A difference where it counts.
Many years ago my husband and I were new in our RSM area and were going though many hardships in life even though we were on the right path of being Godly people. So having been raised a good Mormon and my husband, having been baptized into the awesome Mormon faith 15 years earlier in 1990 when we were neighbors, we had decided to start going to our local LDS ward for Spiritual and Temporal reasons.
We had stigmas (ugly twisted half truths and out right lies) attached to our names from our past put on us by those who hate us.... and this news (gossip) spread quickly in this local LDS Church group about us, and in turn this caused many of them to have cold, distant, and unfriendly shoulders to give us as our most common welcome.
So we decided to wait for a short time to return to this "unfriendly" place, this place where many would not take the time (or the love) to get to know the "real" us...the us who were NOT the ugly rumors attached to our names that did NOT apply to us at that time, (if ever)
So time pasted and life was a lonely affair.
One day many months later after not going to church while coming out of our local grocery store we ran into a friendly man. This man was smiling from ear to ear at us. He reached out his hand warmly and gave us a Gatorade drink which he had just bought in the store. He introduced himself as Eric and said that he was in our LDS Ward and that he had gone to our same chapel down the street from where we had attended and he had remembered us being there.
He was kind, outgoing, warm and genuine...anyone could feel this coming from him and we smiled as we parted and my husband and I talked about the uncommonly friendly man named Eric "something". He had made us feel loved.
Over the next years we struggled to find community friendships and/or Spiritual upliftment throughout the different sources and locations in our community, since strangly (but to no surprise since our ex's had really blackened our names with most people in our neighborhood) no one from the LDS Church would reach out to us even after knowing of us.
We knew that the Mormon faith had the MOST organized and Godly truths this world had to offer, regardless of it's few arrogant and self-righteous members, and we knew that the incredible and timeless beautiful Gospel messages and truths found at this particular faith or Church could NOT be out matched so we kept praying that doors would open in positive ways.
The local LDS Missionaries would stumble upon our door from time to time and we would invite them in, each time asking them to please come back and of our desires to be included in our local Ward family, only to see that each time they would NOT come back and still no one from this Ward would visit.
After a year or so, we finally had such a deep desire to go to our local LDS ward again and again that we decided that despite the persecution we knew we were in for, and had already received, and would receive again, we decided to head back to our home LDS ward and Chapel to attend their meetings each Sunday, where we knew God wanted us to be, even if others did not.
Again, while attending this local LDS ward we were met with some unkindness, ugly hurtful gossip, and cold shoulders, but others there did make a difference, enough to make it worth coming again and again, so we could to be obedient to our hearts and Lord. It was tough but worth it.
One of these kind men was Eric Billings.
The man who we had met in the parking lot at Ralphs Grocery store.
He was there on many Sunday's and he would always extend a warm hand shake, an infectious smile, and a genuine kindness towards us. It made the rest of the persecution we were enduring (or would endure) over the years possible to overlook, while often deep in our hearts we felt like giving up.
He made a difference.
We noticed that he was this way with all he met. New members, LDS faith investigators, non-members. All were welcome into Eric's circle of friendship and made to feel welcomed and loved. He was one in a million and on a Mission to bring others to the same happiness he knew he had with Christ and the Gospel of Christ which only the LDS faith and membership would provide.
You could feel the genuine warm love of Christ oozing from him.
So over the years we attended our local Ward more and more, and we began to be accepted more and more by the general LDS local congregation, mainly due to the kind words and loving support we would receive from Eric Billings and the few others like him, who would only talk kindly and positive of us to others.
Over the next few years, I was eventually re-baptized and my husband (who was still officially still a member was welcomed by the men in his High Priest and he began to be much loved by most of the men there. It was a relief from the cruel and tortuous world that others around us had created and the very much needed peace from the ugly rumors that still followed us from many outside haters.
Over the next few years we saw how much love and Christ-like character our dear friend Brother Eric Billings had, for not only us but many others. He brought many to Christ and the Gospel of Christ, just from his genuine, loving, kindness, and friendship. It was unmatched.
He truly was one of Christs disciples on this Earth, no doubt.
It so happened years later that I was assigned (for a short while) to be Sister Billings church Visiting Teacher and I got to know a little of her and her family over a few short months before being transferred to another sister. She was very kind even if she was very shy.
Then last year my husband got his first calling as a "Home Teacher" in our Ward. Neat!
He was to go do this important calling with another ward brother, Doug Campbell, as his companion.
Home Teaching is visiting a family in our ward monthly, and giving them an inspirational and Spiritual message. To be their Spiritual Shepard of sorts.
Every worthy man in the LDS church is given this special task/calling/job to oversee one or more of the other ward families in there local ward, so as to make sure that all members are watched over, cared for and protected in this world of trials, hardships and good times. It is an invaluable support system unmatched anywhere in the world!
Sure enough, the family that my husband and Brother Campbell were assigned to visit monthly was the Billings family! Wow, This was a great honor for him.
So over the next few months my husband had the opportunity to learn all about a Home Teaching calling, it's duties, its workings and of the family he taught. Although this was old school for me growing up with Home Teaching in my youth and my ex being one too for many years, it was all rather new for Brother Acosta.
Like expected, the Billings family were hospitable, friendly, very kind, and extended warmness in every way.
Brother Eric Billings even said to others that Brother Acosta, my husband, had been the "best" Home Teacher he had ever had! Now that was an incredible compliment because Eric Billings was in the High Counsel (a small group of men who oversee the entire spiritual welfare of our large Stake, which Stake Headquarters cares for and is responsible for many large Wards in the Southern Orange County area) and he had had many honorable men in his home as his Home Teachers throughout his life, so this was an incredible compliment.
