Two Angels

   TWO ANGELS

It was going to be a very busy day.  I had tons of work to finish at the ranch, and I’d have to get on with it to finish in time to make it down to my doctor’s visit in the afternoon.  I was just walking out the door when my phone made the familiar pinging sound indicating I had a text. It was from the sister missionaries.  They had found an older lady, presumably a member, staying at the Motel 6 in our city.  She needed a blessing. They included her name, Emiko, and a phone number.  Because I work with missionaries, they often ask me to make these kinds of visits and I try to follow up.  But not today. I’d never get the ranch work done if I went.  I’ll call somebody, I thought.  I need to “delegate” this opportunity to someone else. I was about to call someone when the thought came, no, they asked you. Go. I decided to put aside my personal work.  I called my home teaching companion, David Barthel, and he was willing and ready to go with me.

David arrived and I began calling Emiko’s phone number.  The line was busy.  I called repeatedly but the line continued to be busy.  After numerous attempts I was ready to say, “We tried. Since we can’t get her, let’s just forget it.”  But as David and I talked it over we decided that, despite not making a connection, we’d drive over to the motel anyway.

The desk clerk informed us that without a last name he could not give us her room number.  We had no idea where the missionaries were and felt concerned that we might interrupt them in a discussion, but we couldn’t help the lady if we didn’t have her full name.  David sent a text to the missionaries and they responded with: Emiko Hertado.  She was in room 136.

We knocked, a small voice responded, and we went in. It was obvious that the elderly woman wasn’t well.  I took her frail little hand in mine.  “I’m Brother Roy Atkin,” I explained. “And this is Brother David Barthel.  We’ve come to give you a blessing.”

“Don Atkin?” she asked.

“No, Roy Atkin.” I answered, somewhat surprised.  “I’m Don Atkin’s son.”

Her face lit up with a lovely smile.  She reached for her purse and pulled out a folded paper and handed it to me.  “This is my patriarchal blessing.  Your father gave it to me when I was 24.  You must read it.”

I was unable to speak for a few minutes. My father had been deceased for 17 years.  He would have given this sister her patriarchal blessing about 40 years earlier.

“I hadn’t made an appointment, I just went.  Your mother answered the door.  Your father was outside in the back.  I remember how he greeted me.  He was so kind.  He wasn’t upset that I had come without calling.  He asked me to sit down and he listened while I talked.  Then he told me he didn’t want me to have to come back another day, he would give me a blessing right then.”

She didn’t say so, but I could picture the scene very well.  My father would have excused himself and gone in to change his clothes.  He would never have approached the Lord a white shirt, tie, and suit pants.  I could see him arranging the recorder on the table, being very silent for a few minutes, then placing his hands on her head.  I had a hard time chocking back a tear as I thought of him.

“I’d like you to read the blessing.” She insisted.

I wanted to read it, but that would have to wait.   Emiko needed our help.  “I will be happy to read your blessing, Sister Hertado, but let’s see what we can do for you first.”

We asked about her circumstances.  Emiko is destitute, she has Addison’s disease and has had several operations.  She moved to our town in California from Kingman, and when life became more challenging than she was capable of handling she had called a Bishop in our area for help, but so many people who are not members call Bishops for help, he had been skeptical. And, as we talked, we discovered that on top of everything else, she hadn’t had anything to eat for two days.

We would do first things first.  We would call upon the Lord.  I felt very humble as we placed our hands on her head. I pronounced a blessing according to the words the Lord directed in her behalf, which was a sweet assurance of His love, and comfort, and help.

Then we asked what she was able to eat, and we left to buy food and some bottles of water. While we were waiting for the food to be prepared, I read her blessing quietly to David.

I was acquainted with only a few of my Father’s blessings, but of those few, none were ever this long.  And none sounded like what was said to Emiko.  Forty years earlier the Lord had revealed almost a blueprint of what her life would be, and that life would be filled with challenge after challenge.  But as every challenge was mentioned the Lord followed with encouragement, told her never to give up, and promised He would always be with her.  At almost the end of the blessing were these words: There will come a time when you think there is no help and no hope.  But I will send two angels to bless you, and help make your circumstances better.

I put the paper down.  Brother Barthel said, “Roy, your Father wanted you to be one of those angels today, and he is helping you to do so.”  I couldn’t hold back the tears then.

