“Waiting Patiently on the Lord,” Ensign, Apr. 2004, 32
Our family had no premonition of disaster one April afternoon when we received a phone call that would so dramatically alter our lives.
The caller, from Western Medical Hospital, said: “Your daughter has been in an automobile accident. She has a severe head injury and multiple broken bones. You’d better get down here as fast as you can.”
Emily had just turned 16. I learned later that the small car she’d been riding in had been hit by a pickup truck going 50 miles per hour. Because Emily appeared to be dead, the ambulance personnel concentrated on the driver. Only after the car’s driver was safely in the ambulance did someone check for Emily’s pulse. The rescue workers were astounded to learn that she was still alive. Extricated from the gnarled wreck, Emily was airlifted to a nearby trauma center.
My husband was at work, so we made plans to meet at the hospital. On the way there, I pleaded aloud to Heavenly Father: “Let her live. Please, let her live—at least until I see her.”
The long ride to the hospital allowed time for me to get over the initial shock and to make an effort at being humble and submissive to Heavenly Father’s will. As I pulled into the left turn lane at the final corner, I had finally come to the point where I was able to say with all my heart: “Heavenly Father, she has been a truly good girl. If she must die, that’s OK. She’s prepared.”
Before the light turned green, however, I was filled with the overwhelming assurance that not only would Emily live, but she would be OK. At that moment, the Holy Ghost encircled me in love and provided courage for what lay ahead. Feeling a deep sense of gratitude for this assurance, I prayed in thanks. I had no idea at the time what she would be facing—or what lessons of patience and faith our family would be learning over the next several months. Yet our loving Father in Heaven would be there for all of us.
When we first saw Emily, she was being wheeled to the intensive care unit. She had suffered severe fractures, yet there were no visible signs of injury. She was unconscious and exhibiting involuntary movements, which I later learned were signs of severe brain injury. The neurosurgeon was gruff with my husband and me as he tried to prepare us for the future.
My heart broke as he stated, “I cannot give you back your daughter,” adding that Emily likely would have mental and physical impairment and intermittent brain seizures throughout her life.
However, after much prayer, a priesthood blessing, and a fast by loving Church members—and because it was in keeping with the will of Heavenly Father—we felt assurance and hope from the Lord. What comfort and gratitude we experienced as we knelt to express our humble thanks for the hope we felt.
For six days Emily was in an artificial coma, induced to keep her brain from swelling and causing further damage. For the first two or three days she rested peacefully. But two long operations were required to set her broken bones, and the peace we had felt did not endure. She was hooked up to a multitude of machines, and my husband and I became expert at monitoring them for signs of Emily’s progress.
Often during the critical hours after surgery, when Emily’s temperature would rise dramatically or the pressure on her brain would climb to frightening levels, I was overwhelmed with fear. Then I would retire to pray in a small room nearby. Many, many times, both day and night, I would kneel on the cold tile floor in that room and pour out concerns to Heavenly Father. I asked for peace so that I might pray with more love and trust and humility.
The doctors eventually brought Emily out of her coma. As she lay in intensive care with a feeding tube in her nose and a respirator down her throat, her eyes were closed. She could not speak because of the respirator, and we were not sure she would be able to speak when it was removed.
It soon became apparent that removing the respirator was critical to Emily’s further progress. Normally, after a patient has been on a respirator for about 10 days, doctors perform a tracheotomy to allow breathing through the neck. Oh, how I hoped Emily would not have to undergo this additional surgery that might complicate her recovery.
On the seventh day, after many humble, pleading prayers, I felt assurance that the respirator would be successfully removed and that Emily would be able to breathe on her own—soon. But her breathing was too shallow that day. Time crawled during the following days. Over and over I poured out my heart to Heavenly Father about the respirator, trying desperately to pray according to D&C 46:30: “He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.”
I believed I had received an answer that the respirator would soon be successfully removed. But when was soon? Those days seemed to last a month. What did the Lord mean by soon? These were important growth experiences.
Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I learned through this long experience, other than the reassurance that Heavenly Father does hear us in our extremity, was the insight gained about “in the Lord’s due time.” During my many hours at Emily’s bedside, I pondered the miracle of Heavenly Father’s answer to prayer. From moments of fervent pleading with Heavenly Father to make it possible for the doctors to remove the respirator, it was indelibly printed on my mind and spirit that man’s time is not the Lord’s time.
Alma tells us, “Time only is measured unto men” (Alma 40:8). For the Lord and His prophets, soon might mean years, perhaps. Nearly 600 years before Christ came, Nephi, in interpreting the prophet Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the last days, told his brethren that “the time cometh speedily that the righteous must be led up as calves of the stall, and the Holy One of Israel must reign in dominion, and might, and power, and great glory” (1 Ne. 22:24; emphasis added; see also 1 Ne. 22:15–16, 18, 23). He was speaking of the Millennium, an event we still await.
How often we assume our desired timetable should be the Lord’s timetable! Yet we must learn the importance of “waiting patiently on the Lord” (D&C 98:2)—waiting not in a state of forlorn resignation, but “looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof” (Alma 32:40). I learned that trusting the Lord’s timetable can help put our earthly experiences into a grander perspective that brings peace and understanding amid difficult times.
Finally the time came to remove the respirator. I shed a few tears before rushing to the hospital, filled with gratitude to God.
Our family members’ testimonies and my testimony grew and our hearts were full of gratitude as we watched Emily move toward recovery. Part of her healing occurred while she was still in a coma: she suffered a crushed pelvis yet had no internal injuries; the rib under her aorta artery was broken, but it had not severed the artery; and the bleeding in her brain receded shortly after the members’ fast.
After Emily awoke from her coma, we discovered that she had mentally regressed in age some 10 years and that the entire left side of her body was greatly weakened. She could not lift her hand or move her fingers independently or walk. But through many subsequent months of therapy, her body and mind slowly healed. She was able to return to her junior year in high school five months after the accident.
The last part of Emily’s recovery was the healing of an eye. Residual damage from the brain trauma, as well as injury to the optic nerve, had impaired her right eye. At first she could not open it. When it finally opened, she discovered the pupil was paralyzed, and the eye, having little movement, no longer saw in unison with the other eye. Her brain blocked its sight because the image it projected was so far apart from the image of the left eye.
For several years, Emily participated in therapy in an attempt to reteach her right eye to see in unison with her left. During moments of extreme frustration, she would cry out, “If I just knew when I’ll be better, I could deal with this!”
But that was one of our lessons—we didn’t know when. The healing of her eye served as a constant schoolmaster for us all, teaching us again and again the principles of faith, humility, patience, and persistence. Though we would not have chosen this trial, our family grew from the many lessons we learned.
Ultimately, in a manner and at a time we didn’t expect, the healing came. During the normal course of my husband’s work, he came in contact with an eye surgeon who mentioned a corrective surgery for Emily’s condition. Five years after her accident, Emily had the surgery, which was successful. Then, six months after the surgery, she left to serve a mission in the Brazil São Paulo North Mission, where in the Lord’s due time she was able to help others see more clearly.