When I was in nursing school we completed our study of death and dying by spending time with terminally ill patients in hospital. The assignment consisted of an entire eight-hour shift with that patient filling their psychological as well as physical needs. I can’t express how reluctant I was to face such a patient. I really felt I wouldn’t be able to do it. I even thought of telephoning the school to say I was sick, but my class grade depended upon completion of this assignment.
I felt very inadequate that day as I stepped onto the elevator of the hospital. A constant prayer had been in my heart and mind all through the night and was answered in part as the elevator ascended.
“Don’t be afraid,” the voice whispered.
I doubted back, “But what will I say? How do I talk of death to someone who isn’t a Latter-day Saint?” My mind continued, “I’m the only Latter-day Saint in my whole class … in the whole school. Some of the hospitals I work in don’t have a Latter-day Saint in them on the staff or as a patient.”
Once on the fourth floor, I looked at my patient’s medical chart. This was not our usual routine as we were to assess our patient personally before we ever went to their chart; it was part of the learning exercise. However, something told me to look at her chart before I entered the room. Everything checked out. “Eve Crisp. Terminal cancer—final phase.” But there in the corner under religious affiliation were the letters “LDS.”
Quickly I slipped into her darkened room. Her eyes dimmed by months of suffering brightened a bit as I took her hand in mine and introduced myself as Sister Cain.
We visited easily as I met her physical needs. I learned that my patient still had several children at home. She was only forty-seven years old. She spoke of the Church and a time that she had traveled to attend a general conference. It was one of her fondest memories. I mentioned the upcoming April conference broadcast that would be broadcast the following Sunday morning. She smiled.
Often during the day she would respond to the cries of a little boy down the hall who had been badly burned by saying, “Poor thing, he must be suffering so.” Her sympathy and compassion seemed overwhelming for one suffering so much herself. I marveled at her. The time came all too soon for me to leave. Before I left, I straightened her pillow and reached for her signal light on the bed sheet. As I placed it in her hand she held on to mine and answered the question I was unable to ask.
“The Lord is perfect. His plan for me is perfect and I know he loves me.”
I embraced her and moved silently out into the corridor. I took a deep breath before returning to the main desk to write a note on her chart. The note read: “Please see to it that Mrs. Crisp’s television is tuned to the LDS general conference on Sunday morning at six o’clock.” I then went to a report meeting and bore my testimony to a class of nonmembers that I could only hope would appreciate my remarks.
The following Monday, my supervising instructor called me from my class work into her office. Sister Crisp I was told had died that Sunday morning shortly after the television show she had been watching had ended. I shed tears for her that I would shed for no one else. She had taught me so much—“The Lord is perfect; his plan is perfect and I know he loves me.”