the death of a missionary
by Elder Richard Stucki
My first missionary companion proved to be a remarkable person. He grew up working on a farm. His mother was a widow. During the 2nd World War he was in the Navy. While ship mates blew their pay on shore leave, he put his in the bank for a mission. On being discharged, he spent several months digging post holes to earn the balance of the money he would need for his mission. Like others who had worked and sacrificed to go, he was out there to work, and he did. Gale B Sessions was his name.
Country tracting with him outside of Truro, Nova Scotia, without purse or script is talked about in another chapter. During that time I remember one conversation with him as we walked down the roadway and sat to rest a bit on the ends of our suitcases. He told me that his sister had gone on a mission and died in the mission field. When he left for his mission his mother said a particularly fond farewell, confiding in him that she did not expect to see him return home alive. He wondered about that. I suggested it was due to the death of his sister that made his mother worry about him. But he remarked that his patriarchal blessing said nothing about his life after his mission. I could tell he thought the same as his mother.
Every three months we would attend a missionary conference where we would be assigned a different companion and often a new area of labor. So it was, many months later and near to the time Elder Sessions would be released that he was laboring with another companion in the next larger town from ours.
One night just when my companion and I were retiring, our landlady called up that one of us was wanted on the phone. It was Elder Sessions' companion calling. He told us to get a ride and come at once. Elder Sessions was in the hospital and very ill. The mission president was also consulted. When we arrived Elder Sessions was unconscious and breathing very hard and rapidly. He had meningitis and his condition had rapidly worsened. On advice we stayed in his room only long enough to give him a blessing. We then went to the main floor to wait.
It was in the middle of the night by now. We found an empty conference room where we three elders knelt and each offered a prayer. We didn't know what the outcome would be, but we knew that it was in the Lord's hands. A deep feeling of peace replaced our great anxiety. It was only a short time later when they came with word that he had died. Arrangements and calls all had to be made.
When Elder Sessions had been prepared and properly placed in a casket, there was a brief viewing, and then the body was sent by railroad to his home in Idaho for a funeral there.
I remember one little old lady who came to the viewing with tears in her eyes... an investigator, I was told...sister Ferguson was her name. Her story is told in another chapter.
When our Mission President called Elder Sessions' mother, he reported that she had been expecting the news and was taking it all well. No matter what our impression of her strength in time of grief, we knew the greatness of this poor widow from the fact that she worked and saved and sent a third child into the mission field after having lost the last two on missions. We call our ourselves "Latter-day Saints." Certainly she is one !
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