Jodi, Brady, Jonah and I were just getting back from the boy’s flag football game. As we were coming around the corner we saw my daughter Laura and her friend. They were just about to cross the street to our driveway.
They waved us down, and I assumed they wanted a ride up our driveway of about 30 yards. I dropped the window and Laura broke into a description of what just happened to them. As they walked home from her friend’s house they came across a couple of women who had just found a neighbor laying on his grass. It appeared he had been mowing the lawn and had a heart attack. Laura continued to tell us that another neighbor came along and started doing CPR and the paramedics had just arrived. Laura and her friend were visibly shocked by what had happened.
I thought to myself that was sad, but in reality people had heart attacks all the time. ‘What could I do?’ This is the common tale I tell myself, the Natural Man working to keep me out of doing what the Lord wants me to do. So, that’s when the Relief Society kicked in and helped me out.
As we pulled away from Laura and up the driveway, Jodi said, ‘You know, it’s our neighbor. Maybe we should go and see what we can do to help?’ I dismissed this, but the seed had been planted, and it didn’t take much more than that to nestle in my chest and start to grow.
I pulled into the garage and the Spirit had already been working on me pretty hard. I got out of the car and realized I couldn’t fight it. I needed to go and see who was hurt. See if there was a woman I could help. Going through my mind was, ‘What am I going to say to this lady who’s husband was just whisked off to the hospital?’
So, with my shorts, T-shirt, and ball cap I drove up the hill to see which neighbor it was. As I pulled over the crest of the hill I could see the two fire trucks. I could see a mess of firefighters, at least 8, milling around working on someone – in the front yard on their grass.
On no, it was my friend Art.
My heart sank as I quickly got out of the car and saw the paramedics performing CPR on him right there on the edge of the street. My daughter was right, he must have just been mowing his lawn. From my angle, all I could see were his feet and stomach, they were working on him feverishly. I walked up to the closest neighbors and asked, ‘Is it Art?’ They confirmed my fears.
I couldn’t see his wife, just other neighbors. I moved closer, and the team continued to work on him. They shocked him. Still nothing.
I walked closer and saw that a neighbor had brought a lawn chair close for art’s wife to sit and watch what was happening. It was a sad scene.
It was at this point Art’s daughter and son-in-law ran into the scene. Dad on the ground being worked on and mom crying as she watched. My heart went out to them and I could barely keep it together.
The paramedics decided to take him to the hospital so Art’s kids were going to follow behind. I walked up to the son-in-law and said, “I don’t know if you remember me…” All four of them had come to a couple of our ward activities. They were about my age and were nice people. He nodded his head and said he did remember me. I told him I’d be happy to help if they needed anything. It felt like empty words.
They scooted off.
I went home, and felt again that I needed to offer assistance. I took a quick shower, put on my suit and tie and headed to the hospital. As a Bishop, even if someone is in the intensive care unit they will let me in. Clergy is always welcome for support.
I drove to the emergency room and asked to be let inside. I used Art’s name, explained I was a Bishop and the person at the front desk said they’d get a nurse to help me. Quickly she came around the corner and said the family was waiting in a room close by.
It was a room I wasn’t familiar with. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I assumed I would be let into the ICU area where Art was, and the family would be surrounding his bed. Would Art still be alive? Would I find him with a ventilator on? Would he have already passed?
The nurse opened the door and the three of them, Art’s wife, daughter and son-in-law, were sitting in a closed waiting room. A room where people could grieve in private. I walked in and they were obviously surprised to see me. Art’s wife, even though I introduced myself to her just 20 minutes before couldn’t remember me. I had gone from ball cap to a suit and tie. The son-in-law did remember me though, as did Art’s daughter. She broke into tears and was grateful I showed up.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if Art was still alive or not. I was too scared to ask. After only about 10 seconds though, I knew, Art was gone. We all hugged. I offered some words of comfort. It was obvious Art’s wife was still in a complete fog. His death came out of nowhere and she was grappling to understand the ramifications.
She asked about next steps and spoke about some of Art’s wishes. We told her she had time. Nothing needed to happen immediately. Art’s wife and daughter were having a hard time of it. His son-in-law was obviously moved, but he was much better at holding it together. He was in ‘support’ mode. What a blessing he was to those women during that time.
I handed Art’s wife my card with my number on it and said I’d be happy to support her in any of the steps she was about to go through. I explained I’d been through nine funerals in the last 4 years, so would be happy to assist in any way I could.
The nurse walked in and asked if they wanted to see Art, they all said they did. I stood and said, ‘This is your time. I’ll let you go.’ We hugged one more time and I walked out.
As I drove home I realized how grateful I was that the Spirit had moved me to take action. It was my spiritual experience for the day. As I sat there in my car listening to Laura tell us that someone had a heart attack and the paramedics were there, it was easy to dismiss. That happens every day. But when it turns out it’s someone you know, it changes everything.
In the car Jodi spoke, and I knew her words were the Spirit. The Spirit saying I needed to take action. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have known it was my friend Art. I wouldn’t have been able to help his family as they were alone at the hospital. Not that I was able to do much, just that I was able to hold their hand and let them know I, and their Savior, loved them.