With Love from Your Visiting Teachers

By Melinda Suttner

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    About four years ago my husband, David, and I bought an old house in Clarksville, Tennessee. We tore out all of the insides, ripped up some of the floors, replaced the wiring and plumbing, and added more rooms. It was a major undertaking! And we stayed in the house the whole time.

    We lived in a genuine construction site. At night before falling into bed, I’d rake the sawdust, sheetrock, chips of wood, and other debris from the covers. I used a large shovel, instead of a broom to clean the floors. Lumber and sheets of plywood were stacked in the living room. Cans of paint, boxes of nails, ladders, and other tools were scattered throughout the rooms.

    During the remodeling, I was pregnant with our second child. Two weeks before my due date, we stained the floors and painted the new rooms. That night, the baby started coming. We rushed to the hospital, leaving behind a house with no heating system, no windows in the front room, and no place for an infant to sleep.

    My mother and father came that afternoon, driving from their country farm 90 kilometers away. I was apprehensive about Mama coming. She and I hadn’t been on good terms since I joined the Church in 1976. But she knew I needed help, with a new baby and with the house all torn apart.

    Before going home, Mama stopped by our construction site. Overwhelmed—and a little dismayed at the living conditions her new grandchild would be brought into—she made plans to clean the house the next afternoon before I came home from the hospital.

    Mama came as planned, wearing workclothes, with a shovel, rake, and bucket in hand. To her surprise, the construction site was spotless. Lumber, plywood, paint, and tools were all neatly stacked in one room. Clean sheets were on the bed. A bassinet with a new mattress and new sheets waited for the baby. The dirty laundry was missing. Lunch for David was in the refrigerator. And a wrapped package of baby clothes and a large bag of diapers sat near the front door. The card attached read, “Congratulations! With Love, from your visiting teachers, Carol and Barbara.”

    I hardly knew these sisters—they had been called to be my visiting teachers only the month before. But when I came home from the hospital the next day, Carol brought the freshly washed laundry. Barbara brought supper.

    But something else had happened.

    Mama had taken the missionary discussions years before while I was on my mission. She had even read the four standard works and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. But her heart did not begin to soften until she saw the gospel in action.

    Mama and I had a long talk later that week. We hugged each other for the first time in years. Tears fell as we talked long into the night, and we again felt a closeness as mother and daughter.

    Now, with three daughters, my husband and I live in the western United States, some three thousand kilometers apart from Mama, and I look forward to her telephone calls and letters. For that blessing in my life I have to thank Carol and Barbara, my visiting teachers. They had come to clean a house and cook a meal. But they had no way of knowing that they were mending hearts and healing wounds and putting a family relationship back together again.

    Photography by Craig Dimond