Quarts of Love
That fall had been an especially difficult time for me. I don’t remember why I was so down and out, but I do remember how hollow and sad and desperate I felt. I didn’t see any answers in sight. I didn’t know if I could keep going.
In the midst of this depression, I received a phone call from Leona Torney, a widow in her late seventies and one of the best gardeners in our ward. Sister Torney had blessed many people with the literal fruits of her labors.
She had called to tell me that Sister Donna Fifield’s golden delicious apples were all on the ground. Sister Fifield, another elderly widow in our ward, wasn’t interested in picking up her windfall.
“I just can’t bear to see those beautiful apples on the ground, Kathy,” Sister Torney said. “I thought you might like to go over there and get them so you could make applesauce for your boys.”
I thanked Sister Torney sincerely and said I’d try to get over there in the next few days. I knew that I probably wouldn’t get to those apples because I was barely making it through each day. But I didn’t want to tell Sister Torney that.
Four or five days slipped by, and I never went to pick up the apples. On Saturday afternoon, I spoke with a friend in the ward who mentioned that Sister Torney had brought her a big bushel of delicious apples. Linda was thrilled with the gift. I was relieved that I didn’t have to worry about the apples, and I resolved to tell Sister Torney how pleased Linda was so she would know her thoughtfulness had been well received.
The next day at church, I pulled Sister Torney aside and apologized that I had never made it over to pick up the apples. “But I wanted you to know how pleased Linda was. I talked to her yesterday, and she said she was so grateful for the apples you brought to her!”
That night, my spirits began crumbling under the pressure of carrying too much for too long. I had been weary through the whole fall, and now it was the first week of November. I remember crying to the Lord that I could not see any light at the end of the tunnel.
My help came Tuesday morning. Sister Torney called around ten o’clock. “Kathy,” she began, “I’ve been thinking about you ever since Sunday. I just wanted to do something for you. I’ve made you twelve quarts of applesauce, and I wondered if you could come and pick them up.”
Tears started rolling down my cheeks. Twelve quarts of applesauce! I couldn’t imagine anyone making twelve quarts of applesauce and then giving them all away! I thought of Sister Torney picking up all those apples, carting them home, putting them through the grinder, cooking the sauce, bottling it. To imagine that she had done all of that—a full day’s work—for me! I couldn’t stop the tears.
I went right over. She had loaded the quart jars into two big kettles.
“Kathy, I just kept thinking of you,” she repeated, as she filled my arms with applesauce and love.
I don’t know if Sister Torney will ever know how much her gift meant to me. I was overwhelmed by her love; it broke my depression. I knew that she had been thinking of me because the Lord had heard my prayers. I knew the applesauce—and her concern—were gifts from Him, given from someone who listened.
My three little boys and I sat right down and had a big bowlful each. Joseph liked it so much that he ate a whole quart at one sitting. I called to tell Sister Torney how much we had all enjoyed it—especially Joseph. She was amazed and amused to hear that he had eaten a whole quart.
Two days later, when I returned the kettles to her, Sister Torney was ready. She had made twelve more quarts of applesauce. “For Joseph,” she said.
But it was really me who benefited from her thoughtful gift. I returned home not only with applesauce but also with a testimony that my prayers had been heard and that I was not alone.
“Our Anxieties Were Swept Away”
I should have known that something was wrong. I had been a nurse for almost twenty years, and I should have sensed that it was more than “shortness of breath.”
I had gone to a production at Brigham Young University with my parents, my sister, and my husband, Art. I had some difficulty in breathing but didn’t pay much attention to it. As I was climbing a flight of stairs after the performance, though, I became frightened; I now had slight chest pain along with the awful sensation of not being able to breathe.
It was the summer of 1980. I was two months pregnant—and so happy about it. Art and I had four children—four wonderful girls—and were eager to have more children. When we learned that we were expecting a baby, our whole family rejoiced.
But after I felt that pain in my chest, I knew something was wrong. I went to the doctor on July 14, a Monday. No specific problem was evident, and I returned home. But the symptoms continued, so I went back to his office on Thursday. This time it was evident that I had a blood clot in my lung, and I was admitted to the hospital, having suffered a pulmonary embolism—a serious and life-threatening situation.
It was necessary that I receive anticoagulants to make my blood thinner. There was, however, the crucial question about the effect this might have on the tiny fetus that was just developing; it was likely there might be significant damage to that little body.
Art and I were advised to consider an abortion. It would be as much for my health and safety as to prevent serious damage to our unborn child.
We wrestled with the thought. We tried to obtain more information, but there was little available. The decision was ours.
On Sunday, July 20, we fasted with our families. A few family members gathered in my hospital room that day, and my father gave me a priesthood blessing I shall never forget.
There have not been many times in my life when I have felt the presence of the Spirit as I did at that particular moment. The Spirit promised me, through my father, that the baby would be born healthy and that there would not be any serious problems during the pregnancy or the delivery.
On July 27 I began receiving injections of heparin, a medication that helps prevent clots from forming in the blood. I was released from the hospital on July 29, and I continued with the heparin injections for the next four months. I had to give myself three injections every twenty-four hours.
