“Seventeen Tries,” Ensign, Apr. 1996, 65–66
Because of a shortage of musicians in the ward in which I live, I found myself serving as ward organist even though I personally felt that my abilities were not equal to the task. Not long ago, when I had a bad day at the organ, I wanted to hide my face and run crying from the chapel. Then I remembered Richard.
I was in my early teens when Richard, our neighbor, graduated from high school. Richard had a promising future ahead of him. He was an extremely bright young man and had won several scholarships. He planned to serve a mission, then finish his higher education. Richard seemed to have everything going his way. The headaches he experienced before his high school graduation were attributed to his studying for finals.
Two weeks after graduation, however, Richard became extremely ill and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The doctors operated, but the effects of the tumor and the resulting surgery altered the course of Richard’s life. Richard became extremely thin and suffered a loss of muscle control. Even worse, however, was the damage done to his verbal ability. The fine workings of his mind were masked by slow, halting speech.
Soon after his surgery, he attended church and soon returned to his place at the sacrament table. Red scars could be seen through the short, thin hair on his scalp as he knelt at the sacrament table to offer one of the prayers, just as he had done many times before his surgery. This time, however, he stumbled over the words and had to begin over and over again. On the seventeenth try he was finally able to complete the sacred prayer correctly. Long before he had finished, it seemed that everyone in the congregation was silently praying with him, urging the Lord to help him and shedding quiet tears for him.
In time, physical therapy helped steady Richard’s hands and feet, and his ability to communicate also improved. Richard continued to sit at the sacrament table and serve his ward family by offering the prayer on the sacrament, though it often took him five or six tries.
As I sat at the organ that day wishing I could run away, I remembered Richard. I stayed and played on, grateful that I could even be there.