“Grandma’s Blessing,” Ensign, Apr. 1987, 61–63
I had just graduated from college and my new job required that we move to California. For the first time in the twelve years we had been married, we lived near enough to my wife’s family that Rosanne was able to visit regularly and really become close to her parents again.
Shortly after we were settled in our new home, it became necessary for Rosanne’s grandmother to move in with Rosanne’s parents so she could be better cared for. Not long after that, Grandma had a major stroke. While she was in the hospital recovering, her doctor discovered that her diabetes, which was already severe, now would require constant attention and daily blood work to keep it under control.
To make matters worse, the cancer for which she had undergone surgery twice before had now spread throughout her body, and there was nothing more that could be done for her.
The cancer had attached itself to her lower spine and hips, and the bone had been almost entirely eaten away, leaving no support for either sitting or walking.
The doctor could do no more, and Grandma was not in a condition to return home to live with the family. So the hospital found a good nursing home where she would be as comfortable as possible until the end mercifully came. That end, as far as her doctor could determine, would not be more than a few days off, a week at the most.
The family spent as much time with her as possible. My wife, who sensed that Grandma was afraid, asked me to go to the hospital to try to explain what happened when one died.
This would be difficult. Grandma had not accepted the gospel and had refused a number of attempts to teach her in the past. I wondered how she would react to what I would try to tell her.
I did not go to the hospital that day expecting a miraculous conversion, which is just as well, because that is not what happened. I planned to explain with as much detail as possible what she would be going through, hoping that when the time came she would remember that I had known what she would experience. Then, when she was approached on the other side, she might be more open to the gospel message.
To my surprise, Grandma showed a great deal of interest in what I was telling her. She had many questions, most of which I could answer. We talked about death, but mostly we talked about life and God’s plan for her. Then we talked about the priesthood and administration to the sick.
After I had explained, she surprised me again by asking if she could receive a blessing even though she was not a member of the Church. I told her that the priesthood was on the earth to help all who desired its blessings.
I promised to return as soon as I could find someone to help with the blessing. As I turned to leave, I realized I was scared. I was about to administer to a terminally ill woman who was within days of leaving this earth. What would I say?
A lot of contemplation and silent prayer followed as I drove to get the friend who would help with the blessing. My priesthood leaders had taught me to bless the sick as prompted by the Holy Ghost, using the priesthood authoritatively. But with what blessing should we bless her? I had been taught to clear my mind and wait for the influence of the Spirit, and then to bless the person as the Spirit dictates.
Back in Grandma’s hospital room, we felt the Spirit prompt us to rebuke the diseases within her body. We promised that she would remain on the earth until she had found what Heavenly Father had for her and that she would not have to die until she made the choice to leave. Then we left her to rest.
I knew we had really laid it on the line. If she died as the doctors had said she would, how would I reconcile this experience with my faith?
Grandma didn’t die. Her strength returned, and soon she was able to sit up. Eventually she was even able to get out of bed for short periods of time. Her doctors could not understand why she was not in excruciating pain all the time, because her lower spine and hip were virtually gone. In fact, they could not explain why she was even alive.
She was allowed to go home for afternoon visits from time to time and was able to walk with the aid of a walker. She asked for and received all the discussions from the missionaries, and she read the Book of Mormon.
Two years later, during one of her visits home, when all of her children had gathered to celebrate Mother’s Day, she told her daughter, Rosanne’s mother, that she did not want to be here for the next Mother’s Day. Within the week, all was as it had been before the administration, and she passed away.
She had not been baptized, because it had been physically impossible, but there was little doubt that she was ready. She was granted additional time to prepare, and when she had finished her preparations, she left. We did her temple work for her the following summer.
Her funeral was one of the most beautiful services I have ever attended, and I know lives were touched there. Her sister and her niece have since joined the Church and have helped do the temple work for her other family members. I have learned that as the Lord supports us in our faith, he also strengthens us and gives us more.