An Unforgettable Friend

By Cassandra Lin Tsai

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    I was in the midst of a very difficult period of my life. I had left my home in Taiwan to pursue a master’s degree at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. I missed my family terribly. As I struggled with my studies, I often felt entirely alone in a different culture.

    I vividly remember walking home one snowy day. I reached the front door, checked the mail box, and found it empty. Despondently, I climbed the stairs to my room and tried to study.

    Just at that moment, the telephone rang. The speaker introduced herself as Tamara Beard and said that she was my visiting teacher. She said that she and Greergy, her companion, wanted to visit me. Well, wasn’t that something! They were students, too, and I knew they had to be busy. I had not really expected them to make time for me. But they did, and that was the beginning of my unforgettable friendship with Tamara.

    Tamara was not flamboyant. Quiet and gentle, she reminded me of Leah in the Old Testament, who was “tender eyed” (Gen. 29:17). On the first visit, she and Greergy got acquainted with me and delivered a brief message. On other occasions they brought me little gifts, such as a wonderful quotation, a package of candy, or a birthday card. I was amazed that they would go to so much trouble.

    After a while I noticed that Tamara’s walk was becoming unsteady. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

    “I got sick,” she replied. “No big deal.” But the Relief Society president told me that Tamara had a neurological disease and that she was suffering. Each month I observed her condition gradually worsen. Still, she never stopped coming.

    One day when I answered the phone, I was surprised to hear a strange computerized voice ask, “May I speak to Lin?”

    At first I said nothing; I suspected that someone was playing a trick on me. Then I heard, “Hi, Lin. This is Tamara. I’m sorry I frightened you.” Later, Greergy explained to me that Tamara’s disease had affected her voice; she could no longer speak without the aid of a machine.

    Eventually, Tamara lost her ability to speak. But this did not stop her from keeping in touch with me. To talk on the phone, she typed a message on a special typewriter that transmitted the message to a telephone operator. When the operator received the message, she called and read it to me.

    As time went on, Tamara grew even weaker. Still, she went to the temple once a week, and we often went together. On those occasions we both felt blessed by the peace we experienced there.

    It seemed to me that she was in an unbearable situation. I was amazed that she was suffering this trial without complaint. How was she able to be happy?

    What amazed me, too, was that she seemed more concerned about me. She knew I was having trials of my own and was always urging me to smile. After a long period of prayer and fasting, I decided to go home to Taiwan. Tamara was sad to say good-bye to me, but she understood that I needed to follow the promptings of the Spirit.

    When I think of Tamara, I remember the way people were attracted to her. No one seemed to notice the illness itself, and everyone was happy to do something for her, to take her shopping or to the temple or to stop by and visit. I sometimes ask myself, What made me and everyone else so devoted to her?

    The answer is simple: It was charity—the pure love of Christ. She personified charity. She never asked for special consideration or complained about her pain. As a visiting teacher and a friend, she did everything she could to serve others and share their burdens. She taught us that caring for others—loving them—is possible—no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

    Tamara Beard DuRee is now married and living in Logan, Utah.

    Illustrated by Robert T. Barrett