I don’t usually cry when I spill my soda. Haven’t for months.
I almost did today.
Today while going to Facebook for the first time in a week or so, I learned something that shook my world.
David Steele Hansen, or President Hansen as I will always think of him, my mission president passed away last week.
This is going to sound cliche to every return missionary out there but President Hansen was like a second father to me. For the two most important years of my life up until that point, he was a trust friend, leader and mentor. I learned so much from him, ever single bit of it good.
While my father is the man who has had the strongest influence on my life, President Hansen made the single decision that had more influence on my life for good than any other.
He let himself remain my mission president.
Early on in my mission, I made a mistake. A really big mistake. A mistake born out of rage and pride, the two flaws that had the most sway over me. A mistake that could have easily lead to my being sent home a failure.
I don’t know what would have happened to me if I President Hansen had decided to send me home then. It could have been a major wake up call that caused me to change my life. I could have risen from the ashes of my despair and soared forth and new and better man.
I doubt it though.
I was a 19 year old ball of rage and pride. People so deeply marinated in such damning traits don’t usually respond well to failure or being looked upon as one.
I can easily imagine a world where I got sent home and in my own bitterness turn my back on the church and everyone associated with it.
Fortunately, I don’t have to know.
President Hansen was in tune with The Spirit. I don’t know if he sensed what I would do if I were sent home, I don’t know if the Lord had to soften his heart for him to allow me to continue. I don’t know if he just didn’t want to do the paper work.
What I do know is a few weeks later, I was transferred into the office. I got to work with President Hansen every day. I got to learn from him in ways I couldn’t have otherwise. I got to return to regular missionary work a few week later and slowly but surely, stop being quite so ruled by rage and pride.
I can honestly say the man I am today, while still not as great as President Hansen, is a lot better than he would have been if President hadn’t been in my life.
I hadn’t spoken to the Hansens in years. I miss having them in my life. I miss them now more than ever.
I didn’t get to go the funeral. I found out about it the day after. I wanted to do something to remember the greatest leader I’ve ever known. I remember President telling me one time that he used to enjoy Dr Pepper. I personally don’t care for the stuff, but I bought some today and in a gesture that can never capture the emotion it held, I poured the last bit out for President Hansen.