Accepting the Lord’s Answer
My son Kelly braced his heels against the ambulance stretcher on which he lay, and with one arm reaching toward me he pleaded, “I want on your lap.” With brimming eyes and aching heart, I tried to soothe him: “Not now, Kelly. We’ll take you to the hospital, and the doctor will make you better.”
These words gave little comfort to a two-year-old who had always found refuge in my arms, but I couldn’t take him on my lap this afternoon. He was restricted by the intravenous lines in his arm and in his ankle that delivered blood to keep him alive. And moving him might have increased his internal bleeding. He couldn’t understand why, but I could not take him in my arms to comfort him. Then he lapsed into unconsciousness again, and I continued praying silently.
I had been praying since I realized Kelly was hurt. Partially supported by his six-year-old sister, he had walked toward me with a vacant look on his face, his legs moving in a limp, mechanical way, scuffing up the Arizona desert sand. “Mama,” Kathy called to me, “a horse kicked Kelly!” There were no tears, no sign of pain, only an odd look on his face and a puppetlike movement of his legs. Then he collapsed. I ran to him and lifted his limp form. Seeing the rolling of his eyes, I was engulfed with terror. Instinctively I prayed, “Oh, Father, help him,” as I ran to the car.
Laying Kelly on the front seat, I called to my other three children, “Stay here! I don’t have time to wait for you.” Then I sped toward the small Indian reservation hospital half a mile away. I carried Kelly from the car to the hospital, where a white-coated man directed me to the emergency room. As I explained what had happened, several nurses and doctors converged at the examination table. “Get an IV started,” a doctor ordered. Within seconds a nurse had started an IV in Kelly’s arm.
“He’s losing blood too fast. Get another one in his ankle,” directed the doctor. Kelly’s vein had already collapsed, so the doctor made an incision to find another vein. Only an occasional click of instruments or a muttered half sentence disturbed the dreamlike quality of the scene as five persons worked intently over the motionless little figure, their white uniforms spotless under the gleam of the surgical lights.
No one had explained what was wrong with my son or how seriously he was injured. Being left to guess, I alternated between hope and hopelessness. Feeling helpless and nauseated, I wandered into the hall. Resting my head on my hand, I did the only thing I could: pray. “Father, I beg Thee to preserve his life. And please don’t let him feel the pain.”
A doctor came out the swinging doors and spoke to the admitting nurse: “Call the air base and find out how soon they can get a helicopter here. We’ve got to get him to Tucson. This boy needs surgery, and we can’t do it.”
Since a helicopter crew couldn’t be assembled in less than 30 minutes, the doctor decided an ambulance would get Kelly the 60 miles to Tucson faster. As Kelly was lifted onto the ambulance stretcher, he opened his eyes and looked around for me. A nurse pointed to me and cheerfully said, “There’s your mama.” She turned to me and said, “He’s perking up a bit now.” The terrible weight of fear lifted slightly.
Kelly hovered on the edge of consciousness for most of the race to Tucson. I watched as his belly swelled slowly, filling with blood. The two transfusions couldn’t keep pace with his loss of blood, and he drifted more frequently into unconsciousness.
As we neared Tucson, a highway patrolman, who had been waiting for us, pulled from the side of the road and escorted us to the hospital with sirens blaring. When we pulled up to the hospital, a man in green scrubs ran out. He opened the ambulance door and, being careful not to disturb the IVs, rolled Kelly away from me. As the metal doors swung between us, Kelly cried out, “Mama! Mama!”
Inside the waiting room I was amazed to see my sister-in-law. She said that a friend on the reservation had called and was taking care of my other children. A little later a woman handed me a pad of forms and asked, “Will you sign here? This authorizes exploratory surgery.” I signed. Then there was nothing to do but wait.
Moments later my husband came. He embraced me without words, and we sat in silence. Gradually other friends and neighbors arrived, and one asked a nurse if we could use an empty room for prayer. In an unused office we bowed our heads, and my brother-in-law prayed: “Father, restore this child to health if it be Thy will. And send Thy Spirit to comfort his parents.”
I felt strength and consolation engulf me as warmth comes over a person entering a heated room from the cold outside. I didn’t feel assurance Kelly would get well, but I knew that whatever happened, the Lord was overseeing events and I could bear it.
Four hours later a doctor reported that our son had a 50–50 chance of living. An hour later another doctor approached us to explain more completely. “Your son’s liver has been shattered. We’ve tried to sew it together, but he’s lost twice his normal supply of blood. Despite constant transfusions, he’s in shock. If he can come out of shock, he’ll probably live, but right now his chances are very poor.”
