“It’s Too Late, Mommy,” Ensign, Jan. 1999, 62
One November my daughter Kitti, a third-grader, announced she had made a new friend. As the middle child among seven children, she was the shy one. She’d never made a close friend before, and I was glad she was finally fitting in at school. Each day she came home bursting with news about Susie*, but her stories began to disturb me: Susie was mistreated by the rest of the class, Susie wanted Kitti to bring money for candy, Susie’s father was dying, Susie’s mother was dying, Susie wanted to live with us. With each piece of news I became more skeptical, and I wondered if Kitti was exaggerating her friend’s plight.
When Kitti begged me to let Susie stay overnight, I put her off. Our water pump had burned out, and we were hauling water in buckets to wash dishes and flush the toilet. Workmen tramped in and out of the house, and the floors were a mess. I felt overwhelmed by the mini-disaster my home had become.
“As soon as we get water, Susie can stay,” I promised. But the opportunity never seemed to come.
Then Kitti asked if Susie could spend Christmas Eve with us.
“Doesn’t Susie have a family she can spend Christmas Eve with?” I asked impatiently. Kitti merely looked at me and said nothing.
The day after Christmas, Kitti got a phone call. After she hung up, she said in a quavery voice, “Susie’s daddy died. Please, may I go to the funeral?”
Stunned, I wondered if that could be true. Gently I knelt and hugged my bereft little girl. “Of course you can go, sweetheart,” I said. “We’ll find out when the funeral is, and I’ll go with you.” My heart ached. Could I have misjudged the seriousness of Kitti’s stories?
I found out that the funeral was scheduled for 11 o’clock, and Kitti and I arrived on time. At 11:30, however, we were still waiting for the funeral to begin. I fidgeted, remembering everything I had to do at home.
At last the casket was carried in, and the bishop rose to conduct the service.
“I apologize for the delay,” he began. Tears streamed down his leathery cheeks. “This good man’s wife passed away at 11 o’clock. She held her terrible illness at bay long enough to arrange her eternal sweetheart’s last services. The son of this remarkable couple will give the opening prayer.”
Shock gripped me. I managed to recover enough to hold my weeping daughter close and whisper, “Maybe Susie will feel like coming to our house tomorrow.”
“It’s too late, Mommy,” Kitti replied. “Now Susie will live with her aunt. She can’t be my friend anymore.”
As my daughter wept, I couldn’t help but feel as though I had let her down and disappointed my Heavenly Father. I thought of what King Benjamin had told his people: “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). I had been so busy with affairs at home that I had not taken the opportunity to help Susie while I had the chance.
I was reminded of the Savior’s example when children were brought to Him to be blessed. His disciples “rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:13–14).
Since that day, I have noticed that service to others is not always convenient. Just as important, I learned to listen to my children. And with my Father in Heaven’s help, I hope to never again be too late to help a child in need.