The food was ready.  I dried my eyes and we drove back to the Motel.  I assured Emiko that I would immediately contact the agent Bishop and there would be assistance coming that very day.  I handed her back her Patriarchal Blessing.  She smiled and thanked us.  We took her hand once more and said goodbye.

As we walked back to the car I thought about what had happened.  I cannot doubt the power of Our Father in Heaven.  Amidst all the trials and tribulations in this world He sees to it that miracles will come.  I almost didn’t come to be part of this miracle.  How grateful I am to be one of the angels my dear father foresaw 40 years ago that would help this sweet sister.

 

 

 

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A Startling Admonition From The Pulpit

It was a warm Sunday afternoon in August the year I turned 12. My two younger 
brothers and I had probably been poking and pushing and annoying one another for hours
 when Dad finally got exacerbated and decided it would be a good idea if we all took a 
ride. We boys climbed into the back seat, and mom and dad got into the front.

A few blocks 
down Valmont Street we passed the Methodist Church. I had fond feelings about the 
Methodist Church. For two summers, when I was 11 and that very summer when I was 
12, I had walked there to attend Bible School. I loved Bible School. I loved learning 
about Jesus. I loved the stories about Jesus healing the blind man, the lepers, the crippled 
man. I loved the story about His walking on the water. I loved everything I learned 
about Jesus. I really wanted to go to church.

We “belonged” to the Mormon Church. Dad and mom had been members of the church 
since they were children, and being a Mormon must have been important to them because
 they’d seen to it that Ron and I had been baptized. But we didn’t go to church. Dad said it
 was because there was a war going on, gas was rationed, and there weren’t enough gas 
coupons to travel the 15 miles from our house in Tujunga to the nearest ward in Glendale.
 When the war ended, and rationing ended, we still didn’t go to church.

On that August Sunday, as we drove past the Methodist church, I had a perfectly 
wonderful idea. I leaned over the front seat, and with great excitement made a 
suggestion. “Since the Mormon Church is so far away, and since the Methodist church is 
just a few blocks down from our house, let’s join the Methodist church! We wouldn’t 
even have to drive, we could walk there every Sunday. I’d really like to go to church.”  There was a stunned silence for a moment, then my mother said, “Wendell, you take that 
one!”

My father was an attorney, and his answer was ten full minutes of “Attorney Speak.” 
 That’s my term for attorneys who in reality have no defense, but who carry on and on 
using a myriad of pedantic legal words that mean absolutely nothing. When he was 
finished, I had no idea what he had said, but I got the message that we weren’t going to 
the Methodist church.

Two months passed, and then, in October, my father’s mother, who was a widow, died. 
Her funeral was held in the Mormon Church on Redwood Road, just west of Salt Lake 
City. My father and mother took the train to Salt Lake, but because my brothers and I 
were in school, my mom left us in the care of a trusted friend.
 My grandfather had been very active in church, business, and local politics. There were 
hundreds of people at grandma’s funeral. President Harold B. Lee, who was a good friend 
of the family, was asked to speak at the funeral service. My father, mother, dad’s ten 
living brothers and sisters and their spouses, were seated in the front of the chapel just 
below the podium.

When it was his turn to speak, President Lee took his place at the podium and began a 
wonderful discourse on the resurrection. After several minutes he stopped abruptly. He 
looked down at those seated in the front rows, his eyes seemingly searching for someone.
 When his eyes found my father, President Lee pointed his finger directly at my father, and stated emphatically, “Wendell, it is time for you to put aside your worldly ways, and 
do that which the Lord wants you to do!”  Then, as if there had been no interruption, 
President Lee went right on with his address.

According to my mother, my father never spoke another word to anyone during the rest 
of the time in Salt Lake, or on the long train ride back to Los Angeles.

What happened to my father during those hours and days of quiet I do not know. I only 
know that life changed in our house. We began attending the Mormon Church every 
Sunday regardless of how far away it was. We began having family prayer, which I am 
sorry to say I balked at, at first. We read the Book of Mormon. We talked about Heavenly
 Father and about Jesus and His Atonement. Our whole family had wonderful 
experiences and blessings. When I was 15, and had read the Book of Mormon twice, I 
received an absolute confirmation that the Book of Mormon was true.

Some time after that, a Tujunga Branch of the Church was organized, and my father was 
called to be the first Branch President, which met in a rented hall. For two years my father and other men in the Branch 
visited “less active” families like ours had been, and shared with them the joy that could 
be felt when you come back to church. Only two years later, so many families had responded to that call to come back, that the Branch became a Ward, Father was 
called to be the first Bishop of the Tujunga Ward, and the Church approved the building of a chapel in Tujunga.

