A Valued Life

This morning I was touched by Shanna P. Grow’s story of her daughter in “A Valued Life” in the June 2005 Ensign. Her daughter, Cami, was born with serious birth defects that left little hope for her. Daughters expected her to die within a year or two, and she was expected to die at several other points in her now twenty-something life. The guidance of the spirit, giving personal revelation to parents as well as some physicians, surely saved her life. The story is instructive in several ways.

While some of you who have grieved over the loss of a child, or have struggled with seemingly unanswered prayers and unfulfilled blessings in seeking help for physical afflictions, some aspects of this story may raise painful questions such as “Why were these blessings withheld from us?” The Lord’s plans for his children are highly nonuniform. We must come to grips with the reality that some will die early, some will live long, and others will suffer or be spared from suffering in ways that rarely seem crafted according to human ideals. In those cases involving miracles that we wish had been ours, let us rejoice for the recipients of such blessings, trusting the Lord is mindful of our own pain and loss and has not forgotten us.

Having said that, let me say that one of the parts that touched me most was the brief insight we get into Cami’s perspective. Here is the passage:

After the experiences of Cami’s heart surgery, we had no doubt that her life was in the Lord’s hands. We decided to simply treat her as normally as possible and enjoy her precious spirit for as long as she lived. She attended regular public school and enjoyed some of it. When we moved from Utah to Waco, Texas, people treated her wonderfully. As we watched our daughter grow, we felt blessed and content. However, when Cami was 15, her heart began to fail. She turned blue and had to go on oxygen. We thought perhaps it was her time, but still we hoped.

We were sent to heart specialists at a children’s hospital in Austin. Heart research had progressed greatly in the past 11 years. A new use for a waterproof fabric had been applied, and a team of specialists used it to repair and restructure Cami’s heart the day after her 16th birthday. While she was in intensive care recovering from that surgery, day after day her father and I would sit by her bed and read to her from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. One day several months after her amazing recovery, the blueness gone, her health quite restored, Cami pointed out the following quotation from that story, saying, “Mom, this is me”:

“There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully, that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind” ([1932], 38).

I realized that in her own way, Cami is our Beth; in her quiet, cheerful way she has taught our family much about sacrifice and love.

Each life is so precious!

Sometimes, in dealing with those who suffer from severe physical or mental handicaps, people tend to focus on the caregivers and the parents and the sacrifices made by others in serving these sons and daughters of God. Perhaps we don’t always appreciate the many patient sacrifices being made by person we think we are serving. Maybe sometimes we miss who is serving whom. Service, love, and Christlike charity comes in many flavors.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

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