Shaking Sister Turner’s hand was like handling a delicate antique. [Names have been changed.] We had come as we did every Sunday.
“My, your hands are like ice!” she exclaimed for the 10th time in 10 visits. I smiled as I set the sacrament bread and water on the bedside table.
“It’s a cold walk from the church to here,” I explained, sweeping snow off my white shirt for effect.
“Well, where’s your jacket then?” came the quavery accusation, to which I could only shrug as usual. The slow rasp of some medical machine was the only sound as my companion priest opened the Doctrine and Covenants to find the sacrament prayers (see D&C 20:77, 79).
I thought back to when, as a new priest, I had been assigned “home sacrament.” With some embarrassment, I had had to ask who these homebound members were and where they lived. How long had I lived in this ward? Twelve years without even meeting these members?
After blessing and passing the bread, my companion handed me the open scriptures. Clearing my throat, I read the prayer with what I hoped was a voice powerful enough to match the furrowed concentration on Sister Turner’s face.
Watching Sister Turner struggle to raise the cup of water to her lips, I ached in sympathy. How did this fragile sister do it? How could she stay so pleasant after suffering immobilizing pain as long as she had? My thoughts turned to the others we would be visiting. Each of them, despite suffering terribly from the effects of sickness or old age, exemplified endurance, compassion, and love. Each of them had a treasure trove of stories, studded with gems of wisdom. But most of them, as the beeping machines attested, had little time left. Why hadn’t I discovered these treasured brothers and sisters long ago?
As we rose to leave, Sister Turner predictably joked, “You have to be 102 to get this sort of service.” We chuckled and wished her a fond “See you next week,” with a silent “we hope.” We stepped out into the snow with the fervent thank-you from Sister Turner’s daughter still in our ears. We sometimes doubted whether or not Sister Turner remembered us, but we never doubted that she sincerely appreciated our visits.
We knocked at another door. “Come in, boys! I was hoping you would come today!”
I smiled again as I shook the snow out of my hair. “Sister Holt! It’s a pleasure to see you!” And it was.