Do I know that God sees us and knows us and loves us individually? Yes. Do I know that 
God knew that my father had the unexercised spiritual capacity to become a worthy 
servant, and called upon him to repent—in a most unusual way? Yes. And for that I will 
ever be grateful because it changed my life as well as my father’s.

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I Will Go Before Your Face

This is a story I was told very recently by a young man. I needed to hear it now. I hope you will find it a story of enduring faith and hope.

   “I WILL GO BEFORE YOUR FACE”

When I got the call I was almost in disbelief. On the other end of the phone was the Principal of Oakglen Elementary. “We’d like to offer you a full time position teaching second grade. Our school year begins August 20th.” I tried to remain calm and respond appropriately, but inside I was shouting with joy—it was a school in the exact district and the exact grade level I had hoped to get a position in. Finally all my hard work was going to pay off. I had spent the last few years working several jobs while carrying a full load of classes. It hadn’t been easy but it was going to be worth it. Finally I was going to have a job that I felt made a difference. I was overwhelmed with joy.

Teaching turned out to be even harder than I had expected. Managing a class of seven year olds was a real challenge, but I loved working with the kids, and after just a few weeks I loved every one of them. I felt very blessed.

Then, in October, just two months later, I was stricken with a totally debilitating illness. At first I kept a positive attitude, being absolutely sure I would recover. The school arranged for me to have a medical leave of absence, but as days passed, and weeks, then months, it became obvious I wasn’t going to be able to go back to teach. I wasn’t going to be able to work at anything.

At the end of a year with no improvement, I was devastated. I struggled with what seemed a certainty–that my life had absolutely no value, and I wondered if I would ever be able to do anything that mattered.

One morning was particularly difficult. I decided to play a DVD of General Conference. I pulled a DVD out randomly and began watching. It was a talk by President Monson.   As soon as I began listening I felt as if God were speaking directly to me through the Prophet. President Monson quoted the Lord’s words found in D&C 84:88. “I will go before your face,” the Lord promised. “ I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your heart, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” Tears welled up in my eyes, and I had an overwhelming feeling that Heavenly Father did have a purpose for me.

Despite my severe fatigue every day, I tried to walk a little, but other than that I didn’t get outside our apartment much. One Sunday afternoon, not long after listening to President Monson, I felt the need to get outside of the house and asked my wife, Michelle, if she would like to go for a drive. She readily agreed.

We climbed into our truck and I began driving around randomly. At one point I turned onto a portion of PCH where the road narrows, where there are no cross roads and very few turnouts.

As we passed one of the few emergency turnouts we saw an older car pulled off to the side of the road with a young woman sitting inside. Because almost everyone has a cell phone, and help is just a call away, we didn’t think much about it. But half a mile down the road I had a very strong feeling we should go back. I asked Michelle if she thought it would be ok if we turned around to see if the woman needed help, and of course she said yes.

As we pulled our truck in behind the woman’s car we could see a little girl about 18 months old buckled into a safety seat in the back. It was obvious even from our vantage point that the young woman had been crying.

Michelle and I climbed out of the truck. “Do you need some help?” I asked.

“My car broke down.” She explained. She was young, probably not more than 22, and obviously distraught.

“I have a cell phone. Can we call Triple A?”She lowered her head and answered softly, “I don’t have any money.”

“Oh.” Michelle responded, but then, looking at me so we could silently agree because we didn’t have much ourselves, she added, “That’s ok. We saw a gas station not far down the road. We’ll call a tow truck and get you down to the station and they can take a look at your car. Maybe it’s not something serious.” That seemed a hopeful, positive viewpoint.

The young woman’s face brightened a little. “Oh, that would be wonderful. Thank you,” she said sincerely. “My name’s Mara. My baby’s Rose. I’m very grateful to you.”

Michelle and Mara transferred Rose and her few little things into our truck while I made the call to Triple A. Rose was an adorable child with huge brown eyes and black curls hugging her cheeks. She seemed totally contented even with all the commotion.

It wasn’t long before the familiar blue tow truck pulled in front of the car and the cable was attached. When we pulled into the station, I went in to make the necessary arrangements.

After a fairly thorough inspection, the mechanic announced that, indeed, it wasn’t terribly serious and it wouldn’t take too long to fix if we could wait.

