Never Comfortless


For weeks we prayed for understanding and assurance about life and death. The Lord blessed us with answers.

We were expecting our fifth child when complications arose and threatened to terminate the pregnancy early—too early for the child to survive. My wife, Ellagene, and I met the crisis with prayer, fasting, and a blessing from our home teachers. We were concerned, but we expected that the baby would be protected. The threat diminished for a while, confirming our faith; but then it returned with such immediacy that Ellagene was confined to bed.

During the next two months we made several frantic trips to the hospital when Ellagene went into premature labor. Each trip required driving thirty miles over Washington, D.C., beltway roads—often at rush hour. When Ellagene was administered to, her health was assured, but not that of our unborn child. Despite our prayers and those of other ward members, our anxiety and tension increased daily.

One night, during the sixth month of Ellagene’s pregnancy, I contracted a severe case of influenza. I was sicker than I had ever been, and my fever would not respond to medicine or other treatment. The next day, Ellagene went into labor again, so I drove her to the hospital. Neither my health nor the hospital rules would permit me to be with her until the baby was born, but I stayed nearby.

Carol Anne was born. She was a pretty baby, despite the fact that she weighed less than two pounds. Her eyelids, which would have formed later, were missing. I didn’t see her for a few hours, but I did see Ellagene—in the corridor outside the recovery room. As we talked, her blood pressure dropped suddenly, and the hospital staff had to act quickly to save her.

Meanwhile, Carol Anne was put in an incubator. She was having difficulty breathing. I saw her in the incubator, but because of my fever I dared not touch her. As I wondered whether I should call for others to come and administer to her, I received the calm assurance that she was safe and that I needed to be with my wife.

After several anxious hours and much prayer, both mother and daughter had stabilized, and I went home, sicker than before. My chills and 104-degree fever were unbearable, so I stopped by my doctor’s office for treatment. In spite of the medication I was given, by evening my fever was even higher. I had trouble breathing, and I had terrible cramps and pains in my chest and sides. I was administered to by two ward members, and within minutes my fever broke and my health was restored.

The hospital confirmed that both Ellagene and Carol Anne were stable and improving, so I fell asleep, feeling that the worst was over and grateful that I would now have the strength to help my wife and children through this trying time.

Exhausted, I slept soundly until five o’clock the next morning, when I was awakened by a sudden, unchallenged knowledge that Carol Anne had passed away. I called the hospital. Reluctantly, after I explained that I knew from a sense of having been told, they confirmed the fact that our tiny baby had died.

I drove the thirty miles quickly, numb and concerned about the effect of the baby’s death on Ellagene. After I broke the news to her, I stayed with her for the rest of the day.

It was a trying time. The doctor, who had been unsupportive during the pregnancy and who had not been present at the delivery because of his commercial business ventures, now arrived. He urged us to have the hospital dispose of Carol Anne’s body without the “bother” of a burial. After firm disagreement from us, he left, and I took care of the burial arrangements.

In the days that followed I was tortured by the feeling that I should have had Carol Anne administered to at the hospital in spite of the inner feeling I had had that it wasn’t necessary. Why had I been restored to health instantly—while she had not? The memories of every careless act weighed on my heart. For the next few weeks, Ellagene and I prayed for understanding and some assurance from the Lord that we had done all in our power to save our baby’s life.

One night, my prayers were answered—in as solid and uncompromising a way as I ever could have hoped for. In a dream, I stood in the hospital delivery room and held our tiny Carol Anne in my arms. I wept for joy that she was alive. Then a gentle voice spoke to me and asked me to look at her carefully. I did—and realized that she was suffering from incessant, uncontrollable tremors. Her body was ill-equipped to survive in this world, and the gentle voice told me that she had been called home because of that, not because of anything Ellagene or I had done or not done.

I woke Ellagene and told her about my dream. We were both comforted by the experience, and thus our healing began.

I didn’t expect any further answer to my prayers. But, some two months after Carol Anne’s death, I had another dream—one which changed my perspective forever.

In the dream, I was walking in my parents’ front yard. (They had been dead nearly four years.) A man suddenly appeared and asked me to follow him into a house. A moment before, and for twenty years before that, there had been no houses other than my parents’ in the two-acre wooded area that insulated their home from the road.

But now I stepped into a house that seemed to be both there and not there. It was of brick, large and substantial. But it seemed—until I looked directly at it—to be a structure that I could see through, with my parents’ pine trees growing innocently through its walls and ceilings.

I felt no fear, and I followed my guide inside the house, which soon seemed more real and substantial. The place was clean and cheerful. In a room to the right of the front door, several nine- or ten-year-olds were quietly learning about the gospel from a gentle woman who stood at a blackboard before them. Although there were seven or eight children in the class, they made no disruptive noises. They appeared radiant and interested in the lesson. As we walked down the hall, my guide showed me many rooms where people of all ages, children and adults, were in class, learning the gospel.

There were many rooms we did not go in. We turned left, and then left again, to go down another corridor, headed toward the front of the house, where I had entered. My guide seemed eager for me to see a particularly sunny room on the left of the second hallway. I looked inside, and there were five or six small children playing busily and quietly while a kindly, gray-haired woman supervised them. The room was a yellow with white lace curtains that bordered a window overlooking my parents’ front yard. I could even see their house through the glass.

As I stood in the doorway, one little girl turned to look at me. She gazed intently at me, and I at her—and we both knew. Tears choked me as I managed to say simply, “Carol Anne, I love you.”

She said, “Daddy, I love you,” and stayed with me for a minute before she returned to her class. I could see that she was in good hands, and I was content to leave her. As I awoke, I heard the same voice I had heard when I had held the infant Carol Anne in my arms in the other dream. I was assured that what I had seen was what I could understand of where Carol Anne was and of how she was progressing. The Lord has not left me comfortless, and for that I am truly grateful.

[illustration] Illustrated by Nancy Seamons Crookston

Edwin Greenlaw Sapp has written a number of articles for the Church magazines. He is currently a member of the Suitland Maryland Stake high council.