“A Friend to Ease Our Burden,” Ensign, July 2001, 57–58
When I first learned from my doctor that I was going to have triplets, I broke into a cold sweat and then into tears. We already had three young children, ages one, three, and six, and I wondered how I could possibly care for them and three new babies at the same time.
Our family had just moved into a new home that summer in Illinois, and we were making the adjustment to a new community and ward. Now came the challenge of preparing for triplets, which was difficult to do when my doctor insisted that I have complete bed rest.
When the babies came they were 14 weeks premature. The identical girls were under two pounds each and struggled to live. Taylor Manning, a friend from our previous community of Wheaton, Illinois, helped my husband give a name and blessing to all three girls. By the end of the second day, two of the three babies had died. All of our hopes centered on the firstborn and smallest, Hillary.
At two weeks Hillary required open-heart surgery to close a valve. The surgery was successful, but she did not regain consciousness after the anesthesia. Two days later she was still comatose. Our friend Taylor, whose job brought him regularly to the facility where Hillary was receiving care, felt prompted to cancel his round of appointments that day and was waiting outside Hillary’s room when I arrived. As we looked at her gray, motionless body, Taylor asked if he could give Hillary a blessing, since it would be some time before my husband could arrive from his work in Chicago. I agreed, and he went to find another person to assist him. Following a simple but beautiful blessing, I met with Hillary’s doctors and was told there was no hope. They said she would live a few hours or a day at most.
I returned to her side and with tear-filled eyes began praying. Within minutes I saw her chest rise and fall with a jerky attempt to breathe (she had taken no breaths of her own for three days). A minute later I saw another breath, then another. I rushed over to a nurse and cried, “My baby’s breathing! Come see!”
Hillary did continue to breathe, and after four months recovered completely. She was released from the hospital a healthy, smiling four-pound baby girl. The victory was short-lived, however. Within a week of coming home, she developed pneumonia and was subjected to another prolonged hospital stay. Again we were told of her imminent death, and yet she lived and continued to fight to recover.
During all this time, Taylor and his family supported us by cooking meals, watching our children, and calling to inquire about Hillary’s progress. Taylor made sure her name was on the prayer roll at the Chicago temple, where he served weekly. I would often arrive at the hospital and find little encouraging notes from Taylor taped to Hillary’s isolette. Once, when my husband and I were showing obvious signs of distress, Taylor presented us with a gift certificate for dinner at a lovely restaurant so that we could have an evening to ourselves. I would often remark to my husband, “Why is Taylor so concerned about Hillary and our family? Why does he care so much?” We felt lucky to be the recipients of such kindness and love.
The second time Hillary was released from the hospital she was not a normal baby. The repeated and sustained lack of oxygen had severely damaged her brain. She did not have normal sight, speech, or movement. I was trained by nurses to help care for her delicate needs. Later, I began taking her to speech, occupational, and physical therapists. Nevertheless, her condition suddenly worsened, and she passed away.
As my husband and I planned Hillary’s funeral, we asked Taylor to be the main speaker. In his remarks he related how he had felt guided to become a special support to us through our trials and that he had determined to do all he could to ease our burdens and heartaches. He said he believed that Hillary had stayed with our family only as long as she needed that we might learn all we could from her existence. He described how the day before Hillary’s death, as he went to add her name to the temple prayer roll, a prompting came that it was no longer necessary.
Taylor’s words brought me comfort, and I felt an assurance that Hillary had finished her time with us here and was meant to be with her sisters and Heavenly Father.
I know the Lord can prompt others to help comfort us as we face challenges in this life. Taylor’s service and example taught me to look for opportunities to serve others and helped me better appreciate the love Heavenly Father has for all His children.