I went back to the truck and announced the good news. The three of us sat in the truck making light conversation, but it was obvious that Mara hadn’t stopped worrying. After a while Michelle asked seriously “Are you going to be ok?”

“I…I can’t take care of my daughter.” Mara stammered through a sudden burst of tears.   “Rose’s daddy abandoned us both…”

Our hearts were immediately overwhelmed with anguish for her. Still, Michelle and I were totally unprepared for her next words. “I was on my way to take Rose to my friend’s house, and then…then,” she burst into heavy sobs, her words coming intermittently between the sobs, “I was going… to… kill myself…I’m no use…to anybody.”

Her confession shocked us. And yet, I instantly understood the feeling of “I’m no use to anybody.”

Michelle turned completely around in her seat, leaned across the high back, and hugged Mara in her arms. She spoke almost in a whisper, “Mara, you are Rose’s mother. No one can take a mother’s place, not a best friend, not a beloved relative, no one.” Michelle paused, then added with conviction, “Don’t give up, Mara. God will help you find a way to take care of Rose. And when God helps you, good things happen.”

I knew God had directed me to help this young woman, and I felt she needed to know that. “Mara,” I said earnestly, “God told me to turn around and help you today for the very purpose of letting you how much He cares about you, and how He can direct miracles to happen in your life. God loves you, Mara, and he will never quit loving you, or caring what happens to you.”

Mara tried to choke back her tears.   She looked back and forth at each of us very thoughtfully. It was a long time before she spoke. “I’ve been praying and praying that God would help me, but it didn’t seem like He was going to. I tried, I really tried, to figure out what to do. But this was all I could think of, it seemed like the only way.” She put her hand to her face and wiped her wet cheeks. She was silent again for several minutes, then a look of determination replaced the awful sadness. “Yes, I believe God did send you to help me so I would know He hears my prayers…Thank you.”

Just then the mechanic walked over wearing a huge enthusiastic smile. We were grateful he hadn’t come before. “Your car’s done. Should run fine now.” He announced.

Michelle helped Mara move Rose and her things back into her car. I tore off a piece of scratch paper, wrote our names and phone number on it, and handed to Mara. “Call us if you need us.” I said.   We smiled at Rose, both of us gave Mara a final hug, and we all said goodbye.

 

Three weeks later the phone rang. It was Mara, her voice full of cheerfulness. “I’m not calling because I need something,” she began. “I’m calling to thank you for what you did for me. You gave me my life. You taught me I have value, and with God’s help, I am going to make it. If Rose could talk,” she added, “she would say thank you, too.”

After I hung up the phone I thought about what had happened. I needed a blessing to know that I had value, so God directed us to go for a drive that day, on a road we rarely traversed, to find a young woman who needed us as much as I needed her.

 

 

Ten years have passed. My illness has been progressively disabling. I have days of difficulty and discouragement, and sometimes my disheartened soul wonders again at my value here. It is then that I am reminded of that Sunday all those years ago when, in His own way, God said to me, “Remember, the worth of souls (including yours) is great in the sight of God.”     (D&C 18:10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Ask”

I love this story. It strengthens my testimony. The names have been changed and any errors are my own.

 “ASK”

High School graduation was just a few weeks away, and the seniors would soon be leaving to attend different universities all across the country. Brian had been thinking a lot aboutthat, and the fact that after this summer he’d only be seeing his best friend, Matt, on university holidays.

Brian had met Matt during their first year of High School, and almost immediately they had become friends. Matt wasn’t a member of the church, but the more Brian knew him, the more he felt Matt ought to be a member. Matt wasn’t caught up in any of the borderline activities that always seemed to be available to high school students. He was a great guy and a great friend. Over their years of friendship Brian had shared the gospel whenever an appropriate moment popped up—like the first time the two of them had been at a party only a short time when Brian felt it wasn’t the right place to be and decided to go home. Matt left the party with him and listened while Brain shared the Word of Wisdom.   Whenever Brian talked about the gospel, Matt didn’t say much, mostly he just smiled and changed the subject.

Matt accepted Brian’s occasional preaching because Brian was fun, energetic, and enthusiastic about life. He didn’t use bad language, he didn’t talk despairingly about girls, and he was a good student, which motivated Matt to do his best in school, kind of like a friendly rivalry. Besides that, Matt really liked Brian’s family. They always made him feel welcome, they did all kinds of fun things, and they always seemed to have lots of food–including cookies and sometimes homemade bread. The only disadvantage was that every once in awhile Brian wanted to tell him about the Mormon Church.