When at last a nurse showed us to the intensive-care ward, I was shocked at the blue shadows on Kelly’s face. I could hardly feel this was my son. His body seemed an empty shell left behind by a spirit already departed to another place. Through the night we watched as he drew his breath at longer and longer intervals.
At 6:30 the next morning Kelly drew his last breath. Shortly afterward I left the hospital mourning but dry eyed, still strengthened by the warm consolation that had come over me during our family prayer. A loving Father in Heaven had answered no to our prayers that Kelly might live. But He had carried me in His arms of love, and His Comforter had brought me peace.
A Collision with Compassionate Service
In late May one year, my husband and I loaded up our car for a long-planned trip up the coast from Los Angeles, California, to Seattle, Washington. We had set aside three weeks for a leisurely trip. On the fourth day of our vacation, we proceeded up Route 101 into Oregon. Then, in a moment, our lives changed when a car ran a stop sign and collided with our car.
Though conscious, we were both severely injured. As we waited in the wreckage, a crowd gathered. Soon police arrived, then an ambulance. As they placed me in the ambulance, I saw another ambulance arrive that would take my husband to the same hospital. Without my knowledge, my husband, who was not a member, asked the attendant if it would be possible to call someone from the Church to come to the hospital and give me a blessing. My operation took a number of hours, but when I became conscious, two elders were waiting to administer to me.
My husband and I had extensive injuries and were confined to the hospital for two weeks. As soon as we were moved from the intensive care unit to a regular room, the bishop of the Coos Bay Oregon Ward and other ward members began making daily visits to us, two complete strangers.
Two weeks later our insurance benefits were exhausted, and the hospital relocated us to a motel where a therapist, nurse, and doctor would make regular daily visits. This was fine, except we had no way to eat. We called a nearby fast-food restaurant and had them deliver a meal. When my husband painfully got up to answer their knock, one of the ward members happened by to visit. From that moment on, our lunch and dinner were supplied by the people of the Coos Bay Ward. Never have our blessings over meals been more heartfelt.
After another week of rehabilitation, the doctor decided we could be moved to our home and continue healing there. However, we were a thousand miles from home and confined to wheelchairs, with only a demolished car for transportation. Again, the members of the Coos Bay Ward extended needed help.
At the appointed time, a ward member arrived at our doorstep with a van especially equipped for wheelchairs and assured us that it would be no problem to transport us to the airport, located two hours away. The outpouring of goodwill and compassion from the people of that ward will always stay with us.
When we arrived in Long Beach, California, the members of our own ward were waiting to take us home. Upon arrival we saw that our house had been cleaned by the Young Women of the ward, and meals had been prepared. From that day until we were able to take care of ourselves, meals were brought to our home and transportation to doctor appointments was furnished by ward members. This unselfish service continued for months until we were able to once again walk and take care of ourselves.
The love and compassionate service rendered so freely by the members of the Coos Bay Oregon Ward and the Long Beach Third Ward will forever live in our hearts. We are grateful for the concepts of compassionate service the gospel teaches, and we have learned firsthand how meaningful it can be in the lives of people.
The Priesthood in My Hands
It was the start of a fine spring day in Spain in 1983, and the barracks seemed more confining than usual. But I was looking forward to this day because in the midst of my yearlong mandatory service in the Spanish military, I had been given a one-day leave. I took great care in dressing so no flaw in my uniform would prevent me from passing inspection and leaving. My plan was to take a military bus to the city of Burgos, meet my friend Ricardo, and spend the day with him.
I had no problems with the inspection, and soon I met Ricardo, who was waiting with his car in Burgos. To my surprise, he had brought along a mutual friend, a young woman named Mari Carmen. I had first met Mari Carmen while she was serving as a missionary in Galicia, the region of Spain I am from. I was delighted to see her again, and the three of us decided to spend the day at a nearby park.
Ricardo parked his car at a quiet spot on the banks of the Arlanzón River, and we talked about our lives and the experiences we were having. I told them that the army had really put me to the test, spiritually speaking. Despite some pressure, I was keeping the commandments. But I felt bad that I was not able to exercise the Melchizedek Priesthood, which I hold, because there were no opportunities to do so. At times I had even wondered if I was still worthy of those divine powers.
Mari Carmen told us that she, too, was having a difficult time. She was seeing a man who had asked her to marry him, and she felt overwhelmed with the importance of making the right decision.
When the day drew to a close, Mari Carmen asked me if I would give her a priesthood blessing for additional strength and guidance. I was surprised at her request and also apprehensive. I did not feel prepared to give her a blessing, nor did I feel I could give her the help she needed. But at her insistence I decided I would try.
