Their Service Opened Our Hearts

“Their Service Opened Our Hearts,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 47–48

Their Service Opened Our Hearts

When we first really became acquainted with the Church, the winter had arrived early in New England and covered everything with a sheet of ice and snow. We had been living in Watertown, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, for almost a year and a half. My husband, Richard, would soon be finishing his postdoctoral work and had gone to Colorado for a job interview.

Our children, Mike, Mark, Misty, and 11-month-old Michelle, were helping me clean the playroom when suddenly little Michelle began to vomit violently. I was afraid she might have eaten something toxic among the toys. Moments earlier she had been happily playing, but now she was obviously very ill. Within minutes she had become listless. Her temperature was rising rapidly, soon reaching 105°F (40.6°C). While my sons sponged her with cool water, I called the doctor, who told me to take her to the hospital emergency room immediately.

The streets were icy and narrow, and I was not sure of the way. When at last I saw the hospital, I felt a wave of relief. The doctor’s diagnosis was the flu, and he prescribed some medication to control the fever. I felt strongly that her illness was more serious, but the doctor seemed sure she would be fine. I took Michelle home, but never before with my children’s illnesses had I felt so uneasy. That night I moved Michelle’s bed into my room. Every two hours I checked her temperature, which remained under control, but I spent most of the night watching her breathe. In the morning when I looked at my baby, she was gray, weak, and listless. I felt afraid and desperate.

Though it had stormed all night and the roads were treacherous, I tried to block out everything other than getting Michelle to the hospital. When we arrived, Michelle was rushed into an examination room. Cloudy fluid obtained from a spinal tap indicated a strong possibility of spinal meningitis. From the waiting room, I called Richard in Colorado, and he said he would be on the first plane back to Boston.

Michelle was transferred to intensive care. By this time it must have been near noon, but it was still dark, cold, and stormy outside. I sat alone in a room, waiting until I could see Michelle. I watched the snow hit the window and felt cold, alone, and helpless. I tried to pray, but the memorized prayers I had been taught felt so empty. They did not express my feelings. I then prayed as I had never prayed before. I prayed to my Heavenly Father as if I were kneeling before Him. I prayed about my feelings and my hopes. I prayed for His help.

At last I was allowed to see Michelle. She seemed even grayer than she had earlier, and she lay so still. Monitoring equipment and IV tubes were attached all over her small body. To even find a place to touch her was difficult. The day remained dark, but as I sat near her bed the clouds briefly parted and a ray of light fell across her bed and filled the room. I felt warm and comforted. I was filled with a sense that all would be as it was supposed to be. I did not know what Michelle’s fate would be, but I knew things would be as they should be, and I felt at peace.

That afternoon Richard arrived. As the doctor confirmed Michelle’s diagnosis of spinal meningitis, Richard’s face showed all the fear and desperation I had felt earlier. The doctor told us Michelle’s chance of surviving the next three days was remote. Then he explained that if she were to survive, she would most likely be deaf, blind, or brain damaged. I felt strongly that if she didn’t know we were there, if we didn’t touch her, she would drift away forever.

Child care for our other children became a major problem. I belonged to a baby-sitting co-op, but no one would risk taking care of our children. Michelle’s lab results showed the type of meningitis she had was not contagious, but it made no difference. At first even the school refused to allow our boys to attend. There were, however, two couples who came to our aid; one couple, the Romrells, were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Romrells apparently told their Relief Society of our problem. The Relief Society president and others from the Watertown Ward brought us food and provided child care so we could spend time with Michelle. These people we had never met helped us when we so desperately needed it.

Michelle survived those critical three days and slowly grew stronger. Richard’s mother was able to come from California to help look after our children. If during those first three days we had not had the help from members of the Church, I don’t know how we would have managed. Michelle celebrated her first birthday in the hospital, but Richard and I received the greatest gift. On that day, we got to hold Michelle in our arms. Even more than on the day she was born, we knew the Lord had entrusted us with her care.

This experience prompted us to begin investigating the Church. It did not happen swiftly, but over the next several years, each time we moved we met new and wonderful members of the Church, and our interest and investigation continued. The seed planted in our hearts by the Relief Society sisters in Watertown was nourished by the examples of many loving members. Today Michelle is a perfectly healthy and intelligent woman. She recently gave birth to her second child, and we are all members of Christ’s true Church.

  • Judith A. Wilkinson is a member of the Ashington Branch, Sunderland England Stake.