One day when Brian and Matt had been laughing and talking about how exciting college was going to be, followed by serious talk about what they wanted to do with their lives, Brian suddenly interrupted and said, “Matt, I’ve told you a lot about the Latter-day Saint church and you’ve been nice to listen. But I want you to know it isn’t just another church that you can go your way and ignore. It is the only true church on earth authorized and directed by revelation from Jesus Christ himself. You’ve got to ask the Lord for yourself if it’s true. I know you say your prayers, Matt. You need to ask because you need to know.”

Matt smiled as usual and shrugged it off. For several days he ignored Brian’s words, but they wouldn’t go away, they stayed right there inside him. “Ask the Lord yourself” kept surfacing until he couldn’t concentrate on other things. He felt relieved when he finally decided that he would ask the Lord that very night–because the Lord would tell him it wasn’t true and he could tell Brian he’d asked, and then be done with it.

That night Matt knelt beside his bed. “Dear God,” he began tentatively. He had prayed many times before, but this time he wasn’t exactly sure how to phrase what he had to say. Finally he decided to just say it as it was. “My friend has been telling me for years about the church he belongs to, and I know it isn’t true, and I know you know it isn’t true, but he said I should ask you, and so I’m asking. The Mormon Church isn’t true is it? I mean, I know it isn’t true, God, but I want you to tell me it isn’t true so I can tell Brian and put this to rest…Please!”

Matt stopped speaking and waited, his mind ready to receive an answer that would confirm his knowing it wasn’t true. He knelt there a long time. Nothing happened. No words formed in his mind. No feelings came into his heart. He began to wonder if he shouldn’t have asked such a question. Yet…he felt inclined to stay there on his knees.

Then, almost imperceptibly at first, then more penetratingly, a wonderful feeling began to fill his heart. It was a gentle and peaceful feeling. It wasn’t the kind of feeling he had been expecting. At length the feeling enveloped his whole being, and he began to recognize it’s meaning. He knelt there a long time, then spoke again, his voice trembling. “Oh God, please tell me it isn’t true. It can’t be true. I don’t want it to be true. Tell me it isn’t. If it’s true I’ll have to go and join and I’ll have to live all those things they teach and I don’t want to.”

The gentle, peaceful feeling remained. Matt felt his heart bursting with confirmation of the truth. He leaned across the bed and wept for a long time. Finally he lifted up his head and spoke once more to Heavenly Father. “It is true isn’t it, God?” Then he pleaded, “Oh, please help me. This is going to be hard, and I know I can’t do it without your help. But I sure will try.”

On a Sunday not long after that, Matt accompanied Brian to church.

And the reason I know this story is because it is the story Matt told in Sacrament Meeting on the Sunday just before he left for his mission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where Love and Mercy Meet

Although I know of this experience myself, I recount it from the perspective of one who was a teenager at the time, who was so profoundly and forever affected by it, that as he spoke about it, I could sense how deep his feelings still are. The names have been changed.

WHERE LOVE AND MERCY MEET

It was the most remarkable funeral I have ever attended. Every bench in the chapel and every chair, extending clear to the back of the cultural hall, was filled. There were many members of the ward, and relatives, but the greatest number of those attending were Rachael’s friends, literally hundreds of teenagers. I sat there amazed as I recognized not only Rachael’s classmates from the high school she attended, but teenagers from my high school, the “rival” school across town. I wondered how this young teenage girl could have made so many friends after living here for only two years.

Most of the teenagers were non-LDS, and they had come having no idea what a “Mormon” funeral would be like. It hadn’t mattered. They wanted to be there to express their deep friendship for Rachael. I needed to be there. Rachael was my good friend. Not only were we the same age, 18, and in the same ward, but she had gone to homecoming with one of my best friends, and we all enjoyed hanging out together. The day I heard the news I went home, sat on my back porch and cried for hours.

Rachael had been killed in a terrible automobile accident. Eric, the driver, a non-member, had been drinking, was speeding along a major street, ran a red light and crashed headlong into another car. Eric had survived. He wished he hadn’t.

The paramedics had rushed Rachael to the hospital even though it was futile. The police arrived about the same time, had taken Eric into custody, and later charged him with manslaughter. Eric was 16, maybe an early 17. Practically all the teenagers knew what had happened, and when Eric, dressed in a suit and tie, came into the chapel and sat down, they looked at each other in disbelief.

