I just returned from the funeral of my dear friend Josh Graham. So bitter sweet.
Josh was born in Alaska, in a little town called Bethel. He married Toni Richardson from Vernal. I shall ever be grateful she brought him here and that circumstances prevailed that kept them in our Ward and connected with my life.
We were friends from the outset and our friendship grew from there. We often laughed at how frantically we caught up during the rare moments we could catch together. Our duties and lives barely overlapped, so we rarely saw one another. I often dreamed of a time when the overlap would be larger and we had the luxury of lots of companionship.
He served as my Bishop, as I mentioned on Friday, but I was out of the Ward on another assignment all of that time. There was a precious time when he was my Gospel Doctrine teacher. Never, did the gospel come alive as it did in his class. He was brilliant in mind and manner. His view of the gospel was fresh, real, correct and joyful. He shared that with us every week and I relished it openly.
He was more frugal than I, especially early in our friendship, and often lamented that I had all the toys. By that I mean kites, puzzles, and minor amusements. I loved sharing them with him because of the childlike pleasure he had in such things.
His ambition far surpassed my own and was apparent in everything around him. He would purchase blighted houses in our neighborhood and fix them up nicely and sell them. Everything around him was improved by his presence. While there are a myriad of reasons why he wasn't permitted to stay among us and while we'll have a long wait to discover what they are, I have one suspicion. God knows the day and hour of his coming. If Josh had been allowed to tarry the world would have been ready too soon. Josh was a builder. He built homes, hearts, lives and courage. He built opportunity and hope. He built friendship, confidence and love wherever he went.
Josh was a landlord in a time when other property owners were gouging renters at unfair and outrageous prices. A practice that seriously harmed our community. Josh refused to be party to it. Grateful and blessed were the people who were lucky to rent from him. He flourished without taking advantage which afforded a lot of wonderful time with his family as they traveled together. What a blessing that he didn't allow greed to steal those precious times and memories from those he loved the best.
His dear Toni seems utterly bereft. They were as one in their marriage and friendship as any couple I've ever known. I struggle with facing a future with out his companionship, I can't imagine how devastating the loss must be for her. She is, however, Josh's match and will rise to this challenge with courage and conviction. It looks as if half of her is gone and even she might wonder how she can hobble along as half of what once was. She will discover, though, that he's not gone, and that she and he are yet one whole. They didn't get this fine and good alone and she will never be lacking the strength that they are. It won't be the same, but their oneness, will never be sundered, not now or in the eternities.
I have the conviction that some, not all, of the whisperings of the Spirit, I've received since my Father's passing, were spoken by my Dad. I remain a part of his Stewardship and he's fulfilling that assignment faithfully. Josh has not been released as the head of his family either. He will fulfill that stewardship as faithfully now as he did in mortality. Josh's seat will no longer polish the piano bench beside her, nor will his head compress the pillow, but he will be there and she, noble daughter of God and faithful companion to Josh that she is, will feel it.
Will life be easy? Hasn't been so far. But I look forward to seeing what they yet accomplish together, both here and beyond.
These are tender hours of sorrow, grief and pain, but no regrets. Not with Josh, he was perfect.
I'll miss him.