csmall moment."
Love is an amazing legacy to leave behind. As Elder Uchdorf says, love is "at the center of all and everything we do in our own family."
This past year, and most recently the last few weeks has been very challenging for the DeMie family. My Oma and Opa have had a lot of health challenges. To quote my favorite movie "The Notebook" these challenges weren't being sick they were "the natural wearing out process" that comes with age. But through these trials, continuing today and beyond, our family has come together and has become stronger.
The Love of this family started some 60 odd years ago when a then 15 year old Lanie met 16 year old Rein in Holland.
You may have noticed, our family does not have the normal age divisions that you see in most families. Oma and Opa's youngest child, my aunt is, 4 years older than their oldest grandchild. Their youngest grandchild is about 5 years younger than their oldest great-grand child. The reason I bring this up, is we are quite a site to see when all gathered together. There is no division where one starts and the other ends.
When the time came to say goodbye to Opa, we all took our turn. Sons and daughters, grandsons and grand daughters, and great grand children too. I stood back and looked around the room at all these people that my grandparents had made happen. The love that was in the room was the kind of "fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope." It was so moving to see us gathered together as a farewell party to Opa's grand voyage knowing that one day we may all be gather together like this in Heaven, for "whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven." DC 132:46
Opa taught me something about life. He taught me that we all make mistakes. We all have bad judgement from time to time. But no matter what our choices are or where our paths have taken us, we can always choose which way the next step will go. But the decision is ours. We all knew what he thought and where he expected us to go. On the day of my wedding, the bishop had made a baseball metaphor about marriage. He said he saw the playoffs in our future where the angels in the outfield would be cheering us on to be sealed together. After the ceremony Opa marched right up to us Temple recommend waiving around in his hand and said, "just to let you know, I already have my ticket to the playoffs." He hugged me and moved on. It was wonderful to have him be a witness to that playoff. The thing was through it all he didn't make me feel unworthy of his love. On the contrary, I knew he loved me more than anything. Even when he would yell at us to get out of the way of the TV because we were blocking the Jazz game, or the soccer game, or the football game I knew he loved having us around, just as long as around wasn't in front of the TV screen.
Elder Uchdorf said, "what we love determines what we seek.
What we seek determines what we think and do.
What we think and do determines who we are—and who we will become."
The choice to take dancing lessons was the first in a long line of choices that determined Opa's and the rest of our destiny.
Opa left a legacy. One of family. One of love and laughter, of expectations and tolerance. I will miss him, his presence and influence 'till me meet again.