The Bishop stood, the organist played the last few measures of the prelude music, and the meeting began. An opening song was sung. Several of Rachael’s friends spoke. Then Rachael’s father, Brother Bartlow, stepped to the podium. The already quiet room became totally hushed and silent.

I don’t remember the exact words Brother Bartlow spoke, but I will never forget their meaning. As nearly as possible, this is what he said. “The day I had to identify Rachael’s body, I was overcome with anguish and grief. I wondered how I could ever deal with this. When I came home, the rest of the family was gathered in the living room. I went by myself into Rachael’s bedroom, closed the door, and sat on her bed. I closed my eyes and thought about how much I loved her. I had only been sitting there a few minutes when my name was spoken by a familiar voice. Startled, I opened my eyes, and sitting beside me on the bed was Rachael. ‘Daddy,’ she said with great sweetness, ‘I’m alright. Please don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. But I’ve come to talk to you about Eric. This will ruin his life. I know you, Daddy. I know you are able to forgive him. Please forgive him. Please help him.’”

Brother Bartlow paused only for a moment. “Rachael didn’t leave immediately,” he said. “Actually we talked for a long time. We talked about many things. She told me who she wanted to speak here today, and that is why you have heard from some of her dear friends. When we were finished talking, we sat on her bed side by side and sang songs we had so often sung together before. Only then did Rachael leave.”

Then Brother Bartlow looked down and spoke directly to Eric. “Eric, Rachael lives—not in this mortal part of life, but she lives. And she wants you to know that you must not allow this to ruin your life. She has forgiven you, and as her family, we want you to know that we have forgiven you. Please know that you will always be welcome in our home.”

Brother Bartlow spoke with such tenderness and pure love, I am sure the spirit permeated every heart in that room. I’m sure there were tears in many eyes—I know there were in mine.

That funeral was the most spiritual, touching experience I have ever had in my life. I did not doubt for one moment that Brother Bartlow spoke the truth. He had a visit from Rachael. Brother Bartlow was a man of honor, a man of integrity, a spiritual giant in my eyes, a man who was worthy to receive this visit, a man who had always listened to the voice and prompting of the Lord.

I contemplated afterwards why the Lord would permit Rachael to visit with her father when many others who have died, ones we love, are not given that same permission. I believe it was more for others than even for Brother Bartlow. Because the Lord loves us individually, it was for Eric. It was for his opportunity to repent with all the humility of his young heart, and change his actions. I think it was for many more besides Eric. I think it was for the hundreds of teenagers, including me that day, to preach a sermon we might not receive any other way. There is life after this mortal one. There is a God, a God of love and of mercy. And through Brother Bartlow God was made known to us that day.

**Years have passed, but when things have become very challenging in my life, and fleeting thoughts question the reality of God’s love or of life enduring after mortality, I think about Rachael, and I know again, as I knew that day, both are true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In The Right Time

This is a story about Richard Myers, his father, Gar, a chance meeting at a mall, and the Lord’s way of seeing that all is done in the right time, whether protracted, or immediate.

IN THE RIGHT TIME

I met Ed Sauelin and his wife Jane at, of all places, a shopping mall.  We were just passing by and pleasantly saying hello, but I felt something so special about these two, Lilah and I stood there and talked.  It turned out that Ed and I had a lot in common, most importantly, the fact that he and i were both converts to the church.  The four of us decided to have lunch together, and during our conversation Ed said they lived in Huntington Beach, told me his phone number, and suggested we get together again sometime.  I had no idea how important that meeting would turn out to be.

A few days later Lilah and I were at the Angels game, delighted to be sitting in box seats given to us as a gift. About the third inning, an announcement came over the loud speaker. “Gar Myers, please report immediately to the front office.”

I couldn’t image why I would get called to the front office, but dutifully went up. “A phone call, Mr. Myers.”

I took the phone, identified myself, and listened. “This is the Huntington Community Hospital, Mr. Myers. Your son has been in a serious accident. He is in critical condition. You need to come immediately to the hospital as we cannot operate until you sign the release papers.”

I rushed back to get Lilah and we both ran to the car. I drove as fast as I dared, let Lilah off at the entrance, and hurried to park the car. The doors to the emergency waiting room opened automatically and there, just a few yards beyond the entrance lay my wife on the floor. Medics were lifting her gently on to a gurney. One of the medics realized who I was. “Don’t be alarmed about your wife. She’ll be alright. She saw your son and fainted.”

