“Go Visit These Women Today!

By Annette P. Bowen

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    I’d been running from that “not feeling well feeling,” but it finally caught me. It not only caught me, it tripped me and knocked me flat. I surrendered and retreated to my bed and my thick patchwork comforter. My preschooler was playing at a friend’s house and my two older boys weren’t due home till after school. I pulled the quilt up under my chin and reached for tissues and a good book. I was going to enjoy this sick day.

    I began reading but soon found myself distracted by thoughts of errands and assignments on a normal day’s list. Could I really afford this luxury of rest and warmth? I scanned a mental checklist for the day—no firm commitments. I still needed to visit-teach my three Relief Society sisters, but they would have to wait until later in the month. I went back to my book.

    I had read only a few pages when I found myself thinking again of the three sisters. Sue, active in our ward, was preparing to make a cross-country move, and I wanted to help her with packing and cleaning. Monique never came to church; I had been asked to make friendly contact with her each month. Donna was a young working wife and mother who was relatively new to the neighborhood. My husband, who was in the bishopric of our ward, and I had dropped by once before to introduce ourselves; Donna and her husband, Greg, had clearly indicated they were not interested in activity in our ward. However, Donna’s parents, worried because she was far from home, had called my husband and asked that we again try to establish a friendly relationship with her.

    I dismissed these people from my mind again and concentrated on my book. But a picture of the three women suddenly popped into my mind, accompanied by the thought, “Go visit these people today.”

    I was irritated by the thought and its urgency. I was sick today. I wasn’t going anywhere. I said a quick prayer, promising to visit them tomorrow if I felt well enough. Immediately, I felt another prompting, a quiet but insistent voice within my head: “Go visit these women today!

    I resisted again and went on reading for another twenty minutes. But the quiet impression persisted. Finally, frustrated, I sat up, tossed back the covers, and wearily climbed out of bed. “Okay,” I said out loud. “I’ll go.” I was annoyed. Hadn’t I done enough this week already? What did these women need that seemed to require my immediate attention? I didn’t know, but I felt I had better respond to this prompting.

    As I dressed, I tried to perceive a specific need of each sister. Then I had an idea—if I could just leave a note, and maybe a little gift with each one, then at least I could make contact.

    I went to my “goodie box”—a catch-all container of little gifts I’d made and sale items I’d purchased to have on hand for birthdays and special occasions. After selecting three small gifts, I quickly wrote a personal note to each woman and added my phone number. I tied the notes to the gifts with ribbons, then grabbed my keys and went out to my car.

    I stopped at Sue’s home, chatted briefly, and gave her the gift. I then drove to Monique’s. Both were pleased to have me drop by, but neither seemed to have any pressing needs. So I headed toward Donna’s.

    I waited for a few minutes at Donna’s door after ringing the bell. No one answered. I rang again. Maybe she wouldn’t let me in. Maybe she’d be irritated at another attempt by someone from the ward trying to contact her. I couldn’t hear any noise from within the house. I decided to leave the gift and note anyway.

    I got back in my car and drove home. I was irritated. Nothing had happened during these visits. Donna wasn’t even home! What pressing need had uprooted me from my sickbed?

    As I unlocked my door, I heard the phone ringing. Linda, Donna’s neighbor and a member of our ward, was on the line. “Annette, Donna asked me to call you. We have an emergency. Something is wrong with Greg. We’ve already called an ambulance. Your husband is a doctor. Donna asked if you would call him and ask him to meet her at the hospital. And I need you to come here to her home. I don’t know what to do now.”

    I was numb when I hung up the phone, but I managed to quickly call my husband and explain what little I knew. Luckily, he was free and agreed to meet the ambulance and do whatever he could for Donna and Greg.

    I ran to my car and drove back to Donna’s house. Linda met me at the door. After we had notified the children’s babysitter about the situation and had put Donna’s house in order, Linda explained what had happened.

    For some time, Greg had been having periodic episodes of erratic behavior. Donna had taken him to a doctor for an exam, and an inoperable tumor had been discovered inside Greg’s head.

    Shortly after I left the gift, Donna and Greg had arrived home from a doctor’s visit. Just then, Greg had experienced a violent seizure. Terrified, Donna ran to Linda’s home for help. Linda called an ambulance and Greg’s doctor. As Donna raced out to meet the ambulance, she noticed my package and note. She pointed to my note and said to Linda, “Call Annette! Isn’t her husband a doctor? Ask her to help me if she can.”

    My husband was able to meet Greg’s ambulance. He helped explain to Donna what had happened and helped review Greg’s diagnosis and prognosis.

    I helped care for Donna’s children and arrange for Relief Society sisters to bring meals to her home. Through the days and weeks that followed, my husband and I were able to establish a close relationship with Donna and Greg.

    Tragically, three months later, Greg died. Donna became a young, frightened widow with two small children to support. During the following months, members of our ward provided medical and financial counsel, child-care assistance, friendship, and sustaining support.

    I quickly forgot about the “not feeling well” feeling that had put me to bed. However, I will never forget that insistent small voice that distracted me enough from my reading and self-concern to push me out of bed and toward Donna’s door. Though the needs may not be as dramatic or as tragic as Donna’s, I know that behind every small prompting we receive may be someone urgently waiting for help.

    Illustrated by Mark Robison

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    • Annette P. Bowen teaches Sunday School in the Bellevue Fifth Ward, Renton Washington North Stake.