91941_000_005Then, as that deacon stood before me, I saw the trembling in his hands, the questioning in his eyes, a pleading to know if he had done right.
It had been years since I had attended sacrament meeting at the care center. But now, representing the stake Relief Society presidency, I had come back to visit a ward conference session at the nursing home.
As the prelude music signaled the beginning of the meeting, I glanced around the room. Some of those who attended were suffering the infirmities of old age. Others had been stricken with abnormalities at birth, and their whole lives had been upward struggles. Just to sit or to be strapped to a wheelchair was an accomplishment.
To my left was a familiar wheelchair, a little apart from the semicircle. I had seen this little lady each time I had visited. Thick, straight hair, squared to the chin, framed her bony face. Her jaw was twisted and loose, and her long tongue often hung out. The rest of her body was twisted and contorted, as though her joints were trying to bend in the wrong direction. But, strapped to her wheelchair, she seemed to await the meeting as anxiously as anyone else.
We sang and prayed, and as the meeting progressed, I watched the sacrament table. One of the priests seemed confident and experienced, while the other looked nervous. Then the deacons caught my eye as they approached the table, received the trays, and began to pass the sacrament.
One of them stepped up to the woman in the wheelchair. Her arm was twisted through the bar of the arm rail; her palsied shoulder did not respond. As the deacon approached, her twisted, toothless mouth fell open. Without hesitation, he took a piece of bread and placed it on her tongue.
From across the room came a high-pitched voice: “Did you see that sweet boy give bread to Rosie?”
At the amen ending the prayer on the water, I thought, “Shall I get up and help her with that tiny cup? How will she manage?” While I sat in my chair, the same deacon gently poured the water into that helpless mouth, blessing Rosie again with his service.
I sat, ashamed at my failure to act. Then, as that deacon stood before me, I saw the trembling in his hands, the questioning in his eyes, a pleading to know if he had done right. All I had seen was his strength and compassion. I nodded and tried to reassure him with a smile.
Had he been primed or prepared for that moment, or was it spontaneous? Either way, it was a hard thing for a 12-year-old boy. And I was overcome with appreciation for a young priesthood servant quietly fulfilling just another quorum assignment.