To Help Those Less Fortunate

To Help Those Less Fortunate

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

To Help Those Less Fortunate

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Matt. 5:5

At the age of twenty-five, I finally prepared myself thoroughly to receive my patriarchal blessing. I was eager to hear the words that would be pronounced upon my head and to learn of the blessings Heavenly Father had in store for me!

It was a wonderful blessing, and it provided many answers I had been seeking. But I was very curious about one gift the blessing described: that I would live a long and useful life and help those less fortunate than myself. I was excited about this gift, and I decided exactly what it meant: I would be rich, and could give people cars and other nice things, like Elvis Presley had done. I was so excited to see the smiles I would generate!

Was I ever wrong!

In 1989, my son Caleb was eight years old. He had been terribly sick since the age of three, suffering horrendous headaches that often caused him to be miserable. The doctor diagnosed them as migraine headaches, which ran in our family on both sides. Nothing seemed to ease Caleb’s pain, however. On Mother’s Day we were at the doctor’s office once again, and Caleb was given a shot of Demerol. Not even that powerful painkiller helped.

He was such a wonderful, brave little boy! He tried to live as normally as he could for those five years, which were characterized by such unrelenting pain. Then, just after he turned eight and soon after he was baptized, he started participating on a Little League team! He had been blessed with superior coordination, and we knew he would do well. He was so excited, and we as a family were really looking forward to his future in sports and watching and attending all his games.

At his third practice, Caleb held his arm up to catch a fly ball with his mitt; he missed, and the ball landed directly in his eye socket. He had a huge black-and-blue eye—but worse, was so embarrassed. Our hearts went out to him at that tender age.

Soon after, he began to be extremely sick most of each day. We had to carry pain medication, ice packs and a bucket for Caleb to vomit in everywhere we went. We were told once again by the doctor that his headaches were psychological.

Finally, I demanded a CAT scan. The scan revealed the reason for his coordination problems and his pain: a brain tumor fully engulfed one-fourth of his brain. We now faced an emergency: The brain tumor had to be removed before it killed him.

The night before he was to have surgery, the anesthesiologist told me Caleb would not live through surgery because of the size and location of the tumor and the pressure it was exerting on his brain. If Caleb somehow survived, he said, Caleb would be a vegetable. It was the worst moment of my life.

While Caleb was in surgery for ten hours the next day, we were surrounded by our dear ward families from two different places where we had lived. I fasted and prayed all day.

Finally, the doctors emerged from the operating room to give us the news. The doctor who had told me that Caleb would not live was the first one to reach me. He excitedly told us that Caleb was moving his arms and legs and even talking a little. Our prayers had been answered! Within two weeks Caleb was home.

While Caleb was in the hospital, I tried very hard to find another parent in a similar situation so I could understand what the future might hold for us. There is great comfort in being with another who understands a difficulty because he has also lived with one. But I was able to find no one.

A year later, two nurses put together a brain tumor support group; the huge conference room filled up for the very first meeting. After several years, I became the main facilitator. That support group—which I named BRAVE (Brain Tumor Resource and Vital Encouragement)—still continues, and has helped many families that have a child with a brain tumor.

Caleb is doing wonderfully; he put himself through college in four years and is applying for medical school.

One day I was shocked to realize that my patriarchal blessing had been fulfilled through Caleb’s brain tumor. The section in the blessing that stated I would have the opportunity to help those less fortunate than myself had come true. I was facilitating a brain tumor support group, and since the group started in 1991, I have been sad to see many children leave this life. But I have also been given the gift to listen and comfort others who are “less fortunate” than myself.

I am grateful for this blessing every day of my life and for the gifts my Father in Heaven has bestowed upon me in so many ways! I feel blessed beyond words to share my comfort and support with families who are enduring the most devastating thing in their lives.

Valerie Baker

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