Hope in the Night

“Hope in the Night,” Ensign, June 1995, 60–61

Hope in the Night

It had been one of the grayest, coldest days of a seemingly endless winter, and I felt a deep chill that would not go away. I laid my head on the pillow of my bunk at the ambulance station with the numbing exhaustion that comes toward the end of a 24-hour shift after responding to nonstop calls. With the stress of work and schooling and the demands of a young family, I felt a desperate need for quiet, uninterrupted rest. I hoped for at least a few hours of sound sleep before my early-morning class at the university. At last warmth began to return as I huddled under the blankets, and sleep began to overtake me.

Then the shrill blast of the alarm brought me fully awake, and the mechanical voice of the dispatcher gave brief directions: “Unit 115, respond to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center for a patient transport to the University of Utah Medical Center.” It took a moment for the message to sink in: a ninety-mile round trip awaited me. We would probably have to stay in Salt Lake City for hours as the tests on the patient were run. The wind was blowing, it was snowing, the cold was bitter, and the drive would be dangerous. I felt defeated as I threw on my jacket and headed for the ambulance. We probably wouldn’t be back in time for my class, and I would miss an important test.

At the hospital, we found that the patient we were to transport was a twenty-year-old woman. Her chart indicated that she was being treated for leukemia; she had undergone a painful bone marrow transplant followed by extensive radiation and chemotherapy. She had lost all her hair, her skin was red and peeling, and her every waking moment was filled with pain. In contrast, the picture next to her bed showed a beautiful and vibrant young woman. In Salt Lake City, she was to undergo testing that would probably confirm that her cancer was growing unabated in spite of the physicians’ best efforts.

Through broken, cracked lips she whispered her apologies for causing us to be out so late at night, in such inclement weather, for her sake. As we moved her to our stretcher, her body went rigid and her fists clenched against the pain.

It was my partner’s turn to drive, so I rode in back with the woman and her husband, who had been given permission to ride with her. As his wife drifted in and out of sleep, the husband explained that she had been diagnosed with leukemia shortly after their marriage a year earlier. They had been fighting it since then, supported by the prayers, faith, and love of their families and friends. It was clear that her illness had taken a heavy toll on him as well. His face was haggard, and his bloodshot eyes were underlined by dark circles that spoke of worry, grief, and sorrow. Knowing that he carried a burden I hoped never to bear, I was impressed by the patience, care, and love that he repeatedly expressed for his wife as she would arouse from her fitful sleep. In spite of her pain, she responded with appreciation.

When the tests were finished at the hospital in Salt Lake City, the attending physician explained with as much tact as possible that, as suspected, the cancer had spread throughout the young woman’s body and would soon overwhelm her. The doctor left, the husband let his breath out slowly, and a depressed silence settled in the room.

Because of the requirement that I stay with the patient at all times, I overheard the young couple’s tender conversation as they talked openly about their future together, which they knew would be very short. I was comforted by the well-placed faith and hope in eternal life that they expressed. I thought of Him who promised that “the spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form … and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost” (Alma 11:43–44).

As we made our way south on the highway again, the landscape slowly came to life with the rising of the sun. The couple spoke of happy times they had shared, and of sorrow for plans that would never be fulfilled in this life. They spoke of eternal ties that bound them together, and of gratitude for a loving Savior who made their hope for reunion possible. A ray of new sunlight slipped over the mountains and filled our compartment. The reflection of that early morning light in the young couple’s eyes brought to mind words of the Savior: “I am the light which shineth in darkness” (D&C 6:21); “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

The young woman died soon after that long night. I was grateful to know of the hope she and her companion shared and to realize that we all can share in it, regardless of what our own day-to-day difficulties may be.

I do not remember how I did on the test that I took the morning after, nor do I recall when or how I finally caught up on my rest, but I do remember well how the night that began in misery and darkness ended in light and hope.