“Our Little Missionary,” Ensign, Aug. 2000, 65–66
Excitement was in the air as my daughter Teresa and her husband, Guy Wentzel, arrived at the hospital for the cesarean birth of their third child. Soon Guy came down to the waiting area and told us they had another son. He mentioned that the baby had a heart murmur and that more tests were needed, but he didn’t seem concerned. However, later in the afternoon I saw a tear rolling down Guy’s cheek, and I knew something was wrong with my new grandson.
The heart specialist called a family conference at about 5:00 P.M. A heart catheterization was needed, and major surgery was likely. The doctor gave the baby only a 10 or 15 percent chance of survival, but the family decided to do all that was medically possible. Before the baby was transferred to another hospital, we gathered in Teresa’s room. My husband, Oren, anointed our grandson, and Guy gave him a name and a father’s blessing. He stated that Hallie Ray would be able to stay with his family as long as Heavenly Father would allow, that he would not have to suffer great pain, and that he would become a missionary.
At 3:30 A.M. Hallie came out of surgery, and the doctor said the next step would be to get him off the respirator. “Just look, he is a fighter!” Guy said. On the third day Hallie was able to breathe on his own, and a week after his birth he went home. The doctor suggested the family enjoy each day with Hallie because the medical profession could do no more for him.
Over the next six months, Hallie weathered several heart failures and respiratory problems. Four times he was near death, but he pulled through. For a time he was supervised 24 hours a day by a nurse, and his room was equipped with a heart monitor, suction machine, humidifier, and oxygen tanks. As he grew older, he gained in strength.
More than 300 people attended his first birthday party, and a television station did a touching feature about him. As Hallie grew, he did things other boys do when they are two and three years old.
In fulfillment of his father’s blessing, Hallie was indeed central to missionary work. During his many hospitalizations, his parents had long discussions with medical personnel about life after death and other principles, and they handed out more than a case of copies of the Book of Mormon with their testimonies written inside. When a doctor named Larry Coble was baptized into the Church along with his wife and children, Hallie was present at the baptism.
When heart failure again loomed, his parents took him to a San Francisco hospital for more operations. Although the surgeries went well, he developed a staph infection. I was with my three-and-a-half-year-old grandson when he quietly slipped through the veil. His little hand clutched my finger and then slipped loose. The room was filled with a beautiful, spiritual silence as he moved forth to the next stage of his mission in eternity.