“Playing for Betsy,” Liahona, Aug. 2006, 41–43
Squeezing the last box into the back of my station wagon, I slammed the door shut and checked my watch. I was on schedule. My last batch of exams was graded, and the car was packed. If I left immediately, I would have to drive only the final hour or so of my trip to Louisville, Kentucky, in the dark.
The last two weeks had been long and unbearably dull in South Bend, Indiana. My husband, Mark, a law student, had already started his summer internship in Louisville. But as a high school teacher in South Bend, I had spent two more weeks finishing the school year before I could join him.
Relieved to be on the road, I drove fast, but about an hour into my five-hour trip, I began to think about Sara and her daughter, Betsy. We had first met in Relief Society nine months earlier. Standing in the back with a baby in her arms, she had introduced herself saying, “Hi, I’m Sara. I’m from Utah. And this is Betsy. She’s from heaven.” I laughed, liking her immediately. Just like me she was the wife of a law student, and I was pleased when she was called to be my visiting teacher.
About a month before my departure, Betsy had suffered a seizure. Tests revealed a large brain tumor that appeared almost inoperable, but doctors insisted that without an operation Betsy had no chance of survival.
My heart ached for Sara. Along with the rest of our ward and stake, we had fasted and prayed for a miracle. Betsy underwent brain surgery and amazed the doctors, who had not expected her to survive the operation. Still, only part of the tumor had been removed, and Betsy progressed slowly. Her parents, meanwhile, faced impossible decisions on how to treat the remaining tumor without destroying her infant body.
The operation had taken place in Indianapolis, the halfway point in my journey to Louisville. Sara was still there with Betsy, while her husband had returned to South Bend to take the final exams he had missed.
I checked my watch. I could think of plenty of reasons to drive through without stopping, but none of them did anything to silence the voice inside telling me I needed to stop. So I pulled off the freeway and called the hospital from a pay phone. My call was directed to Betsy’s room, and Sara answered. I could hear in her voice that she was happy I had called. She would be thrilled to have me stop by. I felt the peace and relief of having followed the Spirit’s prompting.
As I drove toward the hospital I realized I had my violin wedged between a suitcase and a box of books in the backseat. With a measure of guilt I remembered that I had not touched it in weeks, even though I had studied violin from the age of three. Music had always been a source of happiness in my life.
The thought came that I should take my violin with me and play for Betsy. Normally I would never have considered the idea. It seemed a little arrogant to arrive unannounced with my violin and subject all those within listening range to an impromptu recital. But I quickly recognized the feeling that accompanied this thought as the same Spirit that had prompted me to make the visit.
When I arrived, Sara was weary but happy to see me. Betsy had a large tube in her head and another in her throat. As I looked at her tiny body and then into her eyes, I wondered how much pain she had suffered and how much more she would have to endure.
Sara was thrilled that I had brought my violin. For more than an hour I played hymns, Primary songs, classical music, and anything she requested that I could play by ear. As I played, Betsy stared at me, wide-eyed. Sara insisted it was the most alert Betsy had been since her surgery and was eager for me to keep playing. Several patients—children and their parents—stopped by the room and listened for a while.
Time passed quickly without my noticing. And as I stood at the foot of the bed playing “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301), I was overwhelmed with the intensity of Heavenly Father’s love for this sick little girl. I knew as I played that He loved Betsy dearly and wanted her to find relief from her pain through the music.
As I left the hospital in the dark that night to complete my trip to Louisville, I remembered the words from my patriarchal blessing that I had not thought about for some time. I had been blessed with musical talent and was expected to develop it so I could bring joy to others.
Through Betsy I was reminded of the Lord’s purpose in giving us gifts. “All these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God” (D&C 46:26). By listening to the Spirit I was given the opportunity to share my talent as the Lord intended and to feel the tremendous compassion He has for His children.