Louise Clark: Out of Suffering, Compassion

“Louise Clark: Out of Suffering, Compassion,” Ensign, Mar. 1988, 63–64

Louise Clark: Out of Suffering, Compassion

The hospitals in Madison, Wisconsin, are as familiar to Louise Clark as are the halls and rooms of her own home. She’s neither doctor nor nurse, though she nurtures many.

A devastating auto accident and twenty-one years of suffering from acute rheumatoid arthritis have not prevented her from volunteering her time to help soothe the pain of hospital patients and their families.

Sister Clark is a volunteer worker with LDS Social Services in Madison, and her work brings her to the aid of pregnant teenagers as well as couples seeking to adopt a child. In addition, she finds the time to volunteer at the University of Wisconsin Hospital, where she attends families of burn and trauma patients. “As doctors and nurses concentrate on severely injured patients,” she points out, “their families are suffering. I am in charge of the family waiting room, and I try to help them cope with the great emotional pain of these highly traumatic situations.”

The mother of four grown children and wife of a University of Wisconsin professor, Sister Clark has endured crippling arthritis since the mid-1960s, having experienced fourteen operations in that time—including replacement of two knees and a hip joint.

Then, in 1977, a near-fatal car accident resulted in massive trauma for Sister Clark, who suffered numerous internal injuries and broken bones.

After a priesthood blessing, she began to improve rapidly, to the surprise of the attending physicians. She lay in traction in the hospital for four months, enduring repeated surgery to restore use of her limbs. Her husband, David, spent many hours by her side, and her children rallied to her support throughout her lengthy confinement and extensive recovery at home.

Due to the extent of her injuries, her doctors didn’t know whether she would ever walk again. Sister Clark recalls, “I was encased in a body cast and had a steel rod in my right arm.

“I wasn’t afraid I would die,” she says, “but rather, I thought that my active life was over. When I work with unwed mothers, I try to teach that their lives are not over just because they’ve made a serious mistake. How I struggled to adopt this philosophy for myself! And if there is anything I have learned through all this, it is that my active life is not over. We should never give up; life always has good things in store. This realization was most vividly impressed upon me two years ago as I strolled across Red Square while visiting Moscow after spending much time previously wondering if I would ever walk again.”

Sister Clark’s faith in the gospel through her long convalescence has deepened her appreciation for the gift of life and has drawn her into vigorous service. She is sought out by the suffering and the discouraged.

“We’re here to learn,” she says, “and, if we will learn, these bad experiences are powerful teachers. It helped a lot to grow up in the Church and live the gospel teachings. My deep faith in God had not really been tested before.”

Besides her assistance to youthful mothers and adoptive couples, Sister Clark helps place foster children, administers the “Becoming a Better Parent” program, and helps with clinical counseling. She puts in as many as one hundred hours a month working with these Social Services programs. Her service doesn’t stop at the hospital, either. She teaches Relief Society in the Madison Fifth Ward.

When she isn’t out helping others with their problems, Sister Clark passes much of her time reading.

“I like to study. If I can’t keep my body active, then I like to keep my mind active. Foreign languages are my favorite subjects to study. I sign up for credit classes so that I don’t bog down mentally.”

Louise’s outlook ahead is bright, too. “There is the possibility that David and I will go on a mission together sometime in the future. But with arthritis you don’t look too far ahead. You just make the best of each day as it arrives.”

If someone can be an expert at facing trials with a glad heart, Louise Clark qualifies.

  • Richard L. Emery, a certified public accountant, serves as public communications director in the Madison Wisconsin Stake.

Photography by Giles H. Florence, Jr.