It was a challenge getting our kids up and dressed and to the Church early in the morning to help clean the building. The oldest was only 9 and we weren't sure we'd be able to help much since we had to supervise the little ones. But we showed up anyway and waited for an assignment. "Well," said the person in charge, shrugging his shoulders, "there's not much to do today. President Robison came over yesterday and did most of it. I guess you can wash windows."
President Laren Robison (in our Church, leaders are called and serve in positions without pay for a time and then are released. Out of respect for the service rendered, we call those who have served in such callings "President" or "Bishop" even after their service is over. President Robison served many years ago as a leader of our stake, which is a group of about 7 congregations called wards) was an uncommon man. Sneaking over to clean the church building a day early was only one of his many acts of quiet service. He also fixed sprinklers, mowed lawns, and shoveled walks for his many neighbors and several widows.
He's been old and frail during the years my family has known him, and he's at that stage of life when many people decide it's time to slow down and rest. Not President Robison! Last year, he broke his ribs. He was coming home from shoveling the neighbor's walkway when he fell and was hurt. As he told me the story, with a twinkle in his eye, "I was lying there in pain when I saw a car come around the corner. I was so grateful someone was there to help me. They slowed down, looked at me, and then drove right on by!" He laughed and laughed at that.
Broken ribs didn't slow him down -- I saw him out walking within weeks of the incident! -- and neither did breathing and lung problems. This past year, he's been one of two teachers for our gospel doctrine Sunday School class. Some weeks, we've been amazed he's even made it to Church, as he comes in a wheelchair and dragging a bottle of oxygen. But still, he stands and delivers wonderful testimony of Jesus Christ and the scriptures. And I mean, STANDS. There's a stool brought forward for him to lean on at times, but he refuses to sit. We've all assured him we'll still listen and pay attention if he sits to deliver his lesson, but with uncommon determination, he stands.
I've said several times this past year that President Robison leaves us all without excuse. If he can come to Church in pain and struggling to breathe, prepare lessons, visit and help his neighbors, and make us all feel loved, then what of our little troubles and pains?
Last Thursday, President Robison was taken to the hospital. When it became clear he was being called home, his family was sent for. They brought him home from the hospital on Friday and with all his children gathered around, he passed on to the next world, greeting his mother and his brother and I'm sure shouting for joy at the chance to serve without fighting the pain. I can just see him running to his next assignment, ready to serve and help where ever he can.
Last night was the viewing. My husband and I stood in line for an hour for the chance to tell Sister Robison and his children how much we love and admire their husband and father. The line of people touched by President Robison stretched down a long hall and out the doors. Merrill Bateman, former president of BYU, attended. The man behind us in line was the husband of the secretary in the BYU department Dr. Robison taught in. It was a beautiful thing to see the many lives touched and made better by the presence of this good man.
This morning was the funeral. It was beautiful, short and sweet with each of his children taking a few minutes to bear testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how much they loved and admired their father. We believe that life does not end with death, so while there was sadness and loneliness expressed, there was much more joy and excitement. If any man was prepared for the next life, it was President Robison.
Our current stake president shared that he always felt as if President Robison really liked him, that he was his special friend. In the last few days, he realized that President Robison made everyone feel that way. He certainly made me feel that way, and we really had just a few interactions.
His last thoughts were for others. When our Bishop visited him last Thursday, the last words President Robison said were, "What more can I do?" Several neighbors were touched when he made sure G.B. would take over the responsibility for mowing Betty's lawn.
When some of his grandchildren were visiting him in the hospital, they asked him, "Grandpa, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?"
"Faith," was his answer.
When I grow up, I want to be like President Robison.
(If you knew President Robison and want to leave your condolences for the family, you can do so here.)