Six Days after Baptism


My memories of childhood in a small farm town in northwest Florida are recollections of difficult times. When I was six years old, my father was blinded in an accident. Already motherless, I had to take over the responsibility for cooking and housekeeping in our home. It was not easy, but we got by. Although I attended the church we belonged to, I was never really much of a joiner, so I was often left out.

A few years went by and my brother—just seventeen years old—went to Vietnam as a soldier. The next year my father was killed in another accident. I was the one who found his body crushed under a car, and I thought I was going to lose my mind. Soon my sister and I had to appear before the county judge and were told that no foster home had been found for us. That meant we would have to go to an orphanage. But before that could happen my sister married, and shortly afterward I married Ben. Opportunities for a young married couple in our area were limited, so when Ben’s uncle came down from the north to persuade us to move to Indiana, we went. We were very unhappy for a long time. There we were, all alone, a thousand miles away from home and everything we knew.

In this state of mind, I was dismayed when I received a letter from my sister and learned that they were expecting a child. I had already made up my mind that I would never have a baby. I was very bitter about life, and I didn’t want to bring a child into the world to grow up like I had.

Soon, though, I began to feel an ache inside that I did not understand. I needed something—something of my own to have and to hold onto. So eventually I changed my mind and decided to venture into motherhood—still unsure and scared, but a little excited too.

I was very sick the whole time, and I wondered at times about my decision; but when the nurse laid my baby in my arms for the very first time, there was no more doubt. We named him Bill. He was so beautiful, and I loved him so much I nearly burst. He became my whole life—not just a part but the sum total, all I lived for. I had Ben too, but I suppose my experiences up to that point had led me to a vague (and in this case, unfounded) uneasiness about the permanency of anything in this life. But Bill I was sure of. He was mine.

Our circumstances improved, and at last we were able to buy a mobile home. And it was our good fortune to move into a mobile home park next door to a Latter-day Saint family. They were very friendly and often urged us to go to church with them. I felt that I needed God for my child, so I was glad they kept asking until we gave in.

It happened that our first meeting was a fast and testimony meeting. I was a little bewildered by this new experience, but not Ben; he was converted on the spot. We received two missionary discussions in the next two weeks. Then on Saturday, 28 February 1970, we had three more discussions and were interviewed and baptized that same night.

Six days later, on 6 March 1970, my whole world came apart. My child was lying in a coma in a hospital and no one could help him. He was dying.

I’ll never forget that awful day as long as I live. March 5 had been a beautiful day. The sun shone and it seemed as though the whole world was ours. We had everything I had never had as a child—security, health, love, and now the Church. Little Bill was just nineteen months old, and that evening he had so much fun at the birthday party we held for his grandma. He was so happy, he ran and played and had a good time. Then in the wee hours of the sixth I awoke to the sound of Bill choking and crying. I ran to his room and there he lay, a tiny bundle of tears. He had turned nearly black, and foam was pouring out of his mouth. He was so hot to the touch that I had to wrap him in a blanket to even hold his little body.

We rushed him to the emergency room at the hospital, where we could do nothing but wait while the doctors ran tests and worked frantically to save his life. Finally our doctor came and told us that Bill’s temperature was 108 degrees. He said they could not find any cause for our baby’s frightful condition. He sent for the best baby specialist in the state. He, too, was baffled. Later in the morning we were taken into his office where he told us there was nothing he could do, that the fever would not break. My whole world was dying. I can’t recall those last hours too clearly, but I do know that I felt alone again as I had when I was a child.

Ben was called away to talk to someone, and I was all by myself. I phoned my friend and told her Bill had only a few hours to live. Then I went to his room. He was so little, so very beautiful, and so still.

I sat down next to his bed, feeling numb at heart. And as I did, a feeling came over me that I cannot describe—a feeling of complete peace which I have felt only one other time, in the temple of the Lord the day our family was sealed for time and all eternity. It fell on me with such force that I was stunned and shaken. Then I looked up, and there standing at the door was a man I recognized as one of the high priests from our ward. I didn’t know his name, but I knew why he was there. I reached over and picked up Bill from the bed. He awoke when I touched his body. He looked at me for one short second, and smiled.

The man at the door said, “I am Brother Walters. The Lord has sent me to administer to this child.” Because Bill had been placed in isolation, the nurses wouldn’t let more than one visitor at a time into the room; so Brother Walters had to leave his companion in the hallway. He anointed Bill with oil and then laid his hands on his head and blessed him with health and strength—and that he would be made whole that very day.

Shortly afterward the doctor returned with a paper for me to sign. It was an autopsy consent. I refused, and he said he would be back. Ten minutes later I looked up to see my child sitting up, completely well! He climbed out of bed as if nothing had ever been wrong and padded out into the hall as fast as his little legs would carry him—his usual speed. He ran up to the doctor and grabbed him around the legs. The doctor, who was always composed and cool, looked down in astonishment. Then he picked Bill up and came running down the hall to me, laughing and crying at the same time. He shouted, “It’s a miracle!”

I agreed.

I don’t know who called Brother Walters to administer to Bill. I only know he was sent by God.

[illustration] Illustrated by Lori Anderson