Old Rock Church on Capitol Hill, Salt Lake City, Utah

I used to practice the organ in the Old Rock church in the evening after I got home from work and while Anthony was still finishing up with work. I loved that old church. The layout and finishings were so amazing.

 

I’d walk through the church by street light until entering the chapel. The street light poured through the chapel’s stained glass windows. I’d only turn on the lights I needed above the organ and piano, leaving the rest of the chapel in still, partial darkness.

 

The chapel housed an old but vibrant pipe organ. I’d never played a pipe organ before and really enjoyed playing it and noticing the tonal variations the pipes produced.

 

Old Rock Church chapel

Looking towards the piano and organ from the chapel doors

After I’d practiced the hymns for the next Sunday, I’d often take my seat at the grand piano. I loved playing the piano in that chapel. The acoustics were amazing and the piano itself was fantastic.

 

After concentrating during my organ practice, I just let my mind, heart, and hands wander over the piano keys. I played songs I knew and loved, but I especially enjoyed a period of creating — just letting my fingers go wherever they would. These moments were soul renewing for me.

 

Suddenly I Was Not Alone

 

One night while playing the piano in the old church, I knew someone had walked into the chapel. I instantly stopped and looked around, fully expecting to ask if the person needed the room. I was totally able to leave at any point so had already planned to vacate with the words on my lips during the instant it took me to turn my head to the door.

 

No one was there. Weird. I chalked it up to random street noise and still continued playing.

 

Old Rock Church chapel

Looking at the chapel doors from the stand between the organ and piano

Again, someone entered the room. I quickly looked that direction. No one stood in the doorway.

 

I left the piano and headed to the darkened chapel doors. As I exited into the hall, I looked both directions. I checked the doors I entered ensuring I’d locked them behind me when I initially entered the church. Everything was in order.

 

I returned to the piano because I’d been in the middle of a joyful time and wasn’t ready for it to end. As one song blended into another, I felt another person enter the room and sit in a pew.

 

I stopped and looked at the pews. I sensed a handful of people looking at me. I checked within my heart to see if I felt a warning. I felt still and happy.

 

I felt my grandma saying they’d had a moment from their different responsibilities and they chose to spend a few moments with me while I played. Three of them entered the chapel door to alert me — if I was in a serene mental space — to their presence and teach me of their presence.

 

A little startled but deeply happy, I turned back to the piano again and played until my time was through.

 

Sensing While Still

 

Periodically, they would come and visit, different ancestors from both sides of my family tree. While playing, I would suddenly just realize someone or several were there. Sometimes they left before me. Sometimes I Ieft before them.

 

I noticed that I never sensed them while concentrating on learning a song. I noticed them when my mind was still, unhindered and worshipfully creating.

 

Change of Space

 

Five years ago, we moved from that ward to a new one. I had different responsibilities and didn’t even have a piano until recently. Though called to play the organ in the new ward, I didn’t go practice as regularly because of the requirement at this building to have a man at the building with me. That was inconvenient to the men I knew so I just practiced on Sunday as soon as I could get into the chapel.

 

I thought of my visitors and wondered if they knew where I was, but never really felt them again until August 12th. Some people were moving out of our ward and we would be honoring them with Aloha ‘Oe the following Sunday at church. I asked Anthony to go with me to the church so I could practice the song. He agreed and decided to take our bulldog to skateboard in the parking lot while I played.

 

I sat at the grand piano under the essential lights and played through Aloha ‘OeI love that song. It was written by Princess Liliʻuokalani in 1877 or 1878. My experience with the song has been singing or playing or leading Aloha ‘Oe after sacrament meetings as the congregation stands to bid ward members adieu. We sing the first verse and chorus of the song. We sing it in Hawaiian. It’s become very sacred to me.