We went back to the car, and Mari Carmen sat in the front while Ricardo and I sat in the back. I asked Ricardo to say a prayer first so the Spirit would inspire my words and the power of the priesthood would be with me. His prayer immediately brought me a feeling of peace, and my fears vanished.
Then, assured that we were in a quiet place and would not be disturbed, I placed my hands on Mari Carmen’s head. As I began to speak, words of comfort and encouragement came abundantly to my lips. I have never been able to remember exactly what I said, but when I finished, my heart was filled with emotion and Mari Carmen’s face was bathed in tears. She told me the things I had said were exactly what she needed to hear. She now felt she could make a correct decision concerning the marriage proposal.
Ricardo quickly moved into the driver’s seat so he could get me back to the bus stop on time. Before I knew it, I was saying good-bye to my friends and boarding a dirty military bus. But even the marked contrast in environment could not erase the feeling that had come over me—the assurance that the Lord blesses people by the power of the priesthood. As I lay on my bunk that night, I again felt an overpowering sensation of peace pass through my being. I was grateful to my Father in Heaven for His confidence in me.
Seven or eight months later, my friend Ricardo was married, and I went to Madrid to attend his wedding. Mari Carmen was also there with her husband, Fernando, the man she had told us about. Fernando gripped my hand firmly and looked me in the eye. “I am so grateful,” he said, “that you were able to give a blessing to the person who is now my wife. Thank you very much.”
His words left a deep impression on me. I cannot imagine a greater privilege than acting in the name of the Lord to bless the lives of people like Mari Carmen and Fernando.
The year was 1948. World War II had been over for three years, and Hungary was occupied by Russian troops. In Vienna, Austria, just a four-hour train trip from Budapest, I was working as a hostess at the American Red Cross recreational club for American servicemen. One day two young GIs invited me and another hostess to join them on a trip to Budapest to visit their friends and attend an industrial fair. Through some finagling, they had been granted passes to cross what we had heard was an uncrossable border into Hungary.
Nervous but excited to travel behind the “Iron Curtain,” we boarded the train to Budapest. We arrived at the border, which was complete with barbed wire, concrete barriers, land mines, and grim-faced guards. After having our luggage searched, we were allowed into Hungary.
For three days we visited with the Hodasz family. Their daughters Mary, Stefy, and Lilly were about my age. We talked for hours. They spoke perfect English, having lived in New York in the early 1930s. Our friendship blossomed.
A few weeks after my visit to Budapest, I wrote to the family. Mary and Lilly wrote back, and we began exchanging letters. Sometimes months would go by without hearing from them, and I was tempted to stop writing. But each time I thought that, something said to me, “Don’t stop writing.” So I kept in touch. Soon these sweet women seemed like my sisters and like my children’s adopted aunts.
As the years passed, I spoke of the gospel in my letters to the Hodasz family, telling them about God and about how I lived my life as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Papa Hodasz got a Book of Mormon after the 1956 revolution and read it. Before his death he said, “If I had the chance, I would join the Church.”
Three of our daughters and their friends visited the Hodasz family while participating in travel-study programs. They delivered hugs, Church books, and copies of the Ensign to my friends.
In the 1970s, after Papa Hodasz died, Mama Hodasz gave me permission to have temple ordinances performed for several generations of her family. “If you feel so strongly about it,” she wrote, “it must be right.” After we completed the temple work, I received a letter from Mary saying that she had had a dream and felt a great peace that all her relations had accepted the gospel.
Yet Mary and Lilly were now growing older without the benefit of being baptized into the Church. The Iron Curtain’s steely barrier kept the gospel from spreading into Hungary. I often thought they wouldn’t have the joy of the gospel during this life.
Then the Iron Curtain suddenly crumbled, and Hungary was opened to missionary work in 1988.
Forty years had passed since Mary and Lilly had first heard about the Church. Because of our continued correspondence and visits, the sisters were well acquainted with gospel teachings when they met the missionaries. I wept as I heard of Mary’s baptism in 1989, with Lilly’s following soon after.
Today Mary and Lilly are active members of their branch. Mary wrote, “Now that we are sisters in Jesus Christ truly, I ought to write more often. But as a Church member, I’m quite busy now, translating for visiting authorities.”
Mary and Lilly are indeed my sisters in the gospel, and we are united spiritually as never before. I feel that our Heavenly Father brought us together in 1948 for a purpose only He could see at the time. I am grateful that I never gave up writing to my friends, even though we spent such a short time together those many years ago.