“Hello; my name is Annabelle Miller,” said the woman at my door. Sweat glistened on her forehead and upper lip, and she seemed to have difficulty breathing after her walk up our long walkway. But her eyes twinkled in direct contrast to her obvious lack of physical health. “You may know my husband, Floyd,” she continued. “I don’t get out to church much, but he told me about your family’s car accident. I thought you might enjoy these.”
Annabelle handed me a bowl of chilled, fresh raspberries lightly sprinkled with sugar. I was so flustered at this unexpected visit from an unknown ward member that all I could say was “Thank you. I’ll return your bowl as soon as possible.”
“Never mind about that, dear,” she said. “It’s just an odd little bowl that doesn’t match anything. You can keep the bowl if you’d like. Just enjoy the berries and have a good day.”
All afternoon I kept thinking about Sister Miller’s visit, and when my husband came home, I told him about it. He had served in the elders quorum with Brother Miller, and he said that Sister Miller had several medical problems that prevented her from attending church.
The next Sunday, I brought the little glass bowl to church with me. I had tucked a thank-you note inside it, and I planned to ask Brother Miller to take it home to his wife.
But much to my shock, the bishop announced that Sister Miller had passed away and that funeral services were to be held in our chapel the following week. I sat through the remainder of the sacrament meeting in stunned silence. Annabelle hadn’t even known me, but one of her last acts on earth had been to show her concern by bringing me a bowl of raspberries. Words could not describe my feelings.
My husband and I attended the funeral. The chapel was filled. I heard countless people tell of the lovely things Annabelle had done for them. She seemed to have had a sensitivity to others’ needs, knowing what to do and when to do it. At Annabelle’s funeral, I grew to know her and to admire her gift for sharing.
Week after week, the little bowl sat on my kitchen counter. I had tried to return it. I had dropped by Brother Miller’s home a few times, and I had even brought it to church, but somehow I always missed him.
A few months after Annabelle’s death, my husband’s job required us to move to a different city. In the flurry of packing and moving, the bowl was temporarily forgotten—until I came across it one day as I was unpacking. My first reaction was guilt. Then I vividly remembered Annabelle’s telling me to “keep the bowl if you’d like. Just enjoy the berries.”
So we kept the odd little bowl, Annabelle’s bowl, and we have used it countless times during the last five years to bring goodies to others, just as Annabelle did. I feel that each time I use Annabelle’s bowl, her gift of sharing lives on.
Prayer in the Cockpit
Black clouds billowed over the Denver Stapleton Airport, and lightning flashed continually as thunder rolled like giant timpani. My husband, Kenneth, and I were preparing to fly a huge oil-well drill on an emergency charter to Rock Springs, Wyoming. Ken had invited me to go along as his copilot.
We loaded the cargo, jumped into the twin-engine airplane, and called for taxi instructions. As we taxied to the runway, the tower cleared us for takeoff on a runway to the north, advising us that a heavy hailstorm was approaching from the south. To the north, however, the sky was clear, so we felt confident of a safe journey. As we lifted off with our heavy load, we looked back at the airport and saw the familiar but ominous green cast in the clouds that signals severe storms. At that moment the tower announced that planes flying in should avoid the Denver airport due to the heavy hail predicted. The storm was right on our tail, and we braced ourselves for a rough flight.
Even though we could still see the ground, we asked for an instrument flight clearance in case we went into the clouds. Lightning streaked through the sky all around us, lighting up the cockpit and making our hair stand on end. Our skin prickled with electricity, and the plane bounced and rolled with the turbulent storm. Even with nearly twenty thousand hours of flight time between us, we could both feel the heavy tension.
The flight to Rock Springs took about an hour, and we fought the storm all the way. Finally, we landed at Rock Springs and delivered the drill to our waiting customers.
We checked in with the weather service. The Denver airport was open, but the storm was still in the area and the airport could be closed again at any moment. After considering our options, we decided to take off for Denver and hope that the airport would remain open. If not, we could go on to an alternate landing field. I have always had a strong the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of prayer, but Ken had never thought of prayer as a reality or felt the need for religion. But as we prepared to take off for Denver, I didn’t think I could face the trip home without the Lord’s help. We got into the plane, taxied to the end of the runway, and stopped. Since we had never prayed together, I summoned all my courage and asked Ken if I could pray aloud for both of us. To my surprise, Ken agreed and even clasped his hands and bowed his head. My prayer was brief. I first thanked God for our safe journey so far, then I asked for safety and comfort on the way home.
