In 2001 my husband and I began to talk about serving a mission; something I had really looked forward to once the kids were grown. We sent off our applications with assurances from our stake president that no matter where we were called to serve, we should accept even if we could not afford it. We were not as fortunate as some of the couple missionaries - set for life financially, so it was a sacrifice for us, but one that we were so willing to make. We were assured that our home ward and stake would make up the difference financially if necessary.
As a child I had longed to be of service to the god I had been taught to believe in by serving as a missionary in
We sent off our acceptance letter and in March 2002 we were on our way to the MTC in
We had a son-in-law suffering with cancer and felt that this was our huge sacrifice, but when it comes down to the truth of that matter I realize that we were bargaining with god for his life. "If you love them, leave them." This is the motto for couple missionaries. All will be well with your family and our family was praying hard for a miracle for this young man that we all loved so much.
We were at the MTC for 10 days and excitedly departed on a Thursday for our long, long trip to
We were picked up in a shiny volkswagen combie (passenger van) by the mission president and his wife, other couples and the AP's. On the trip to the mission home I was dismayed to see the shanty towns lining the roads; it was hard to believe that people lived their lives like this. At the mission home we were given a room and told that we could sleep for a couple of hours, get cleaned up and then go for dinner at one of the couples' flat, after which we were to travel to the stake center to attend the general conference broadcast in the evening. My ankles were like two puffy balls, but we did as we were told. I could not stay awake for much of it; my dreams and the talks were all muddled together.
We met some people and looked forward to getting to know them better; loved their accents. Got back to the mission home and had a fitful night; trying to adjust to the heat, and the change in time zone. We got up in the morning and headed out for a whole day and evening watching general conference broadcast again. The view from the chapel was wonderful and the people seemed nice. Still had puffy ankles and was thinking that if I could just lie down the swelling would disappear. After about 32 hours of air travel and then all this sitting at conference, lying down would be such a luxury. I didn’t know at that time that I would be spending the next week lying down.
On the way home from the stake center once again as passengers in the shiny red combie, we were involved in a terrible accident sustaining among other injuries nasty blows to my head which took away my memory of most of the events which transpired for the next several hours. I had blotches of memory after the accident but no coherent memories about the accident itself. I have since been hypnotized to try to come to terms with this terribly traumatic event but I feel that I was mostly hypothesizing what would have been the case and re-constructing things from what I had been told by those less injured. I know that I was cut out of the back of the vehicle. I remembered later, a voice telling me that he was a paramedic and informing him that I had a broken wrist – that was one of many injuries. I also remember trying to negotiate a deal with god once again; my life for my son-in-law’s life. He was young and I somehow knew that I was in rough shape.
Being wheeled along a concrete corridor is my next coherent memory and thinking that I was in a morg. I called out for my husband and heard his reassuring voice. Everything was so confusing as I tried to piece together the events. I watched blood soaked gauze pads; one after the other being pulled away from their mopping job on my left forehead and temple. The doctor told me I had a 13 centimeter gash which needed to be stitched up. My wrist WAS broken and I would need surgery in the morning. My husband came and stood by me; his head a mass of lacerations and his eyes rapidly turning black. I finally said, “Were we in an accident?” He said yes and things became confused again. Yes, they were admitting me and my husband wanted to stay with me. His neck was sore and he was obviously injured and he needed rest. They finally admitted him too and we were put into a ladies ward with 4 beds but just the two of us as occupants – then blessed oblivion.
I awoke in the morning as they were moving me to go for surgery on my left wrist. I asked my husband how his neck felt and he said it was very painful. I believe I was quite bossy in demanding that they x-ray his neck; something that had not been done in emergency. I was a first aid instructor until our mission and I was trying to take charge of the situation. I had to have a plate and screws in my wrist to hold it together. When the anesthetic and pain pills effects began to weaken I realized that my husband was now sporting a neck brace. His neck was broken; how close we had come to dying right there on the second day of our mission. God must have wanted us to survive, although for the life of me later on, I couldn’t understand why. If he had needed me in
- We had just traveled all that distance and the thought of returning with those kinds of injuries did not bear thinking about. Couldn’t even rummage in my suitcase when we were released from the hospital to the mission home one week later.
- God wanted us to serve in
and this was another sacrifice South Africa
- Maybe this would be the sacrifice that would save our son-in-law
- We had rented out our home to some young women so had nothing to return to
- Our family was already struggling so hard to support our daughter and her dying husband; the last thing they needed was two badly injured parents to house and care for.
- Our stake president in setting us apart for this calling counseled us to stay on our missions and not come home, no matter what happened.
So within two weeks of the accident we were learning our duties in the mission office, up two flights of stairs, with my husband now in a much more substantial neck brace, black eyes and a head that looked like it had been grated. I had two wrist casts and a sling for the collar bone, a giant concussion combined with the memory loss that kept interfering with my recollection of my duties. I sat in the cheap office chair with the broken back and ribs, answering the many phone calls, trying to open envelopes and file documents etc. It was the worst experience of my life and what made it worse was that our mission president was an MD and did nothing to help. He had absolutely no compassion for the severity of the pain as he dumped letters on my desk telling me to sort them or to type letters from his dictation machine. My husband slogged away at learning the mission finance work.
Immediate results of the accident were that the mission president paid for the hospital expenditures because money was needed immediately to cover those costs. We had insurance but until we had all the receipts etc. there was no way of making a claim.
Nobody from the mission bothered to phone our kids; my husband did that on the Monday or Tuesday.
Nobody from Salt Lake HQ bothered to contact us to see how we were and what would be best for us.
Nobody from the area office in Johannesburg bothered to contact us until some time later when the travel arranger called and asked how I was making out with my job and my injuries and I cried and told him how callous the mission president was. Then I got a call from a member of the area presidency in Jo'burg. He must have talked with the mission president because I got somewhat of an apology from him admitting that he was not a very caring individual. Glad he wasn't my doctor.
None of the missionary couples who were serving in other areas as much as sent a get well card. I felt so alone and so uncared for. I felt abandoned by god and my husband and I were sleeping in separate rooms to allow us both to get the rest we so badly needed. I was spaced out on pain pills for weeks.
We were barely making it from one day to the next emotionally and physically. We were living at the mission home temporarily until the couple we were replacing had taught us our numerous duties and left for home. They were wonderful and so patient. Mormons are some of the best people on the earth. They helped prop up my mattress when we got home from the hospital and provided dinner.
The mission home's maid was helpful in making our beds and changing the bedding often for us. The MP and wife headed out for Port Elizabeth and we were on our own to make meals and entertain ourselves in the evenings. With no energy left over from a day at the office we mostly just read, wrote in my journal if it killed me; I wanted to remember all the details.
My collar bone was not healing and I had to have surgery after 12 weeks of working with the bone ends jamming into each other.
More about that in the next blog.