It Took a Tragedy

“It Took a Tragedy,” Ensign, Mar. 2000, 62–63

It Took a Tragedy

It was late February, and my husband, Melvin, had earned a two-week vacation. We were using the time to clear farmland and build a fence around our house and surrounding fields in Mountainberg, Arkansas. I was excited when Melvin suggested we plow an area for our spring garden.

Melvin borrowed a hand plow from one of our neighbors, and I picked out the perfect spot. I hopped on the tractor, and Melvin hooked up the plow. The ground was so soft that I put the tractor in a higher gear. Just before we got to the end of the first row, the tractor jerked backward. I turned to see what had happened. Melvin was pulling on the plow; it was caught on a root. As I turned around to shut off the engine, I realized the tractor had lurched upward and was about to tip backward on me.

I fell off, twisting and landing on my stomach. In almost the same instant, the tractor came down on top of me. I remember the look of horror on Melvin’s face, then I screamed as the bones in my legs were crushed into the ground. I prayed that I could stand the pain long enough to reassure Melvin I would be fine.

Hours seemed to pass before I was freed. With the help of our son Marvin and future son-in-law Tony, Melvin finally pulled me out, and they gave me a blessing. I knew I had been seriously injured, but I felt the peace of knowing my Father in Heaven was with me and would continue to give me comfort.

We didn’t have a telephone, and the nearest town was an hour’s drive, so it took three hours for an ambulance to arrive at our house and finally get me to the hospital. Once there, I was rushed into surgery. When I woke in my hospital room, in addition to Melvin, our Relief Society president, Sally McNabb, was standing by my bed. I remember thinking, How did she hear about this? and Why is she here when she lives an hour’s drive away? But my strongest memory is the gratitude I had that she was there to help Melvin and our children. She assured me that the children would be cared for and told me not to worry about them. She spent the night at the hospital with me.

Melvin and I were relieved when the brothers and sisters in our small branch stepped in to help with our family. Sister McNabb took our daughter Athena and our 11-month-old Var home with her. Kay Tipton, our Young Women president, took our other five boys home with her. She lived about 45 minutes away from our boys’ school, but she drove them to and from school every day for several weeks. She took them to their Church activities, and she even brought them to the hospital to see me three or four times a week. At first the doctors didn’t think I would live. After several days they decided I would live, but they thought they might need to amputate my legs. My right leg had been crushed; my left was broken in four places. My pelvis was broken in three places. Both legs were covered with second- and third-degree burns from battery acid and gasoline that had leaked from the overturned tractor. During the next few weeks, I was in and out of surgery so often I never knew just what was going on.

One thing I did know—there was always someone there for me. The Relief Society arranged for the sisters in our branch to take turns covering three shifts a day at the hospital so someone would be with me 24 hours a day. They kept this up for the first 6 weeks, then stayed about 10 hours a day for the next 6 weeks. I know these sisters had families; many of them also had health problems. Yet they regularly made the sacrifice to travel many miles to be with me.

The sisters also fasted and prayed for me. They served willingly and gave me strength when I was too weak to face each day alone. I was in the hospital for three months and was still in a full body cast for another three months after I returned home. All this time the sisters continued to serve me and my family. I was witnessing what Alma spoke of when he preached that followers of Christ “should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having our hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21).

The doctors were able to save my legs but said I probably would never walk again. I believe it was because of their good care, combined with the faith of my family and priesthood holders and Relief Society sisters, that I am alive today and able to walk again.

Before my accident I had not really understood the purpose of the Relief Society and, more important, I had never felt the power that shared sisterhood can bring. Now I can say with conviction that I am grateful for the Relief Society program because it helps women become more Christlike. I have truly been blessed by the service I have received as well as all the opportunities I have been given to serve.

  • Dixie D. Rowley is a member of the Butte Ward, Emmett Idaho Stake.

Illustrated by Richard Russell