Too Much to Sacrifice


I remember when I used to dread fast Sundays. Going without food was awful. My stomach made big growling sounds all through sacrament meeting and Primary. It was embarrassing. All I could ever think about was food. And in sacrament meeting, the men and women always seemed to be crying. Mom said that it was because they felt close to Heavenly Father. I thought that it was probably because they were hungry.

That’s how I felt until something happened when I was nine years old. My younger sister, Millie, was climbing the big old tree in our backyard. No one was paying much attention to her because we were always climbing that tree. I was busy building a castle in the sandbox when I heard tree branches breaking. I looked up just as Millie hit the ground headfirst. When I ran over to see if she was all right, she didn’t move. “Millie!” I screamed. But she didn’t answer. I began screaming for Mom as loudly as I could.

Mom came running out of the house. White-faced, she bent over Millie to listen for a heartbeat and breathing. “Stay here,” she said to me. “I’m going to call the paramedics.” I didn’t know if Millie was dead or alive. I was afraid to even touch her.

Soon an ambulance and the paramedics came. After checking Millie with their instruments and bracing her head, they very carefully lifted her onto a stretcher and carried her to the ambulance. Mom got in too. Sister Lindsay, our next-door neighbor, came over to stay with my brothers, Ben and Jeff, and me. She told us that everything would be all right, but I wasn’t sure. She hadn’t seen Millie lying there.

Dad came home about eight o’clock that night so that Sister Lindsay could go home. Looking very sad, he said, “Millie broke her neck. Mom is going to stay at the hospital with her. She’s unconscious, and we can’t make her wake up. Even if she does wake up, there’s a chance that she might be paralyzed for the rest of her life.”

I wasn’t sure what paralyzed meant, so I asked, “Does that mean that she’ll never be able to walk again?”

Dad looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Yes, it does, Beth. She may not even be able to move her arms and hands.”

I was horrified. Jeff began to cry, and Ben pleaded, “Can’t they do something to make her get well?”

As Dad tried to comfort us, he said, “They’re doing everything that they know how to do. But we can do something to help Millie too.”

“If you mean prayer,” I said, “we’ve been doing that. I’ve never prayed so hard in my life.”

“I’m glad,” Dad said. “But prayer is only part of it. I called Grandma and Grandpa Wilson and Grandma and Grandpa Abbot, and they have called your aunts and uncles and cousins. Tomorrow they are all going to join with us in a special family fast for Millie.”

The next day we all fasted, and that evening Mom came home from the hospital to get some sleep. Before Dad went to take her place next to Millie’s bed, we all knelt and had a special family prayer for Millie. He told Heavenly Father that we wanted Millie to get well, but we would accept whatever He thought was best. We all felt better after the prayer.

Sometime in the middle of the night the telephone rang, and I was scared. Why would the telephone ring now, unlesssomething is wrong? I strained to hear what Mom was saying. Although I couldn’t understand all the words, she didn’t sound sad at all. I got up and went down to the kitchen.

“Oh, Beth!” Mom said as she hung up the receiver, “Millie is awake! She opened her eyes and said, ‘Daddy.’”

Ben was standing in the hall. “Can she move?” he asked.

Mom’s eyes clouded a bit. “No,” she said. “Not yet. But that doesn’t mean that she won’t. She may just need more time.”

Two days went by. The Relief Society sisters took turns staying with us kids and bringing in meals so that Mom could stay at the hospital with Millie, and Dad could go to work.

On the afternoon of the second day, the telephone rang. Sister Stevens handed it to me. I had barely said hello when Mom cried, “Oh, Beth, she moved her fingers! Millie moved her fingers!”

“Does that mean she isn’t paralyzed?” I asked excitedly.

“At least not from her waist up,” Mom replied. “I was just so happy that I wanted you to know right away. Tell the others, won’t you, Beth?”

Grandma Wilson arrived that night to stay with us. And Mom and Dad were both home for supper. Now that Millie was awake, they dared leave her for a little while. Mom said that the doctors were pretty sure that Millie would soon be able to move her toes and legs. “They said that children’s bodies mend much more quickly and better than adults’ do.”

“Mom,” I asked, “do you think that that’s why Millie is getting better?”

Smiling, she asked, “What do you think, Beth?”

My cheeks felt like they were glowing when I answered, “I think that Heavenly Father blessed her because of our fasting and prayers too.”

Dad grinned at me and said, “I’m sure of it.”

Millie had to stay in the hospital for a long time, and even after she came home, it was a long time before she could run and play like she used to. But she did get completely better.

I’m eleven years old now—almost twelve. I don’t mind fast Sundays anymore. I even understand why some people cry when they bear their testimonies—I did when I stood up to tell everyone that I knew that fasting and prayer really work.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Barbara Bailey