To Bless a Patriarch

To Bless a Patriarch

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

To Bless a Patriarch

I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.

Isa. 57:18

Since September 1999, our stake patriarch, Harvey Lee Smith, and I have served each Thursday in the Oakland California Temple—Brother Smith as a temple sealer, and I as the shift coordinator. The weekly commute from our homes in Oroville, California, takes six hours of driving time—which, combined with our eight hours at the temple, gets us back home at about nine o’clock in the evening.

After several years of serving in this capacity, the trip started becoming rather taxing for the patriarch, who was more than eighty years old. As I got Brother Smith home at the conclusion of one such trip to the temple, he suffered a stroke. He was unaware of the seriousness of the injury that now rendered his right arm and leg powerless. Throughout the night, unable to sleep, he tried to regain use of his right side.

In the morning, his wife quickly realized that something was amiss, since Brother Smith was using his left hand to eat his breakfast and his speech was slurred. She insisted that he see a doctor immediately, and so drove him to the emergency room at our local hospital.

Upon completing a battery of tests, the ER physicians explained to the couple what had happened to Brother Smith—and that because of the amount of time since the stroke had occurred, they were unable to treat him with the clot-dissolving drugs that might have prevented the paralysis which he was now experiencing. Instead, doctors told the couple to return to the hospital if his symptoms worsened, and he was released from the hospital.

Sister Smith called me at 11:30 A.M. as they arrived back home. She described the ordeal they had just endured, and relayed the patriarch’s wishes that I might stop by in the evening to give him a blessing. I assured her that I would get another brother to assist me in performing the ordinance, and we would meet the mat six o’clock that evening.

As I hung up the telephone, I was completely overwhelmed by the task now before me. Here was the temple sealer and stake patriarch who had pronounced a patriarchal blessing upon me and upon my family members— and who had also used the sealing power of the priesthood to bind my family together throughout the eternities—asking me to give him a blessing.

I called another member of our high priest group, receiving a commitment from him to meet me at the patriarch’s home that evening and then retired to my bedroom. Dropping to my knees, I opened my heart to our Father in Heaven. I pleaded with Him that I might be receptive to the will of the Father and to the promptings of the Spirit, and that His will might be manifest in the blessing that I was to deliver.

As soon as I finished my prayer, I was overcome with a prompting that I needed to call the hospital where the patriarch had been treated. Before asking for help in being sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings, I had had no such feelings—but now I was consumed with the need to contact the hospital.

The clerk at the hospital’s information desk transferred my call to the emergency room, since that’s where Brother Smith had been treated earlier that morning. I inquired about the patriarch and was put on hold as the clerk checked the records for him. In a few moments the clerk returned to the phone, excitedly reporting that Harvey Smith had just come through the door of the ER seeking help.

I raced to the hospital, arriving in fewer than five minutes, and met Sister Smith in the emergency waiting room. She told me that the patriarch had suffered another stroke and that he was much worse than before. While I sat visiting with her, the thought came to me that Sister Smith didn’t seem surprised at my sudden appearance in the ER. (I later learned that she had left a note for me on her front door in anticipation of my 6 P.M. arrival, and she had assumed that I had gone to her home early and had seen her note.)

Telephoning another ward member, I asked that he meet us in the ER as soon as he could. About twenty minutes later, the doctors allowed Sister Smith, the other ward member and me into the exam room as they were completing the neurological tests to determine the extent of Brother Smith’s injuries.

We watched as the doctors cataloged the many deficits their patient now exhibited: extremely slurred speech and a complete loss of strength throughout his right side. As they completed their tests, they stepped from the room for a few moments. While they were gone, the brother with me anointed the patriarch, after which I sealed the anointing and pronounced a blessing upon him.

One of the doctors returned to Brother Smith’s bedside within about four minutes to find him speaking coherently. The doctor then began retesting the patriarch and found that he had regained most of the strength and use of both his right arm and leg.

Patriarch Smith continued to improve during the following weeks, regaining all that had been lost in the two strokes that he had suffered.

I, in turn, spent those weeks in prayerful gratitude to my Heavenly Father for answering my prayer. For although I had pled for help in being sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in hopes of ascertaining the Father’s will during the impending blessing, He had answered my prayer far sooner than I had imagined. He knew that the patriarch needed His help sooner than I had arranged to provide it.

The Lord has promised us that He will take an active, day-to-day involvement in our daily lives if we will give regular temple service. It has been four years since we were blessed to experience the fulfilling of that wonderful promise. Patriarch Smith continues to travel with me weekly, though each trip still entails him leaving home before sun-up and returning long after dark.

Douglas Scofield

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