“Clinging to Faith in Intensive Care,” Ensign, Sept. 2000, 64–65
When I arrived for my night shift as a nurse, the smell of ammonia and other cleansers filled the air from the freshly mopped hospital floors. Tonight the eight-bed intensive care unit was filled to capacity.
While I was reviewing my patients’ charts, an alarm sounded and I saw the call light flashing above room 205. I walked into the room, turned off the call light, and went to the bedside. The patient was a salt-and-pepper-haired woman in her late 50s. Hospital equipment crowded around her, and a cluster of bottles hung over her. She was on life support because of a chronic lung disease.
The ventilator tube in her mouth prevented her from speaking, so I picked up a pad of paper and a pencil and handed them to her. But she brushed my hand aside. “Are you in pain?” I asked. She shook her head no, but her anxiety caused the ventilator alarm to light up and ring.
Wanting to calm her down so the alarm would stop, I asked, “Would you like to turn on your side?” Again she gave a firm shake of her head. Then she started waving a white, folded piece of paper in front of her face. “Are you hot?” I questioned. She shook her head once more.
She became more and more agitated as she waved the paper. “Do you want me to read what is on the paper?” I finally asked. She nodded with relief. Her body relaxed, and the ventilator alarm silenced. As I unfolded the paper, I saw the words patriarchal blessing in bold print. The blessing was dated two weeks before her admission to the hospital.
She grabbed my hand, and I sat on the edge of her bed. As I read aloud, I glanced at her face. Her eyes were closed, but I knew she was listening to every word. I wondered about some of the blessings promised to her. It seemed that a temple marriage was not something a critically ill person with a nonmember husband could ever hope for. She was not expected to live more than a few weeks, and I thought she had received her blessing too late.
When I finished reading, I noticed how quiet and peaceful the room was. I broke the silence to ask if she wanted me to read her patriarchal blessing again. She nodded. After the second reading, I told her how beautiful her blessing was and placed it back in her hand. She clenched it tightly as if it were a life preserver.
As I returned to the nurses’ station, I wondered where my own patriarchal blessing was. On occasion I had stumbled upon it, scanned its pages, and then tucked it away in a secure place, usually in my book of remembrance on the top shelf of the bedroom closet.
Weeks went by, and the woman unexpectedly improved. Her vital signs stabilized, and she was taken off the ventilator and given an oxygen mask. She left the intensive care unit, and for all I know she may have lived to see some of the promises in her blessing fulfilled during her earthly life. I know that some day, in this life or the next, every blessing I read to her that day will come to her if she is faithful.
I will never forget what that patient did for me. She impressed me to go home and read my own blessing and cherish it as she did hers. Ever since that time, I have kept my patriarchal blessing next to my bed, where I read it frequently.