Don’t Cry for Craig

My physically handicapped son, Simon, was almost seven when Craig joined his class. The class, part of our city’s special needs education system, was small by any standard—only six children with varying physical disabilities. Before long I realized Craig and Simon were becoming great pals. Simon had previously had problems relating to children his own age. But suddenly I found he had acquired his first “best friend.”

Simon talked about Craig often, about his favorite toys, television programs, and the things he liked. I heard constant commentaries of the games they played together. We lived about fourteen miles apart, so it was a while before I met Craig. I don’t remember exactly when or where it was, but I do remember that I was a little startled. Splints, crutches, wheelchairs, and walking frames are common at schools like Simon’s. Craig didn’t have any of these devices. He was a small, skinny boy with a mop of blond, curly hair and blue eyes. However, his bluish lips indicated a serious heart problem.

Craig’s appearance never bothered Simon, though. He was only concerned that his friend was sick. Then Simon started coming home from school troubled. Craig was having bad days. Oxygen cylinders accompanied him to class.

“I’m worried about Craig, Mum,” Simon often said. I didn’t take it seriously. I couldn’t see how he could be all that sick and still attend school.

At a January birthday party, I saw Craig again. Craig’s parents were also there. His mother and I exchanged smiles across the room, and I determined that I would talk to her one day. …

Toward the end of the month more gloomy news came from school.

“Craig’s going to the hospital. He says he isn’t coming back any more,” Simon told me. This caused enough concern for me to ask the teacher exactly what was going on. She said Craig was going to the hospital—to a transplant unit. But despite Craig’s insistence to the contrary, his parents and teacher said he would be coming back. So Craig departed, and we all waited. A few weeks later, a jubilant Simon informed me that Craig was home and would return to school on the first Monday after half-term holiday.

Half-term went by without a hitch. On Monday morning the school bus arrived and, as usual, my husband took Simon to his seat. He returned to the house with bad news—the bus driver told him that Craig had died the previous Thursday.

I sat on the floor in our living room and cried, but the tears were more for Simon than for Craig. I was deeply concerned that I wouldn’t be with him when he received the news. I felt he would need me to comfort him. Later in the morning I drove to school, still mulling over the tragedy. Surprisingly, things were normal in the classroom. The teacher told me there had been tears all around earlier, but now the children were fine. Craig had prepared them by his insistence that he wasn’t coming back. Although only Simon had a knowledge of the plan of salvation, every one of Craig’s classmates believed that Craig would be going to “God’s school” now. As I walked back to the car my heart was lighter. I was already beginning to visualize Craig running and playing. I only regretted that I had not befriended Craig’s mother. Knowledge of the gospel would have been a great comfort to her.

I had more to learn. As I drove Simon home that evening, we talked about where Craig had gone. Simon had all the usual questions, like what had happened to Craig’s body and where his toys would go, but what surprised me most was that Simon wasn’t sad. It delighted him to know that Craig was with his Heavenly Father. I suggested that if he tried hard to live the gospel, someday he might be able to go there, too. “Yes, Mum,” he said simply, secure in his conviction that he and his friend would see each other again.

Ann Gray, a homemaker, is second counselor in the Sunderland England Stake Young Women presidency.

“Get Off the Tracks!”

The Wyoming winter had been so long and cold! It was January, and the snow was piled up to the eaves of the porch, packed solid from the weight of each successive storm.

The barn doors had long since been drifted shut. The pasture was so deeply covered with snow and drifts that a snowmobile was the only way to take the horses food and water. The horses had to stay out in the raging elements, but they didn’t really seem to mind. Since the fence that contained them during the summer had been buried under frozen mounds of white for several months, they could roam at will. Their wanderings included straying along the extremely busy railroad tracks.

The ring of the telephone would alert us, again and again, that our horses were on the tracks. No matter what we tried, we couldn’t keep those single-minded animals corraled.

One January evening brought, at last, some peace and quiet, and for a change, no wind. The house was warm, and the children laughed and played, making bedtime preparations a little more joyous than usual.

Then the phone rang—the horses were on the tracks again. “How am I supposed to get them back where they belong?” I thought. “My husband is at work, it’s dark outside, and I don’t have any transportation except for the snow machine.”

I grabbed Burt’s big, brown insulated coveralls and my black overboots, wrapped a scarf around my neck, slipped a helmet on my head, and went off to chase those ornery critters back where they belonged.

I rode along, thinking I would soon find the horses. I didn’t, so I decided to cross the railroad tracks, hoping to find them already back in their pasture. The tracks had been snow-packed all winter, so we had been able to skim right across. As I approached them I gave the sled full throttle so I could cross in a hurry. I will never forget what happened next.

It was too dark for me to see that the weather had warmed just enough to melt all the snow from around the tracks. I slammed to a stop, sitting crossways on the tracks, with the sled’s skis firmly wedged underneath the track.

I knew I had to get that snow machine off the tracks. I pulled it, straining every muscle, all the while praying, “Help me, Heavenly Father, help me!” I pulled, looked for a train, then pulled again.