Ken started the plane. We rolled down the runway, and the plane lifted off like a graceful bird. Immediately, we ran into rough weather. The lightning flashed. The plane shuddered and bobbed in the storm. This flight was even worse than our earlier trip. But there was no fear in the cockpit. We both felt calm and at peace. The Lord had given us an immediate answer to our prayer. While the storm continued to rage on the outside, we felt total peace inside, and it lasted all the way back to Denver, where we landed safely.
Ken was so impressed with our experience that he began to study the gospel. He was baptized on 6 April 1972.
A Blessing in the Mud
I was working at my desk at the Can Tho Airfield in South Vietnam when the phone rang.
“Are you a Mormon elder?” the voice on the other end asked.
“Yes. Why?” I said.
“A Dust Off (the call sign for a medical helicopter) is making an urgent request for assistance. A navy riverboat sustained several casualties during a ferocious firefight. One of the most seriously injured men is asking for a Mormon elder. If you can come, the Dust Off will take you.”
“Be at the landing area in five minutes.”
I grabbed my helmet, flak vest, and side arm, then ran to the landing pad just a few hundred yards from my office.
The Dust Off landed, I climbed aboard, and we flew for approximately ten minutes to reach the location of the firefight. As we approached the banks of the Mekong River, we could see the tracers of machine-gun fire coming from both the navy riverboat and the Viet Cong on the opposite shore. On the southern bank of the river, we could see sailors carrying wounded and dead comrades from the flaming navy riverboat.
We landed, and I approached a navy chief who was sitting in the mud, holding a young sailor in his arms. The young man’s right arm was gone, and the bandages that covered much of his upper body were blood-soaked. A medic leaned over the boy, shook his head, and moved on to the other wounded.
“Do you know who asked for a Mormon elder?” I asked the navy chief.
“This sailor right here,” he answered.
I knelt in the mud and looked into the young sailor’s face, twisted with pain and suffering. As I knelt there, his eyes opened. I leaned over so he could hear me over the noise of the firefight and said, “I am an elder in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
In a voice so low I could barely hear it, he said, “Will you please administer to me?”
I nodded affirmatively and asked him for his full name.
Although I could see him struggle to answer me, he was unable to do so. I looked up and asked the navy chief for the boy’s full name.
“I don’t know his full name—only his last name. We just always call him Saint.”
I anointed the young man with consecrated oil and, leaning over to speak into his ear, pronounced the appropriate ordinance. I again laid my hands on his head to seal the anointing. As I invoked the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, sealing the anointing, and as I further sought the inspiration of the Lord so that I could pronounce a blessing on the young man, I literally felt the sailor’s spirit leave his body. I silently uttered a prayer, asking our Heavenly Father to bless the family of this young man. I looked again at the sailor’s face. The grimaces of pain had disappeared, and he appeared serene, almost angelic.
“He was such a good kid,” said the navy chief, with tears running down his cheeks. “He was such a good kid.”
At that moment I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was one of the Dust Off crew members. “We have to get out of here. We’re taking fire.” The entire experience had lasted only forty-five minutes.
A couple of the crew members placed the young man’s body in a body bag. Then, quickly but gently, they loaded it onto the helicopter, and we took off.
Through the years I have relived that experience over and over. I have thought of that young man’s faith, of his request—surely a prayer to Heavenly Father that the priesthood would reach him—and of the remarkable timing of his spirit’s release during the administration. And above all, I have thought much about a young man who had lived his life in such a way that his fellow sailors called him Saint.
Hurricane Hugo and High-Rise Helpers
When the weather report in September 1989 warned that Hurricane Hugo was heading for Puerto Rico, I heard several people laugh it off and say, “Oh, hurricanes never hit Puerto Rico.” After all, it had been thirty years since a hurricane had struck the island. Still, I had a strong feeling that this one would come ashore.
Unfortunately, I was right. In a few days, Hurricane Hugo crashed into the northern tip of the island of Puerto Rico with devastating force. In San Juan, where we were located, the winds roared at 140 miles per hour for more than eight hours. I watched trees break like toothpicks and house roofs fly through the air. During the height of the storm, both our electricity and water were knocked out.
We had gone inland during the actual storm, but when the winds subsided, we were allowed to go back to our home one mile from the ocean. It was a humbling sight. The whole area looked as though it had been bombed. Trees and power lines were down, buildings were smashed, cars had been overturned, and broken glass and debris were everywhere. However, we were lucky. Our home was still standing and had received only minor damage.
