Sunday, July 22, 2012

Not Knowing Beforehand . . .

There was one whole day in my life where I was pretty sure I was guided by the Spirit. And I can pinpoint by date it as it was our wedding anniversary some years ago when I was bishop. Yes, another bishop story, but it's essential to understand the context. And at least part of it sort of came out in High Priests Group this morning.

For reasons that only became known later, my wife and I had decided to go the night before our anniversary to stay in a bed and breakfast we liked between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The plan was to sleep in, then spend our anniversary day in Albuquerque doing some shopping, eating out, and seeing a movie before we went back home to our six kids. It sort of turned out that way.

While running around Albuquerque, my wife - obviously more inspired than I was - suggested we go to St. Vincent's Hospital to visit a friend of hers from the ward. As I was bishop, I thought that was probably a good thing to do. My wife arranged a little bag of gifts for her.

As we walked towards the hospital, the mother and children of the woman were just coming out. We were able to visit with them for a few minutes. One such occurrence could be a coincidence. It gets better.

At the entrance to the hospital we ran into another ward member. He was a good guy, very active, even though confined to a wheelchair with a lot of challenges. I expressed my surprise to find him there and asked if he was there for any treatments. He explained that he was just getting some fresh air from visiting with his mother who was in the hospital. He said his dad was up there with her. His parents were not active in the church and I had only met them once before at their home. I told my friend I would go up and see them.

Finally inside the hospital, we got in the elevator just as a young brother from our ward got in as well. "Hey, Bishop! So good of you to come see my wife and the baby!" We had no idea they were having their baby that day. Apparently, Somebody did to get us there at that elevator moment. My wife deftly shifted to say she would go up with him to see his wife and the baby - and give her the little gift bag she had intended for the other friend. I explained that I had a commitment to visit the other family but after that I would come down and see them and connect up with my wife (and then we could go see the sister we had come to see).

I went up to visit with the less-active older couple. I was glad I had met them before. I visited for a while and used my bishop's prerogative to convince the brother that as a husband and a priesthood holder, even if less active, he had every right to give his wife a blessing. He did so with my assistance.

Then it was down to visit with the little family with the new baby, pick up my wife, and on to a friendly visit with the woman she had wanted to see. We had a good visit with her and left the hospital amazed at the Spirit guiding us to those opportunities for expressing the Lord's love. He knew what we were doing and where to send us. And it wasn't over.

We went to an early movie. It was an OK chick-flick my wife had picked, but I felt oddly uncomfortable. Something I couldn't quite understand was creating some inexplicable anxiety. The movie ended and we stopped by my in-laws where there were urgent messages. This was in the days before we had cell phones. We learned that another young family with a three-day-old baby had taken the infant in to the doctor and learned there was a serious heart problem that had not been noticed at birth. We rushed the hour-drive home to learn that the baby had been taken to University Hospital in Albuquerque and had just died. I called up the Relief Society President to arrange to pick her up on our way out of town. My wife and I got in the Suburban and we headed back down to Albuquerque.

That's where I prefer to end the this story because the rest of that night and the next few days were very tender and sacred to me. Yet I hope you can sense a bit of the feeling we had not knowing what we were doing except that we were in the Lord's service and in His hands.

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