On Saturday, August 24, 2013 we laid my dear Grandfather, Russell Gene Hales to rest beside his dear wife, Carma Jane Mendenhall Hales. The services were filled with beautiful red roses, Grandpa's favorite flower. All of his children spoke, as well as me and my cousin Joey. The granddaughters sang together and then all of the grandchildren sang. To be honest, I cried through my entire talk. I felt silly because my mother was so well composed during her beautiful tribute to Grandpa Hales. I'm an easy crier (and an ugly one at that, I ain't lying) so I pretty much couldn't contain myself. I'd like to share with you what I intended to speak on (well, the speech I had written, although I think I cut a lot of this out as I was talking).
From Left to Right: Daniel, William, Anne, Me, Grandpa Hales, Circa 1996 ish? Not super sure when this was taken...But I look about 4 years old, so I'm going with it.
Hello, for those of you that don't know me, I am Megan Belcher, formerly Megan Potter. I am Ellen and Alan Potter's youngest daughter and I am so grateful to be part of a very fortunate group of women. I know only 10 ladies who were lucky enough to grow up as Russell Gene Hales’s granddaughters. When I was a little girl, I always wanted to marry someone just like my grandfather. I wanted to marry someone with patience, kindness, and someone who possessed the spirit of pure love. My Grandpa Hales taught me what is really means to unconditionally, purely love everyone.
In Moroni we learn that the pure love of Christ is charity, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” The scriptures also teach us that charity is the the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection. My grandfather was a truly charitable man.
His love was not passive nor was it restrained. I guarantee every single one of his grandchildren will attest that they were grandpa’s “favorite grandchild.” The reason we all feel as though we had a special relationship with our grandpa is because we each did! Grandpa took the time to make each and every one of us feel special. I remember when I was a little girl, he took me to “The Store” and he let me pick out the side dish that was going to go with dinner while we were visiting. Looking back, it seems trivial and silly that I felt so good after such a little act, but it was all of the little acts Grandpa did for us that made each of us feel so special.
Grandpa served in absolutely every capacity he could. He served in the Navy, he served three missions for the LDS church (one to Czechoslovakia, and two with his dear wife to Nauvoo Illinois), he served as Stake Mission Leader in nearly every stake he lived in. My grandfather showed me the absolute most perfect example of service. After my sweet grandmother suffered several debilitating strokes, he did absolutely everything in his power to care for her. He devoted every single minute of every single day to the tender care of my dear grandmother. He was selfless in his service, he was pure in his love and he was completely dedicated to serving my grandmother until her very last day. Grandpa taught me what Christlike service is all about. President Hinkley reiterated that lesson when he stated, “He who lives only unto himself withers and dies, while he who forgets himself in the service of others grows and blossoms in this life and in eternity.”
Grandpa didn't care about what mistakes you'd ever made. Even when any of us grandchildren made silly mistakes or said stupid things he never held it against us. This didn't just extend to his grandchildren and children, but extended to everyone around him. I remember walking to the duck pond with him and my niece a few years ago in the summer. He chatted and talked to every single person we passed. Some were people he'd known before, others were complete strangers meeting for the first time. Grandpa was welcoming to all of them. He didn't care about what they might have down, what they might do or who they were, he simply wanted to share his love with them.
Grandpa absolutely loved the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Any of us who had the privilege to learn about the gospel from such a studied man were truly fortunate. He taught me the importance of having a strong relationship with God. Grandpa was a man of God who continuously sought His guidance in all things. He took his priesthood responsibilities very seriously and considered it an honor to partake in this great work. As his several LDS missions and innumerable church callings attest, he loved serving and assisting in spreading the gospel to anyone willing to partake of it. I know that he is so joyful now, being able to serve in the fullness of this work on the other side of the veil with his sweetheart and so many other family members he is finally reunited with.
As I'm sure many of you know, my grandfather fought a good fight with Alzheimer's Disease in his last years. I wish not to dwell on his suffering with the disease, but to emphasize that even while dealing with the disease he still exemplified what true, unconditional love and charity he had his whole life. Even when he wasn't sure who my sweet husband was, he treated him with such love and respect. One day a few months ago we were visiting with him and watching old western movies. We had to head home after the movie because I had work the next day. I gave grandpa a hug and kiss before we left. JD shook his hand and hugged him. Grandpa told him that he loved him and that JD needed to take care of me. He thought of his family as his greatest accomplishment. He knew JD was someone to be loved. Regardless of if he knew exactly who he was, he still loved him.
Elder Marvin J. Ashton beautifully observed: “Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.”
My greatest goal is to one day be as charitable as my sweet grandfather. His example of unconditional love is unparalleled. His service was an inspiration to us all to look for opportunities in our own lives. He never judged anyone. He simply loved everyone. While my future children will never meet their great grandfather in this life, I am so grateful for his legacy that will teach my children the importance of charity and unconditional love. I love my grandpa so much. I am eternally grateful that I know our family is forever. I know we will all be reunited again in the hereafter and that we will live together in eternal joy.
Loves and Hugs from Wyoming,