Too Busy to Help?


I didn’t see how I could fit Sister Brown into my crowded schedule.

As I looked at my watch, I could see I didn’t really have time to make one more visit. Besides, it wouldn’t be a quick visit; the sister I wanted to see was in a hospital some distance away. My teenage daughter was with me, and I knew she would groan and ask me to take her home first. I also knew that if I did so, I would end up postponing the whole trip, since it really was time for me to get dinner started for my family of seven.

My mind quickly scanned the prospects of another chance I might have to see Sister Brown within the next few days. I was busy with my duties as a Relief Society president, president of a community group, college student, wife, and mother. Finally I had to admit that this would be the closest I would come to “having time,” so my daughter and I commenced the 20-minute journey to the hospital.

Finding a parking space proved frustratingly difficult. We were forced to drive around and around until, after following a woman to her car, we were able to park at last. We rushed into the hospital lobby and were directed to the correct room, but we had to wait in the corridor while two ambulance attendants gathered a patient and all her belongings for transport elsewhere. The hall was congested, and waiting for it to clear took several more moments of precious time. Suddenly, as the patient was wheeled past us, my daughter whispered, “Isn’t that Sister Brown?” I strained to look. Sure enough, it was.

We tried to get the attention of the ambulance workers long enough to find out where they were going. Although they were preoccupied, we were able to learn that they were moving her to a convalescent home almost across the street from the hospital. I knew it would take several minutes for them to move their patient to the new location and for us to relocate there. My daughter was restless, and dinner was going to be late—again—so I reasoned that perhaps I could visit Sister Brown sometime later in the week. But after a few moments’ thought, I decided we had better stay and do what we could to help her get settled in her new surroundings.

We made our way to the new facility, found a parking place, and went in. The personnel at the front desk seemed uninterested in being bothered by us while they were trying to accomplish their myriad tasks, so we hovered near the ambulance attendants until they situated Sister Brown and her belongings. An agitated nurse finally told us we could go in.

Sister Brown was lying uncomfortably in her new bed, dismayed and somewhat dazed from the transfer. Her face seemed to soften when, in her sea of pain and helpless aloneness, she spotted my familiar face. I was glad I was there. I remembered how many times in the past she had told me that she would never live in a convalescent home, and yet here she was. At 93, she was the oldest person in our ward, and we had all wondered how much longer she could maintain her own apartment—a feat she had needed much help to do.

After a few moments of exchanged greetings, she informed me of a medical problem that had not been taken care of before she left the hospital and that badly needed attention now. I braved the ire of the nursing staff again to find out when the required service could be performed. They were not happy to see me, but I persisted until they assured me it would be done. Returning to Sister Brown’s bedside, I was able to take care of little necessary tasks, help her adjust in bed, and arrange to take home some things she was afraid to leave in her room. My daughter and I stayed until Sister Brown was fully settled and until I was sure she would get the further care she needed. At last we left for the drive home and I was able to return to my patiently waiting, hungry, but understanding family.

Sister Brown died that night. Her nephew called the next morning to let me know. He said that he had visited with her that last evening and that she seemed at peace and was much more comfortable than she’d been earlier that day.

Sometimes it seems that only in stolen moments can we perform certain small acts of service. I’ve often thought how unwise it is when, after feeling prompted to help someone, we decide to wait for a “better” time. Is there really going to be a better time than now?

[illustration] Illustrated by Michael Malm

Margie Reneer Gee serves as a Relief Society teacher in the Burbank Third Ward, North Hollywood California Stake.