The Forgotten Sabbath


Today is one of those days when getting out of bed is nothing but a trial. Six o’clock is just too early for any sane soul to be up. Even the birds aren’t yet awake! And besides, it’s Sunday—a day when I should be resting from my labors. But I have to go to work, and needless to say, I’m not thrilled. But I’ll go, grudgingly. Just let me sleep ten more minutes.

My name is Jana, and that is the attitude I had on that certain Sunday morning. Even though I love my work as a nurse at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, I just wasn’t in the mood to be there.

I arrived at the hospital promptly at 7:05; I was supposed to arrive at 7:00. Seeing the time on the clock in the hall, I panicked and pushed the elevator button several times, only to see that the elevator was on the fifth floor and not coming down. No time to waste. I ran up the six flights of stairs. By the time I reached the top, I was exhausted—huffing and puffing, my heart pounding in my ears in rebellion against the sudden exertion. I was relieved to know that I was in a hospital and if I had a heart attack, someone could save me.

I went down the hall, passing the clerk who looked up from her work and said without emotion. “They’ve started without you.” I smiled and stumbled into the report room where all the other nurses were gathered, to receive instructions for the day.

In the meeting several patients were assigned to me, each with special problems and needs. I had baths to give, bed linens to change, equipment to monitor, temperatures to check, food trays to deliver, medical charts to complete, medications to administer, bandages to change, sore muscles to rub, and to top it all off, doctors to please. Unfortunately, the work was not going to get done by itself. I had no choice but to start on the work.

In the midst of all the activity, a voice came over the loud speaker in the hall, “Any patient who would like to go to church, please notify your nurse.” Oh yes, I had almost forgotten; it was Sunday. I asked each of my patients if they wanted to attend the short half-hour meeting. No one seemed interested; most were too ill or too tired. That was how I felt too. Only one little lady, Mrs. Whitmer, an arthritis and bone cancer patient, answered my question with a quiet yes. This dear woman—who was confined to bed and in pain with every movement, every touch—desired to attend the meeting.

I told the brethren conducting the meeting that Mrs. Whitmer needed to be wheeled to church in her bed. Then without delay, I hurriedly prepared her for the trip, combing her hair, washing her face, and changing her gown and bed linen. She grimaced with pain at every move, but she never uttered a word of complaint. No sooner had I finished getting her ready than the brethren came for her, and off she went. I turned my attention to other patients without giving her another thought.

The day progressed, and finally my work period was over. I could relax! Before leaving duty I checked once more on the patients who had been under my care. Mrs. Whitmer had long since returned from church and was resting calmly—and so was everyone else, thank goodness. As quickly as I had run to work that morning, I ran back to my apartment, ending another working day.

A few days later when I was working the evening shift, just as I was ready to finish, the call light went on in room 4. I thought, “Why do they wait until I’m ready to leave before they call for me?” But I really didn’t mind. I went down the hall through the darkness to the patient’s bedside. It was Mrs. Whitmer.

“Jana?” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

She reached out and gently took my hand. In a quiet, quivering voice she said, “I just wanted to thank you for helping me get to church last Sunday. I haven’t been for awhile because I’ve been so ill, and you’ll never know how much it meant to me that day to go. When I partook of the sacrament …” There was a long pause; then in trembling words she continued: “I felt God’s Spirit, and I just knew that Christ is my Savior.” And with that she began to cry. I realized that I too was shedding some tears. This beautiful woman, as weak as she was, was stronger than I had ever been. She had a glowing testimony.

I couldn’t help but recall the times when I had only gone to church out of habit, never partaking of the Spirit, though I always partook of the bread and water. I also recalled the Sunday when I prepared Mrs. Whitmer for church and how hurriedly I had done so, as if it were a burden on me. Never would I feel that way again.

The two of us cried together that night, only for a few minutes, but it was long enough to share our souls. No other words were spoken; none needed to be. The tears and the touch of our hands had said it all.

[illustration] Illustrated by Richard Brown