They Expected Last Rites
February 1987

“They Expected Last Rites,” Ensign, Feb. 1987, 40–41

They Expected Last Rites

I first heard about Sharon when my bishop requested that I go to our community hospital to administer to a woman who had been hurt in an automobile accident. I had only just returned from visiting another sister in the same hospital, which was some distance from my office. Because I had not been able to get much done that day, I really didn’t want to make that trip again and was feeling somewhat annoyed at the inconvenience. As I drove toward the hospital, my thoughts were less than positive.

Sharon and her family had been on their way home to Utah from the East when they had collided head-on with a semitruck in Illinois.

Sharon was seriously injured in the collision, with a deep cut over her eyes, a fractured arm, a broken nose, internal injuries, and a badly crushed skull. One of Sharon’s sons was killed in the accident. Another son sustained a broken leg. Her husband and the two remaining children were slightly injured.

In the hospital emergency room the doctor had examined her briefly and had told the staff he had no hope of saving her life. Sharon had asked for a priesthood blessing.

When I arrived at the hospital, another member of my ward was waiting for me, ready to help me administer the blessing.

My companion searched Sharon’s head for a spot to apply the consecrated oil—a difficult task, because her skull was so severely injured. He anointed her temple, as this was the only accessible place.

I groped for the words for her blessing. I had never administered to anyone who was dying before, and I didn’t know what to say. I gave the Spirit full rein. I remember assuring her that she would live to raise her children, that her earthly mission was not yet over, that her family still needed her, and that her injuries would heal quickly.

This was startling to the Catholic hospital’s emergency room staff, which consisted of nurses and nuns. They were expecting last rites, and they were stunned to hear us tell a woman who was mortally injured that she would be all right.

One of the nuns spoke with us after the blessing, excited to think that Sharon had a chance for recovery. The same nun called me the next day to say that Sharon wanted to see me.

She was sitting up in her hospital bed when I arrived. She had a bright smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes. She thanked me for the blessing and asked me to read from the scriptures. As I was preparing to leave, she asked me to adjust her oxygen mask, which kept slipping off her face. As I reached for the head strap, I noticed that there was no sign of her skull injury. Her head was whole, with no evidence of bleeding or broken bone.

Two weeks later, Sharon walked out of the hospital with only her arm in a sling and a small bandage on her forehead. The incident had afforded a rare opportunity for both of us. For Sharon, it was a chance to demonstrate her extraordinary faith in the priesthood; for me, it was a time to renew my commitment to render priesthood service readily whenever it is needed.

  • Richard L. Emery, a certified public accountant, serves as executive secretary in the Madison Wisconsin Stake and as high priests group leader in the Madison Second Ward.