When I was in grad school at Notre Dame, Natasha and I were both pretty young. Chandler was 16 months old when I started and Carson was born during mid-terms of my first semester. When my first year was almost complete, we moved into The Village - the ominous-sounding married student housing at ND. We quickly became acquainted with dozens of other couples who shared our situation - young family, struggling to find home/school balance, excited for what the future held beyond the borders of South Bend. The apartments were tiny (450 square feet), but so was the rent ($350 per month). It wasn't heaven, but we felt at home and loved the communal playground, when it wasn't covered in snow or too hot and humid to breathe outside.
In one of the neighboring apartments there was a young family (law student) with a special trial unfolding right in front of us. They had a young daughter who had a brain tumor. Betsey was the sweetest little girl. Natasha will likely correct me on this, but I believe she was just about Chandler's age. Betsey spent many months in radiation and chemotherapy and slept in a hospital bed in our little apartment complex when she wasn't in Indianapolis receiving more treatment for the devastating cancer that was destroying her body.
Now to get to the crux of this post. We lived in the same apartment complex with Betsey and her family for over a year (minus the summer when we were gone for an internship) and I didn't do enough to ease their burden or offer comfort. Chandler and I went to the hospital to play with Betsey for a few hours one day and we would occasionally play with her outside, helping her on the slide, but in hindsight, my total effort was meaningless. Never once did I put my arm around her father and ask if there was anything I could do, or express my sympathy at their plight. Betsey died not long after we graduated and moved away, disappearing from my memory until a few weeks ago.
I had a wealth of excuses for why I couldn't/didn't do much of anything for Betsey and her family. I could probably fill a whole notebook page. But none of that matters. In the eyes of those who suffer and in the eyes of the Lord, action is everything, intention is foolishness.
During Clara's hospitalization, we have been blessed by so many people in so many different ways. The smallest gesture means the world to us, and especially to Clara. Even those who don't really know what to say or what to do provide so much comfort and strength just by praying for Clara and our family. In my personal life, it's time for a change. We have been shown so much compassion and kindness for the past month, I would have to be a complete fool not to learn something from this.
During last October's General Conference of our church, President Henry B. Eyring related the following personal story:
We need not worry about knowing the right thing to say or do when we get there. The love of God and the Holy Spirit may be enough. When I was a young man I feared that I would not know what to do or to say to people in great need.
Once I was at the hospital bedside of my father as he seemed near death. I heard a commotion among the nurses in the hallway. Suddenly, President Spencer W. Kimball walked into the room and sat in a chair on the opposite side of the bed from me. I thought to myself, “Now here is my chance to watch and listen to a master at going to those in pain and suffering.”
President Kimball said a few words of greeting, asked my father if he had received a priesthood blessing, and then, when Dad said that he had, the prophet sat back in his chair.
I waited for a demonstration of the comforting skills I felt I lacked and so much needed. After perhaps five minutes of watching the two of them simply smiling silently at each other, I saw President Kimball rise and say, “Henry, I think I’ll go before we tire you.”
I thought I had missed the lesson, but it came later. In a quiet moment with Dad after he recovered enough to go home, our conversation turned to the visit by President Kimball. Dad said quietly, “Of all the visits I had, that visit I had from him lifted my spirits the most.”
President Kimball didn’t speak many words of comfort, at least that I could hear, but he went with the Spirit of the Lord as his companion to give the comfort. I realize now that he was demonstrating the lesson President Monson taught: “How does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.”