Another event when I felt the Lord’s tender mercies occurred around Christmastime 1977, when Heather was about six months old. She had been developing normally when, all of a sudden, she started showing very subtle yet troubling symptoms of retrogression in her development. I became very concerned and took her to see our pediatrician.
Because the changes in Heather’s muscle control were so subtle, our pediatrician could see nothing wrong with her. Unconvinced, I made an appointment to see a physical therapist. Several days before the appointment, my visiting teachers came by, and during the course of our conversation they asked how my family was doing. Without any particular alarm, I mentioned that I was a little concerned about Heather’s development and that I was taking her to see a physical therapist the following Friday. Little did I realize that at that moment the “still small voice” whispered to those wonderful sisters that I would need help on Friday. Acting on that prompting by the Spirit, one visiting teacher volunteered to watch Heidi, and the other one later secretly called Bruce and arranged to get a key to our house so she could clean our kitchen while I was gone.
Friday finally came. As I drove Heather to the clinic, I had a sick feeling in my stomach, a lump in my throat, and a prayer in my heart. I was trying to muster the courage to accept that which I had already suspected.
You can imagine how I felt when the therapist confirmed my worst fears and said, “Heather is definitely developmentally delayed and appears to exhibit symptoms of cerebral palsy.” I was devastated, and all I could think about was getting out of that place and finding “a little corner of the world” where I could go cry and pour out my soul to God.
With a continuing sick feeling in my stomach and tears streaming down my face, I drove to Bruce’s office to tell him the news. After an hour-long cry, and many unanswered questions, we had a heartfelt prayer together in the van, and I left for home. On the way, I cried, wondered, and pleaded with the Lord, “Why another handicapped child? Cindy already takes so much time to feed; how am I going to be able to care for her and Heather and still have enough time and energy for my other children? Heavenly Father, please help me deal with this.”
I finally arrived home, and what I experienced next I shall never forget. As I opened the front door, I was immediately hit by the aroma of freshly baked bread. Sure enough, in the kitchen on top of the stove were four loaves of bread. Then it dawned on me—the dishes were done, the kitchen counters were spotless, the floor was mopped and waxed, there was a new tablecloth (not mine) on the kitchen table, and the stove and refrigerator were clean. The kitchen was immaculate! Somehow my heart wasn’t quite as heavy. Then I walked into the living room to set Heather’s infant seat on the floor. The floor was vacuumed, the furniture was dusted, and on the television was a new vase containing a beautiful bouquet of freshly cut flowers.
With an even less heavy heart, I went upstairs. There I discovered the beds had been made and the bedrooms and bathrooms were as spotless and shining as the living room and the kitchen were. The only thing that was out of place was all the folded laundry sitting on Michelle’s bed. My entire house was clean and all my laundry was done—all at the same time!
As I entered my bedroom to pray, my previously heavy heart had now been filled with gratitude and love—gratitude for the gospel and an immense love for my visiting teachers, who had followed the promptings of the Spirit and asked five other sisters to help them that day. Although their cleaning my house didn’t change anything about Heather’s handicap, it helped me focus on something outside my immediate feelings of hurt and pain, and it helped me see that I really did have blessings to be thankful for. In a very real sense, it lightened my load and, in the process, taught me once again that the way we help each other is by serving and “bearing one another’s burdens that they may be light.” How grateful I am to have learned that lesson, for I believe it is central to the entire gospel plan. Truly, those are the Lord’s tender mercies. Those are the miracles.