The medic walked me over to where our son, Richard, was lying on a gurney. I’ve seen mangled bodies, but never that terrible. He was barely conscious, his body a deep blue, with some spots already turning a deathly black. He looked up and managed a gasping whisper, “I tried to dive out of the way, Dad.” Then he fell into unconsciousness.

The doctor was informed that I had arrived and he hurried over to me. “I’m sorry to tell you but it doesn’t look good. He was run over by a Cadillac—pretty heavy car you know. Tore up his stomach. He’s got to be operated on immediately. He’s not oxygenating. But I can’t proceed until you sign those papers.” He motioned for me to get over to the desk immediately.

I looked once more at Richard, walked over to the desk. “Hand me the papers, but I’ve got to make one call. Can I use your phone? We’re LDS and I’ve got to get someone to administer to him.” The receptionist was visibly irritated and pointed to a pay phone across the hall.

I rushed over to the phone frantically trying to think of who I could call. I don’t know anyone in Huntington Beach. Yes, I do! Ed. Ed Samuelin. But, I don’t know his phone number. What’s his phone number. I slipped a quarter into the slot and my fingers automatically dialed a number. The phone rang once. “Hello.”

“Ed? This is Gar Myers. We met in Newport.”

“Yes.”

“My son’s been in a terrible accident here in Huntington. He might not make it. Can you come to the hospital to administer to him right now?”

“Yes. Right now!” And he hung up.

I went back to the desk and began signing a ridiculous number of papers, all the time pleading with the attendants to take Richard and tell the doctor to start operating. No way. Every paper had to be signed. As I signed the last paper, the attendants literally ran with Richard’s gurney to the elevator. The elevator opened, they wheeled Richard in, and the doors closed. I dashed back to check on Lilah so we could follow Richard’s gurney. She was conscious now, but a little groggy. I helped her up and we hurried over to the elevator. A doctor standing nearby stopped us, “You can’t go up there. You’ll have to wait over there.” He indicated a secluded area away from the entrance designated for anxious parents. We went in and sat down nervously.

About 5 minutes later Ed and another brother, dressed appropriately in white shirts, ties and suits walked in to our waiting area. I stood and extended my hand. “Thank you for hurrying Ed, but it’s too late. They rushed him into the operating room about ten minutes ago.”

“It wasn’t too late, Gar. We caught him in the hallway as the attendants were wheeling him out of the elevator.   We asked if they would allow us to administer to him right there. They stopped, and we gave him a blessing…” He hesitated a moment then added, “I was prompted to promise him a complete recovery, Gar.”

I wanted to throw my arms around them both. My whole soul filled with gratitude. I thanked them over and over. They sat down with us and we waited together.

The doctor had not been optimistic. Richard’s insides were a mess. His spleen was severed along with other ghastly details. The nurses told us there had been five accident victims before Richard that night, and all of them had died. They said they all the nurses prayed for Richard. They couldn’t bear the thoughts of losing one more person.

Ed’s entire ward fasted and prayed for Richard. He recovered completely, with just a long scar across his belly as a reminder.

At first I hadn’t thought about how Ed and his companion had gotten to the hospital so quickly, but the next day I did. It seemed impossible. I thought about it a lot. I decided go to the area where Ed lived and drive as quickly as possible to the hospital. It took way longer than Ed had taken the night before. I went to his house again, and drove another route. It took even longer. There was no way Ed could have called a companion, changed his clothes, picked up the other brother, and driven to the hospital in the time he did that night. It didn’t just seem impossible, it was impossible.

Some time later I asked Ed how he had gotten there so quickly. He answered solemnly, “I don’t know. I don’t even remember driving to the hospital.   I only remember getting out of the elevator, stopping the gurney in the hall, knowing this was Richard, and giving him a blessing.”

Years later I asked him again, thinking perhaps the stress of the night had made him forget. “No,” he said, “I have never remembered how we got there.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Woman on the Bridge

This is Peggy Davis’ story. I am touched by the sequence of events: the elderly couple on a 3 hour boat trip, the delightful 10 year old girl, the loving welcoming of Peggy and Tony, and most of all, by

  THE WOMAN ON THE BRIDGE

The surprising part of our elderly friends report on their three-hour boat trip in Croatia wasn’t the expected “you MUST see it,” but their talk about how delighted they were to meet a little 10 year old girl named Vesna. They were so impressed with her enthusiastic, cheerful personality, they even invited her to come to California for a visit when she grew a little older. They even scribbled their names and address on a piece of torn paper and gave it to her.