To my surprise, the aftermath of the storm was harder to live through than the actual storm. We were without electricity or water for two weeks—and some parts of the island were without electricity or water for more than two months. This became a real test of our preparedness, and it became an opportunity to see if our family could learn to handle our emotions and control our tempers, with the oppressive heat and humidity adding to the difficulty of these trying conditions.
Since my husband and I have both taught several emergency preparedness classes, as well as being emergency medical technicians, we had plenty of canned food, bottled water, and first-aid supplies to get us through the crisis without any problem. Since the manufacture and shipment of food was greatly hindered for several weeks, many people did not have even the necessities of life, so robberies and other crimes accelerated. We, however, had enough to share with others.
For example, since there was no electricity and we didn’t want to lose all of the meat in our freezer, we had a neighborhood barbecue. That turned out to be a good opportunity for us to share the gospel, since many of our neighbors asked why we had stored so much food. After the barbecue, our next-door neighbors offered to let us use the water from their outdoor pool to flush our toilets. We were then able to use our stored water for drinking and washing. We learned that you can never have too much water.
We found it was important to have the scriptures to read and a portable tape recorder with extra batteries. Finding entertainment through listening to tapes and reading made it much easier to cope with the crisis emotionally.
Our portable AM/FM radio kept us updated on the hurricane and then on the situation in the weeks after the hurricane hit. During this time, I shed many tears and felt great heartache for the thousands of desperate, destitute people on the island. After a week of listening to their cries for help, especially the pleas of the elderly and infirm who lived in high-rise buildings, I thought it would be a good idea to let my children become involved in helping those in need. We still had quite a bit of extra food, water, and clothes, so one afternoon, my eight-year-old daughter and I prepared backpacks full of clothes and food. My husband and my seven-year-old son took them and hiked up twenty-two steep, narrow, poorly lit flights of stairs to help a young family with small children. Then my husband and son came all the way back down the twenty-two flights of stairs and went right back up again, carrying a five-gallon container of water.
For the next few weeks, the children and I listened to the pleas for help every afternoon on the radio. Then we delivered food, water, clothes, and first-aid supplies to people who had called for help and seemed particularly desperate or vulnerable. Almost every day we hiked a minimum of ten flights of stairs carrying loaded backpacks.
We met many interesting people, including an 82-year-old Russian woman who had worked in a circus as a child. She lived on the fifteenth floor of a high-rise building that was without water, electricity, or telephone service. She had sent a note with someone to make a phone call for her—to request help. We hiked up and down the fifteen stories six times before we finished helping her. When she said she couldn’t believe that there were people in the world who were willing to help others without expecting to be paid, I told her that we were prepared to help others because of the gospel and the teachings of the Savior. She was impressed and wanted to hear more. We still keep in touch with her.
When my children heard that the orphanage had been partially destroyed, they immediately went to their rooms and pulled out clothes and toys to give to the orphans. We also prepared a box of food and included some candy, which during those trying times was hard to find.
What could have been a totally disastrous experience for all of us turned out to be a good exercise in learning patience, a test of our preparedness, and a great opportunity to live the gospel. We had enough to care for our own needs through the duration of the crisis, and we had extra to share. I know that the prophets speak by revelation when they admonish us to be prepared. I feel more urgency than ever to remain prepared with a year’s supply.
Eunice Goffe and Mertyline Scott were born during the same year in York Town, Jamaica, and grew up like sisters. The girls went to school together and played together. On Sundays, they donned their ruffled dresses and paraded primly side by side to the local church.
For twenty-two years, the girls shared everything. Then Mertyline decided to immigrate to Canada. The young ladies lost touch with each other during the next sixteen years. Eunice, who remained in Jamaica, came into contact with the missionaries, joined the Church, and eventually attended the temple.
One Sunday just before Christmas, Eunice gave the invocation in sacrament meeting in Jamaica’s May Pen Branch. Afterward, she found a seat in the congregation. The woman sitting next to Eunice looked at her for a moment.
“Do you know who I am?” the stranger asked. “Your face is familiar,” said Eunice, “but I can’t put a name to it.”
“I am Mertyline.”
People sitting around them were startled by the eruption of joyous recognition.
Eunice said of the meeting, “If I had searched the whole world for a Christmas gift, I could not have found a better present.”
Later, as the two friends talked, Eunice learned that Mertyline had also joined the Church during their sixteen-year separation. When she had come back to Jamaica for a Christmas holiday, she had sought out the nearest Latter-day Saint chapel, which was seven miles from York Town in May Pen. What a surprise it was for both of them to discover that, though separated by great distances, each had taken a similar path, recognized the truth, accepted baptism, and gone through the temple. They were still sisters—more than ever.