September 12 was a great day for me—that day I felt the first movement of the baby growing within me.
On October 20, Art went with me to my appointment with the doctor. I was still feeling life, and the baby was becoming very active. On November 3, we talked seriously with the doctor about going to full term, without inducing labor or making anything more difficult for the baby. Everything seemed to be going well.
Then, as the “finale” of what has been a miracle in our lives, Holly was born on Friday, February 13! She was perfect in every way. All our anxieties were swept away in the joy of the arrival of our healthy baby, here on earth to experience her second estate as part of our family.
After I joined the Church, I was introduced to the exciting work of searching for my kindred dead. What could be more natural than to want to share with them what I now held sacred?
At one point I found myself searching for my mother’s family, the Greenlaws—a family who left Scotland and settled in Maine. My research ultimately brought me to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Hall in Washington, D.C., which is not far from my home in Maryland. The decision to look there changed my life—and the lives of several others—forever.
The night before my trip to the DAR Hall, I was waked from a sound sleep by a man’s voice saying gently but insistently, “Find Iby.” He pronounced the name “Eye-bee.” I awoke thinking someone was actually in the room, but since the voice had a calm tone and delivered a nonthreatening message, I wasn’t afraid. I looked, saw no one, and concluded that I had just had a very realistic dream. Twice more that night, however, I awoke with the same voice urging me to “find Iby.”
In the morning, I discussed the unusual experience with my wife, Jeannie. There were no Greenlaws with that name, but after some thought, she recalled that the earliest recorded members of the Johnson family—her father’s line—were Benjamin and Isabell, who was called “Iby.”
I drove to Washington with the Greenlaws on my mind. I knew that the head of the committee that planned the Johnson family reunion each year was a man who, for almost a quarter of a century, had served faithfully as clerk of court for Chatham County, North Carolina. During that time, he had combed all the courthouse records under his dominion for information that might lead to Ben and Iby’s origins and their parents’ names. Each year he had been forced to report that no new information had been found.
Accordingly, I had no illusions that four hours with DAR records 350 miles away from Ben and Iby Johnson’s home could reveal what twenty-five years of research with the original records had failed to find.
Consequently, I spent three and one-half of the allotted four hours in total frustration, looking at records of what seemed to me to be the most prolific family in the early American Northeast. There were many complete Greenlaw families, but none was in my direct line.
Finally, the memory of that gentle voice came once more: “Find Iby.” With reluctance, awed by the monumental futility of the task, I went to the North Carolina section and pulled at random a blue-covered typewritten manuscript from the shelf.
My heart sank when I realized what I held in my hands. The volume was a compilation of early wills on file at the Chatham County courthouse. What could be more useless! The data in that book had been collected from the indexes maintained and reviewed by the head of the Johnson family reunion—my wife’s relative, the clerk of court for Chatham County.
In almost complete frustration, but still with a little half-hopeful prayer, I flipped open the book and stared at the page displayed.
In that moment, several lives were changed forever.
On that page, before my eyes, the typewritten title of a misfiled document declared that what followed was the will of Samuel Gillmore.
Samuel left property to his daughter Isabell, also known as Iby, and to her husband, Benjamin Johnston (not Johnson) of Gulf.
Two little things—a misfiled will and a name change.
I had found Iby. I had found her because someone wanted her found. I had found her because I could help her. I had found her because the work of vicariously performing baptisms and other ordinances for the dead truly is a part of the plan of a loving Heavenly Father who wants us all to return to him.
Manoli’s First Fast
For many years we have been conducting a home Relief Society once a week in our small town in Spain. Since the majority who attend are women of other faiths, at first we avoided teaching the doctrinal lessons in the Relief Society manuals. But gradually we began including Spiritual Living lessons.
One morning I prayerfully searched for a topic that would inspire the women. “What should the women hear this week, Father?” I prayed.
Then I came across a lesson on prayer and fasting. I felt inspired that this one should be given, but I also wondered how the idea of fasting would come across to those who were not members of the Church. I decided to follow the inspiration, having learned long ago not to question the promptings of the Spirit.
The class went well, and many mistaken ideas and doubts were cleared up. The women began to understand that fasting, used together with prayer, is a powerful tool anyone can use. As I was leaving, a woman who rarely came to our meetings came up to me and asked, “Can I fast, too?”
“Why, of course you can, Manoli,” I replied. “Anyone can fast. Heavenly Father makes no distinctions among his children.”
Manoli was visibly upset as she continued. “You see, my mother has been in a mental hospital for two years. She has become worse lately and doesn’t even recognize me or my sister. We feel so helpless going to see her. It hurts me so much to see her like that.”
I told Manoli I would begin a fast with her. We started with a prayer. As we got up from our knees, I explained that Heavenly Father always answers prayers and fasting, but in his time and in his way.
The next day Manoli’s sister told Manoli that the hospital staff had stopped giving their mother her regular sedatives because her condition had markedly improved. She was free from the agony she had experienced previously and was peacefully lying in bed. Their mother died the following day.
I learned a great deal from this experience. I know that Heavenly Father had Manoli in mind when he inspired me to give a lesson that prepared two sisters for their mother’s death.