Eight years passed. Our elderly friends grew more elderly. Vesna turned 18. Our friends had almost forgotten the invitation they had given Vesna, but she hadn’t forgotten. She had kept the now-wrinkled, torn piece of paper with their names and address. She wrote saying she was coming to California to spend a few weeks, and would love to stay with them. She would be flying into L.A. and would appreciate them picking her up.

Our friends panicked. They quietly confessed their dilemma to my husband, Tony, and me, but our response was,  “Not to worry. We would love having Vesna stay with us.”

The only problem was that Vesna expected the elderly couple to meet her at the airport. My brother, Booker, volunteered to don a chauffeur’s outfit, make a huge sign with Vesna’s name on it, and drive to the airport to meet her. When Vesna exited the plane and didn’t see the elderly couple she had expected, she was seriously worried, but when she saw the sign with her name on it, she had the courage to speak to the gentleman holding it.

Our three sons, Tony II, Preston, and Robert had gathered their guy friends, all about Vesna’s age, to meet her and “hang out.”

Walking into our family room filled with teenage boys, Vesna greeting them in perfect English, “I think I should warn you, I know Karate!” We all laughed and introduced ourselves.

We loved having Vesna stay with us, and she seemed to love us. In fact she came back for two or three visits after that initial introduction.

Of course Vesna learned that we were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we hoped our friendship would spark a desire for her to know more about “The Mormons.” Over those years, I felt a strong desire to give her a Book of Mormon, but I simply didn’t find the courage or the right time to do so. I prayed about the situation. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Would it be appropriate? Would it help? Would it hurt? Were the scriptures even allowed in Croatia at that time?

Croatia is within a mission area called a 5,4,3,2,1: The mission includes five countries, four languages, three currencies, two alphabets, and ONE mission. There are very few members. In fact getting 500 people throughout the entire mission to attend a “conference” held in various chapels on the same day and time was a challenge.

On her third and last visit, Vesna’s mother and brother accompanied her. Her mother was a psychiatrist in Croatia and had a well-known radio program. Her specialty was helping children and orphans in that war-torn area. She was a very intelligent, empathetic woman.

As we visited, Vesna’s mother said she would like to share an incident that had happened in her village. “Life is very challenging in my country.” She explained. “Many of our people are still trying to put their lives back together after the war. One evening a despondent young girl was standing on a bridge, clinging tightly to the railing and staring down into the river, poised to throw herself into the churning water. A woman who was walking nearby sensed the seriousness of the situation and hurried to the girl’s side. She put her arms around the girl, and with soft and kindly words she was able to soothe the girl’s feelings. I don’t know how long the woman talked, but finally, together, the woman and the girl moved away from the edge of the railing. The woman requested an ambulance be sent from my hospital. When it arrived, the woman insisted on accompanying the girl. The woman stayed at the hospital until the girl was comfortable enough to be left there. And then, every day the woman came to visit the girl. It took almost three months before the girl was healed and ready to go home.”

I sat spellbound as Vesna’s mother unfolded the story. What an incredible woman I thought. Then Vesna’s mother added, “That woman was a Latter-day Saint, a Mormon from your church.”

I cannot describe the feeling that instantly encompassed my soul. Heavenly Father had been watching over that young girl on the bridge. He had sent one of his faithful sisters to come to her aid—truly to save her life. And on the edge of this most beautiful story was the peripheral blessing that Heavenly Father was intertwining: the elderly couple who met Vesna on the boat when she was only 10, our having Vesna visit our home, and Vesna’s mother being so impressed with the woman on the bridge that she had to know what had motivated her to such compassion. The Lord had opened a way for me to offer Vesna and her mother a Book of Mormon. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but the Book was given and accepted.

It was the last time I saw Vesna. And I do not know the outcome of that last meeting or the Book. But I know this, with so few members in Croatia, it is amazing that one dear sister “happened” to be walking by, and stopped whatever she had been going to do, to bless the girl on the bridge. And that sister’s love and compassion so amazed Vesna’s mother, who was the psychiatrist at the hospital, that I was able to give her a Book of Mormon. I also know that as much as Heavenly Father watches over us, this can not really be the end of the story.

 

 

 

 

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