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I was visiting a friend in a care facility recently, and before heading down to her room I noticed an elderly couple nearby, in the lobby. The woman was in a wheelchair, her husband bending over her. “How would you like to go into the lunchroom?” he was asking. There are no words to adequately describe how tender and loving he sounded. “You really enjoyed that yesterday. Shall we do that? That might be fun.”
She nodded and with great enthusiasm he then said, “All right! Let’s do it! Oh, this will be wonderful!” You’d think he hadn’t seen her in a year. But it turned out he was there every day to escort his sweetheart up and down the halls, into the dining hall, back to her room, whatever was needed. And he made it sound like the ultimate date of a lifetime, like he was the luckiest man on earth to be given the honor of her company. In the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, she had stopped speaking. But she hadn’t stopped hearing, and he made sure she knew she was loved beyond her wildest dreams. Every day. Wow.
And maybe there is a word for this. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said, “Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind.”
I felt a flood of gratitude for having seen that small glimpse of perfection, that snapshot of the kind of angelic devotion that makes a truly great marriage. Such respect, such complete focus on pleasing one’s mate. I want to be exactly like that guy.
Then last week a friend was telling me about another man who brings his elderly wife into Relief Society exactly the same way. He makes sure she has someone to sit beside on the front row, hugs her, and tells her she’s going to have a wonderful time while he goes to his Priesthood meeting, and then he’ll be back to pick her up.
We’ve all seen examples of this level of compassion, this kind of Christlike behavior. It can be the wife, a son or daughter, even a caring friend. But it makes us stop in our tracks and marvel. It’s beyond patience, beyond service. It’s the pure essence of charity that both defines and refines us—it’s completely focusing upon how to best please the one we love. It’s precisely how the Savior told us to be. And the people who do this actually shine. It’s as if nothing can keep that Christlike glow from filling their countenance.
Sometimes people look this way on a honeymoon, or when they’re dating and falling in love. They look at one another with absolute adoration. What might happen if we could keep this up indefinitely? Is it impossible? It’s certainly difficult. In every family, sooner or later, flaws emerge and conflicts inevitably arise. Here, of all places, our patience is tried. But here, of all places, it’s essential to try harder. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin once said, “Family members do have differences that can cause friction, but they should reserve their most tender affection for those who are closest to them: their spouse, parents, brothers and sisters. The true greatness of a person, in my view, is evident in the way he or she treats those where courtesy and kindness are not required.”
I once saw a woman bump into a stranger, then quickly turn to apologize. Suddenly she realized it wasn’t a stranger at all, but her grown son. “Oh, it’s just you,” she muttered, as if she would never have been so courteous had she realized it was “just” a family member.
There’s something else about treating one another like gold. It helps us. We become more sanctified, more like our Father in Heaven. The sharp edges of our problems seem to soften. Stress and anxiety ease. Our step is lighter, our smile brighter. Life is just better when we can “be that guy.”
Not only that, but could it be our prayers will be answered more distinctly? Again, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “If you feel that Heavenly Father is not listening to your petitions, ask yourself if you are listening to the cries of the poor, the sick, the hungry, and the afflicted all around you.” Perhaps it’s a matter of joining God’s team. When we help him with what matters to him, he will naturally be more inclined to help us with what matters to us. So often miracles follow that kind of faith, that kind of charitable love. And I don’t know about you, but I could definitely use some miracles.
Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.