I remember the first time I saw Chieko Okazaki in person. I looked out my dorm room window and there she was, walking down the sidewalk with two other women that I couldn’t name. It was a beautiful California spring day in 1996. I commented to my roommate, “There goes one of the most famous Mormon women in the world, walking behind our dorm of all places.” My roommate, not being a member or the least bit interested in Mormonism simply shrugged and didn’t even look out the window.

The last time I saw her was a few weeks ago. My son and daughter played an impromptu piano recital for her entertainment as we visited her. The same two women who I had seen with her that first time 15 years ago were there again, one of them now my wife and the other my mother in law, and because of their close friendship with Sister Okazaki I was able to get to know her as well.

I was more right than I had imagined when I had claimed that Chieko was famous, but also wrong. Walking down the street with her in Utah was a very different experience. Women (in my limited experience it was always women) would come up to her and spontaneously greet her. But they weren’t seeking autographs or trying to get a snapshot taken with her. Her’s wasn’t the odd Mormon celebrity that Donny Osmond or Jon Heder might have, famous as much for being famous as anything else. Instead they’d thank her for the impact she’d had on their lives. Often they’d cite a particular talk or book and briefly describe how she’d helped them.

Why is it that this woman had such an impact on so many? I think that Chieko had the ability to empathize with the difficulties that people face in this life, reflect on how the gospel applied to those situations, and then to express her understanding in speeches and books in a way that conveyed her love.

The fact that she impacted so many is a reminder of the power that carefully considered words and deeds can have when paired with the Spirit.

Godspeed Grandma O. We will miss you and remember you.