We Fasted So He Could Eat
Five-year-old Cody Hanson loves to eat! That’s not unusual for most five-year-olds. But the fact that Cody can eat anything at all is, in the words of his doctors, “nothing less than a miracle.” Until he was almost two, he had never been able to eat any food by mouth.
Cody was born with multiple physical problems and has spent most of his life in hospitals. He was born with some of the symptoms of cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, scoliosis of the spine, muscle weakness, a severely receded chin, a partial cleft palate, and facial and throat paralysis. His throat condition prevented him from swallowing; any food that he tried to eat went into his lungs, causing pneumonia. Consequently, he had to be fed a special formula through a tube leading directly into his stomach.
The older Cody became, the more difficult this method was. He had to be fed eight times a day. The formula, imported from Japan, cost $300 a month. Worst of all, it wasn’t providing a complete diet for him, and his growth and progress were being hindered. The psychological problems Cody was experiencing from not eating normally could only increase as he grew older.
Doctors have determined that there is only one other person alive who has Cody’s problems—his twenty-three-year-old sister Tonya. Cody and Tonya are alive and progressing today largely because of their mother, Janice—a woman of unsurpassed faith, commitment, love, and endurance.
The doctors might have given up on these children several times, if it had not been for Janice’s determination. When the physicians have been baffled by problems, not knowing what procedure to perform next, Janice has come forth prayerfully with solutions. Others might have given up in despair or utter fatigue from giving the constant attention Tonya and Cody require—in addition to handling the normal routines of being a wife, having three other children, and caring for an eighty-year-old grandfather who lived with them for a time. But Janice Hanson is cheerful, loving, and concerned about her friends and neighbors.
The Hansons requested a ward fast for Cody. When Janice called, my bishop/husband was not home and so she talked to me about Cody and their request. Janice said she felt that if the ward fasted and prayed for Cody, he would be able to eat. Such faith!
So we fasted as a ward. After our Sunday meetings were over, ward members, family, and friends of the Hansons filled the chapel for the prayer for Cody. As my husband offered the opening prayer, a wave of warmth descended upon the entire congregation. That spirit intensified as Cody’s father administered to him. We all went home to break our fast and eat, believing that Cody, too, would be able to eat.
And Cody is eating! The faith of his family, the ward members, and most particularly, his mother was blessed: he began to eat the day after that fast. Cody’s doctors, baffled by the miracle, canceled the operations they had scheduled for him. Meanwhile, Cody is enthusiastically discovering the delicious world of food.
The Chocolate Cake
It was one of those general conferences where some of the speakers reported the growth of the Church, and I was caught up in the excitement of temples, visitors’ centers, more missionaries going into more countries every month, the member-missionary program expanding in wider circles …
And then the little voice inside me asked, “What about your neighbors?”
Just as quickly another voice replied “My neighbors are hopeless.”
I honestly felt that way—especially that very night when I caught the three boys, ages twelve, ten, and eight, doing some mischief in our yard. That was my undoing.
Just a week after the Millers (I’ve changed the names) had moved in, Bonnie, my six-year-old, came in crying from a welt on her forehead. “Jerry hit me with a rock.”
Kathy, my ten-year-old, was indignant. “Mama, that Jerry Miller threw a big rock at Bonnie because she was holding their cat. When she started to cry, Mrs. Miller came out and Jerry said we were calling him names. She told us to mind our own business and stay in our own yard.”
“We didn’t call anyone names, mama,” added my serious eight-year-old, Cynthia.
My five children had always had their ups and downs with other children in the neighborhood, but we mothers just separated them until they cooled down; an hour later they were usually playing together again. But Mrs. Miller’s invariable attitude was to defend her own children no matter what they had done.
After the incident when I caught the boys in our yard, I marched the boys home to their mother and gave them all a tongue-lashing: “If any more rocks are thrown into my yard, if my little ones are bullied or threatened, or if one of you peeks into my windows, I’ll call the police. And if you’d control your children, Mrs. Miller, instead of everybody else’s, maybe this neighborhood would have some peace again!”
Shaking, I returned home. But the next day as the anger wore off, I knew I’d done the wrong thing. “If ever a family needed the example of a good Latter-day Saint neighbor,” I thought, “this one does. Could I possibly have set a worse example? And look what it did to me. I never want to feel such anger again.” I prayed aloud, “What should I do, Heavenly Father? What would your Son do?”
As I asked, the answer came clearly to my mind: “Show forth great love.”
As I thought about it, the challenge became exciting, and I went straight to the kitchen. While I baked and frosted a chocolate cake, the children and I talked about the Millers and how we had treated them as well as how they had treated us. We discussed the Savior’s example of doing good to others.
The cake finished, I carried it to the neighbors. Mrs. Miller wasn’t there, so I handed it to the oldest boy and told the three, “I baked this cake especially for you.” Their faces registered both shock and pleasure. “I feel bad that I became angry, but do you know who really feels bad? Your mother. She loves you boys very much and it hurts her when you do things you shouldn’t. Could we try harder to get along and be good neighbors to each other?”
“Okay,” mumbled Tom, embarrassed, “we will.”
As I turned to leave, all three spoke simultaneously, “Thanks for the cake, Mrs. Brown!”
During the next month the results of this gesture were unbelievable. No more rock-throwing. My two littlest girls didn’t once run into the house afraid of the Miller boys’ threats. And all three boys cheerfully called, “Hello, Mrs. Brown,” whenever they saw me.