 

Haʻaheo e ka ua i nā pali Proudly swept the rain by the cliffs
Ke nihi aʻela i ka nahele As it glided through the trees
E hahai (uhai) ana paha i ka liko Still following ever the bud
Pua ʻāhihi lehua o uka The ʻāhihi lehua of the vale
Hui: Chorus:
Aloha ʻoe, aloha ʻoe Farewell to thee, farewell to thee
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo The charming one who dwells in the shaded bowers
One fond embrace, One fond embrace,
A hoʻi aʻe au Ere I depart
Until we meet again Until we meet again
ʻO ka haliʻa aloha i hiki mai Sweet memories come back to me
Ke hone aʻe nei i Bringing fresh remembrances
Kuʻu manawa Of the past
ʻO ʻoe nō kuʻu ipo aloha Dearest one, yes, you are mine own
A loko e hana nei From you, true love shall never depart
Tomago: Refrain:
Maopopo kuʻu ʻike i ka nani I have seen and watched your loveliness
Nā pua rose o Maunawili The sweet rose of Maunawili
I laila hiaʻai nā manu And ’tis there the birds of love dwell
Mikiʻala i ka nani o ka liko And sip the honey from your lips
Hui Chorus

Be Still … Until We Meet Again

 

After I finished practicing, I decided to just play the song freely and then moved on to other favorites that I haven’t played in a long while on such an amazing piano. As I played, lost in still thought, I suddenly felt them! Several visitors joined the room as I played. I stopped playing and smiled at them, holding back tears because it had been so long.

 

After a little while, Anthony came into the chapel letting me know the dog’s skateboarding time was done. According to our “going to the church” agreement, I quickly prepared to leave. But before I did, I sat looking into the pews and tried to convey my love for them — and everyone who came before.

 

Two days later on Friday, Anthony accepted a job offer that didn’t exist when I practiced on Wednesday. The new job wanted him in Texas in three weeks. The day after that, on Saturday, our beloved bulldog crossed the rainbow bridge.

 

On Sunday, I sat and played Aloha ‘Oe for a wonderful family and missionary who were leaving our ward. I also played it for us because it was our last Sunday (we hadn’t announced our move yet) and for our buddy Stig. I fought back tears and ugly sobs as I played through the song. And I realized that some of my people were there! They strengthened me to make it through the song.

 

Sweet memories come back to me, Bringing fresh remembrances of the past … until we meet again.

Be Still More Often

 

Packing commenced. I didn’t know if I’d be able to fit my electric piano into the moving POD. The first night after loading the POD, I needed some music therapy. I walked into a room devoid of everything but the piano and sat down and began to play. Music lifts my heart and invigorates my mind. I love the peace music brings.

electric upright piano standing still alone in a room

As I sat alone, I felt one grandmother standing near me. I played for her.

 

I wondered why I hadn’t felt them while playing there before and had the distinct impression that I couldn’t feel them when I was chaotic emotionally or in a disheveled space. That room had been super full of everything that goes into a spare bedroom when it’s the only extra room. That was the first night with breathable space in there.

 

I felt like she came specifically for me to discover that lesson, which had personal further-reaching implications than piano visits.

 

Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.

The crux of the matter is that the veil is thin. President Joseph F. Smith beautifully described my lesson.

“Sometimes the Lord expands our vision from this point of view and this side of the veil, that we feel and seem to realize that we can look beyond the thin veil which separates us from that other sphere. . . . [And we would understand that] those who have passed beyond, can see more clearly through the veil back here to us than it is possible for us to see them from our sphere of action.

I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. We are not separate from them. We begin to realize more and more fully, as we become acquainted with the principles of the Gospel, as they have been revealed anew in this dispensation, that we are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors, to our friends and associates and co-laborers who have preceded us into the spirit world. We can not forget them; we do not cease to love them; we always hold them in our hearts, in memory, and thus are associated and united to them by ties that we cannot break, that we cannot dissolve or free ourselves from. . . .

And therefore, I claim that we live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; they can comprehend better than ever before, the weaknesses that are liable to mislead us into dark and forbidden paths. They see the temptations and evils that beset us in life and the proneness of mortal beings to yield to temptation and wrong doing; hence their solicitude for us and their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves” (Joseph F. Smith, in Conference Report, April 1916, 2–3).

What a beautiful consolation and truth. I realized a need to consistently purify my heart, mind, and surroundings to be aware of these gifts the Lord is willing to bestow. Because He is willing to bestow everything we need. He promised:

I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.

 

There is always that “fond embrace … until we meet again.”

About Delisa Hargrove
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.

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