Knowing Eric's character, this was not just a nice thing to say, as much as it was his honest feelings, and we were indeed humbled by the compliment.
Of course, the Billings family made it easy to genuinely love them, from Eric having loved us first.
Another fun fact is that over the past year and half we would see Eric and his wife Darren at our favorite Friday night restaurant "Soup Plantation".
After many occasions of seeing them at the same time eating there also, our son Alexander would then every time excitedly search for them when we would arrive there to eat. Every time we would find them, we would find Alex talking to Brother Billings and they were always being so kind and warm to all of us and getting along famously with Alex. This became a fun tradition for us to see them there.
Over the next year my husband got to know more of the Billings 4 adult children who would be able to come to the these Home Teaching lessons from time to time, and got to know Brother Acosta. They all were very much like their dad Eric; warm, genuine, and all very kind children and they liked Brother Acosta very much.
Brother Acosta would always come home from these meetings so happy!
Just a few weeks ago Eric Billings gave a beautiful talk in Sacrament meeting at Church on Sunday. It was not just your usual good talk. He always gave one of the best talks of the year and we loved each and everyone of them he gave.
So when we saw him at one of the LDS Stake Conference meetings a week ago on Saturday serving pie and ice cream afterwards to everyone, we told him how much we loved his talk and then talked with him about the next Home Teaching meeting Brother Acosta wanted to schedule. He told Brother Acosta that he was waiting until his family came in from Hawaii next week, to have him over, so that more of his family could be there for this next Home Teaching meeting. We then had a nice chat with he and his wife for a few brief minutes that night. We had no idea that this would be the LAST time we would speak to and see our dear friend.
Just this past Friday night two days ago, March 15th, 2013, we noticed that the Billings were not at the "Soup" for dinner, but thought nothing of it, since we all did not go there every single Friday, but I did mention to my husband on several occasions how light-headed I felt and how I was almost dizzy enough to be concerned of my health. What was going on??
I did not know why this was happening or what it all meant.
My husband expressed the same thing was happening to him also. This was happening between 6:30pm-7:30pm. We figured something strange was happening to the Earth, but couldn't pin point why.
So yesterday (Saturday Morning) when I came home from a store trip to buy balloons, cake, flowers etc. for my Mother In Laws 80th Birthday party for the day, it later made sense why I came home to find my husband red-faced, depressed and teary eyed. I quickly asked him what was the "matter"? He started to cry and tell me.
You see, yesterday morning while I was out, my husband received a phone call from Brother Campbell telling him the tragic news of what had happened the night before between 6:30pm-7pm two days ago from today.
Brother Eric Billings had been out on his daily evening bike ride and had been hit by a car and had been killed in a sudden and terrible accident.
We were shocked and crushed to hear this heartbreaking news.
We both cried and realized that the night before we did know something was wrong at that exact time he was killed, and now knew "why" we had felt this way the night before.
Our hearts sank for Sister Billings and their children and what their lives would be like from now on without their loved husband and father. It made us so sad. I wondered "why" the Lord had called back not just a good man, a great man, a great disciple of Christ? One the world was in much need of.
My husband reminded me of the fact that in the Spirit world there is a terrible and great war raging. The fight against legions and principalities of great darkness for the souls of men, which God is needing Great warriors to battle and that Eric is one of those great souls that God was needing at this time.
This I understood and knew was true. My child Michael is there also.
We broke the news to Alex who was saddened too.
Eric will be sorely missed here on this Earth in the physical world. even if the spiritual world is all around us close by, and just in a different dimension. It just isn't fair.
So yesterday, after this sad, sad news, we immediately went out to the store to by the makings of a large flower arrangements for the Billings family. Something to cheer them up when they would walk into the room. This small gesture, I remembered, had helped me in 1994 when dozens had brought over huge arrangements of flowers to my home for Michael's funeral.
I put it together myself along with the other gifts I had gotten for my dear Mother In Law, Maria Rosa Acosta's birthday dinner last night. I still found myself tearing throughout the day and evening when we would mention Eric to each other and/or to family.
In the evening, we took our flowers, gifts and cards and headed first over to the Billings home which is really only 2-3 blocks from our home here in RSM.
It was perfect timing as one family there after giving their condolences at the Billings home, were leaving when we arrived.
We gave Sister Billings a big hug and the flower arrangement along with some chocolates to cheer her up and a sympathy card.
We spoke for a few minutes and then noticed another family coming through the door and so soon left.
On the way out we were able to give a big hug to their youngest child who still lives at home and apparently was having a really hard time with it all.
The other 3 Billings children are coming home over the next few days from either Hawaii, New York and China! The Billings are blessed with some amazing adult children and of course an awesome Ward Family that will see them through this huge change in life.
Today we will go to our LDS ward chapel for church at 1pm to morn with our ward members and spiritual family for the Billings.
I am sure that over the next few days we will be attending Erics special funeral meeting at the chapel and then his physical body's burial.
He will be missed until we see him again shortly! This earthly life is but a drop in a bucket, a fleeting moment in the eternities.
We took everyone out to dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory near the train station (our favorite place).
We had dinner, cake, balloons, ice cream, gifts, and even a little St. Patrick's Day fun with everyone. It cheered us up.
It turned out to be a nice evening despite our solemn spirits.
So here I am this Sunday morning. Typing out my feelings thoughts and prayers to the Billings family and all they are going through.
I too went through something similar in my life and so my heart goes out to them and theirs.
It makes one extremely grateful for what one does have in life and to thank god for the blessings we do have.
In the name of Jesus Christ....