A thought came to my mind: “If a train comes around that corner you’ll never hear it until it’s too late. Get that helmet off your head!” I tore the helmet from my head and reached for the snowmobile again. Suddenly, the light of a freight train appeared around the bend. Then, very distinctly, I heard, “You have three children at home. Get off the tracks!” I immediately began to run, fearing the train would throw the sled sideways at me. The next few moments seemed like an eternity. I turned around just as the train came hurtling past. I watched it plow into the sled and throw it, like a child’s toy, 150 yards down the track.

I was stunned, and for a moment, couldn’t move or react. I felt sick inside, and helpless. Then came violent trembling and tears. I began walking numbly toward home, not feeling the chill winter night on my cheeks or the ice-packed road beneath my heavy boots. When I reported to the line foreman what had happened, he and his wife stared at me in disbelief. They couldn’t believe I had walked away, completely unharmed, from such an accident.

The next morning, our family went to find the snow machine. Pieces were strewn everywhere. Only a twisted part of the body of the sled remained intact. Our children were very sober when they learned what had happened—and what could have happened. Our four-year-old, Travis, said in his bedtime prayer, “Thanks for keeping Mommy safe.”

I know our Heavenly Father answers prayers. I also know that our prayers are not always answered in the way we expect. But in my case, I was given what I really needed. My prayer for help did not allow me to save the snow machine, but it did save my life.

Wendy R. Rudder, a homemaker, is a Blazer A teacher, a visiting teacher, and the secretary to the Cub Scout organization in the Lake Elsinore Second Ward, Corona California Stake.

Broke, Broken, and Out of Work

After graduating from college, my husband and I had both taken minimum-wage jobs to survive, so we were greatly relieved after fifteen months when Roger finally landed a “real job” with a newspaper on the East Coast—the opposite end of the continent from our families in California. Our joy was somewhat overshadowed by a fear of the unknown, but with a mixture of hope and trepidation, we packed our few belongings to move the 2,300 miles to Norwalk, Connecticut.

Roger went first to find an apartment and get settled in at the newspaper. I followed three weeks later with our two sons and the cat, towing all our earthly belongings in a trailer behind the car.

We were frightened to go where we knew no one, but the Church members in Connecticut responded with love. The bishop, who drove fifty miles into the middle of Manhattan to pick Roger up at 2:00 in the morning, had arranged for him to stay temporarily in the home of a vacationing family.

The members’ kindness helped us feel welcome and loved from the beginning. However, one thing still prevented me from enjoying the full sisterhood of Relief Society. The Sunday block meeting system had not yet been instituted, and since Roger took our only car to work each day, I had no way of getting to Wednesday morning meetings.

Five weeks after we arrived, we met some LDS neighbors and one of them, Sally, offered to take me to Relief Society.

Sally picked my boys and me up the following Wednesday. It was a stormy morning and the pavement was extremely slick. As we rounded a turn in the road, a large van went out of control and slid into us head-on. Instead of going to Relief Society, we were taken to the hospital.

The Relief Society sisters were there even before Roger. One of the presidency, a high-fashion model, had cancelled a hundred-dollar-an-hour photo session to come to our bedsides. Within hours we had seen all the presidency and both of my new visiting teachers.

Unlike Sally, who had to spend the next eight weeks in traction and an additional eight months recuperating, my children and I were able to go home the following day. But we weren’t without problems.

Aaron, my two-year-old, had been thrown into the dashboard. His jaw was broken, and he needed special soft foods and plenty of care.

Adam, only a week past his first birthday, had very nearly died in the accident. He had suffered a badly broken nose that caused profuse bleeding.

My face was cut as I crashed into the windshield. I didn’t look very good, and the accompanying concussion left me confused and unable to care for my children or keep up with basic household responsibilities.

Church members filled in. Sisters took away our dirty laundry and brought it back clean and folded. Others brought in meals. Still others were there to “babysit” all three of us during our first days home.

But the auto accident was not our only trouble. Three days after the accident, Roger received a phone call from his office: “You know that newspaper we just put out? It’s our last.” After 128 years of publication, the paper was going out of business.

There we were: broke, broken, and out of work. It was one of the lowest moments of our lives.

The members of the Church saw us through. During all of that frightening autumn, we continued to receive hot meals, dinner invitations, “care packages,” and many other expressions of kindness and concern.

As soon as I was back on my feet, I took temporary clerical work, but it was barely enough to meet the rent. More than once, the kindness of the members pulled us through when we didn’t have enough to eat.

Sometimes, our loving friends almost overdid it. When Thanksgiving came, we had two turkeys. During the weeks before Christmas, we received two Christmas trees, another turkey, and a large box of dinner trimmings. The Laurels quilted blankets for the boys, one family brought two tricycles, and slowly our Christmas took shape. During all of this our testimonies grew stronger through watching dedicated members of the Church live the teachings of Christ.

On Christmas Eve we received another gift—another local newspaper offered Roger a job. We often refer to it as “the best Christmas gift we ever received.” However, we really know that the best gift of all was the love and service we received from the Connecticut Saints. They not only saved us temporally, but helped deepen our commitment to the gospel.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Larry Winborg

Susan H. Aylworth teaches English at California State University at Chico and is a Sunday School teacher in the Chico Fourth Ward.