But I was still deeply ashamed of having lost my temper. I didn’t run into Mrs. Miller and I didn’t make an effort to seek her out—even when Cynthia and Bonnie told me at lunch: “Bonnie wouldn’t let Jerry Miller play with her racing car because he kept pulling off the wheels, and when Jerry started to cry Mrs. Miller came outside. She wasn’t upset with Bonnie. Instead she told Jerry, ‘If Bonnie was wrecking your car, you wouldn’t let her play with it, either.’ Then she told him to go inside and think about it for a while.”
I still wish I’d gone back to show love to Mrs. Miller herself. They moved a month later, and I’ve never known where they went. But I do know I’ll never forget the lesson of one chocolate cake.
As He Is Now
My father was an educated man and had many talents. He also had positive feelings about our Lord Jesus Christ. But from the time of my childhood, my father drank so much it seemed to me he was never sober. I remember that he had lost his regular job and would only work at temporary jobs a few days at a time, just enough to earn money for his liquor. His drinking affected me deeply, and I often prayed he would find the strength to quit.
And one day, four months before his death, he did. He stopped drinking completely and tried to start a new life. He was even going to get his job back. One night, several months after his death, I dreamed that my father was sitting on some kind of platform. He looked at me and smiled; his countenance shone, and he seemed to be very happy. With him were several others dressed in white whom I did not recognize. The dream impressed me, and I asked myself how my father could be in a state of peace and happiness when he had lived so irresponsibly on earth. He had left my mother with six small children and had done nothing to provide for us. When people would ask me about him, I would reply that he had been a bad father.
Then one night I had another dream in which I saw myself on the doorstep of our home talking to my father. He was drunk, seemed very pale, and was dressed in filthy clothes. I was screaming at him, asking him why he drank so much. I yelled at him to go away and leave us alone. All of a sudden I saw another man coming toward me. This man was also my father, but this time he was neatly dressed, his face was shining, and the look in his eyes was one of peace. Pointing to the other man he said, “That’s the man I once was; this is the way I am now.”
My joy at that moment was indescribable, for I knew this dream was the answer to my first dream—my father really had changed his ways before he died. He had won the battle he had been fighting with alcohol. He had repented.
Since then, I have often rejoiced in the knowledge that my father is at peace and that he is progressing. I have also rejoiced in the knowledge that the way to true happiness for each of us is through faith and repentance. No matter how mired in sin and unhappiness, we truly can change our lives. The Savior’s atonement made that possible.
Blessings in Time of Need
I had looked forward to this moment for nineteen years. And now we were at the airport at 6:00 A.M., surrounded by friends and relatives and brothers and sisters in the gospel. Who but a mother could understand a mother’s feelings as the line started moving and her missionary son gave her that hurried good-bye hug and kiss that must last for two years!
Although my husband had died seven years earlier, I felt he was there, too. He had ordained our son a deacon from his hospital bed, and I knew he would have been pleased, as we all were, that David was called to the same area in which he had served forty years earlier.
The mailbox became a very special part of my life during the next two years. David’s letters arrived faithfully every week and were a joy to read. We grew very close through our exchange of letters, and I rejoiced with him in his many spiritual experiences. Soon he was saying that the time was going too fast and that he wouldn’t trade those experiences for all the money in the world.
But I discovered that having a son in the mission field doesn’t mean everything will run smoothly at home. The roof leaked, the washer broke twice, the oven burned out, the hot water tank needed repairing, the plumbing and sewer system backed up many times, faucets dripped into a stream, the refrigeration broke down more than once, and the water main burst in the front yard, flooding the whole street while I was at work. One night I was awakened at 3:00 A.M. by a burglar breaking a back window. Both David and I were hospitalized during his mission.
And yet my blessings far outweighed my problems. I believe life was never intended to be easy for very long. In fact, I have come to realize that it is a blessing to be in need. How else could we know the great joy of receiving help from others? My bishop, who was then my home teacher, was particularly helpful and sensitive to my needs. The young men of the Aaronic Priesthood sacrificed time and effort in my behalf—how wonderful to come home and find the lawn mowed! A Mutual class left cheery notes and surprises on my doorstep for an entire year before I learned who had left them.
Finances had concerned us before my son left. Over $2,000 in savings had dwindled because of dental expense. I cashed an insurance policy, sold my car, and had faith that somehow we would have the necessary money; but I was not prepared for the miracles that came.
Just prior to my son’s call, my job had suddenly become part-time due to the election that reversed the political party in power. But the very night after David’s farewell, I received a phone call asking if I would be willing to take a secretarial position. It would last for at least two years and offered health benefits and vacation. One month my utilities almost doubled, jumping to $125 at a time when David had asked if I could spare an extra $40 for his expenses. Within a few days I received a check for $165 which had been issued seven years earlier, was lost, and then was reissued at that time of need. It was an insurance refund I didn’t even know was due me.
Another time when money was low, I received a letter from a secretary I had worked with a year earlier, who said she wanted to help with my son’s mission and enclosed a check for $25. Money also came from friends, and my two daughters and other relatives contributed on a regular basis. I received raises on my job during those two years which were far beyond the normal increase.
When David was transferred because of his health, he had faith and confidence that the decision of his mission president was right, although it was discouraging for him to find himself sick and among Saints speaking Spanish, which he did not understand. There was even some question of his coming home before his mission was completed.
One morning as I arose early to study the scriptures, I read the words of Ammon. They were especially comforting. He said, “Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.” (Alma 26:27.)
I shared this scripture with David, since it seemed to apply to his situation. He completed his mission, and soon we were at the airport again, wondering how two years could have gone by so quickly.
During those two years we were greatly blessed in our needs—David in his efforts to serve the Lord as a missionary in the field, and me in my efforts to support my son. The Lord was indeed watching over us.