from the Relief Society Magazine, June 1936 —
by Edna May Irvine
Mary Greenway was working in her rose garden. It was extremely warm and as she stopped her digging and pruning to wipe her perspiring face, she heard voices in quiet conversation. Peering through the foliage she saw two women turn in at her front gate.
Mary went out but little and had few callers. Widowed soon after the birth of her child, she had taken her responsibility seriously and had devoted her whole time to the care of her home and daughter. She had often said that when her child was raised she would go out to meetings, but, though Lucia was now married and living in a nearby town, Mary was still a “home woman.”
Mary was sure her visitors were the Relief Society teachers. It was the Thursday on which they were requested to make their visits and they were dutiful teachers.
Mary soliloquized: “They can’t see me so I won’t let on that I heard them. It must be nearly noon now, and I want to finish this job before it gets any hotter. Their chief reason for calling is to get a donation and with Lucia’s birth just past I can hardly spare anything.”
Mary had a feeling of guilty relief as she saw the sisters pass out the gate and continue on their way. Of course they might return, but she could say she was working in the garden and let them infer that she had not seen or heard them. She had never been a cheerful giver and had sometimes said that those who had to have charity were worthless poor more often than worthy poor.
She had managed her own affairs carefully, had never accepted help, and never expected to need help, and narrowly thought everyone should fit into her mold. This was not the first time she had failed to admit the Relief Society teachers. Had she analyzed her feelings she would have realized that she could not say to herself, “Well done.”
Mary again applied herself to her work. Her hat was in the way so she had thrown it off. Now her task was finished and she gathered up her things and walked to the house. She was indeed tired. It was unusually hot. She would go in and have a cup of iced tea to refresh herself and then lie down and rest a while.
Mary always had to have her cup of tea. Of course the Word of Wisdom was all right but she was sure there was not much harm in taking a cup of tea.
What made her feel so queer? It seemed to be getting dark. She groped toward the nearest chair and then – oblivion. When she regained consciousness she was lying on the floor. Someone was knocking. Mary tried to rise but couldn’t, so she called, “Come in.” Her voice sounded weak and she feared she would not be heard. She needed help.
The door opened and in walked Sister Brown and Sister Adams, the Relief Society teachers, making a return call.
“Why, Sister Greenway, what is the matter?”
“I don’t know. I just woke up and found myself lying here and I can’t seem to get up.”
They lifted Mary to the couch and gave her a drink of water. They made mention of her hat and garden tools and then she began to recall what had happened.
“We visited our block this morning and as several were not at home we decided to call again this evening. We were avoiding the heat of the day.”
“This evening,” said Mary. “Then I must have been lying here several hours.”
The teachers looked at each other rather guiltily.
“I wonder if you were lying here when we came this morning?” said Sister Adams.
Mary closed her eyes and moved her head from side to side but said nothing.
The sisters put her comfortably to bed and called the doctor. He pronounced it sunstroke, said it might or might not prove serious and recommended that Mary remain in bed for a week or more.
“Shall we send for your daughter, Sister Greenway?”
“No, no. Lucia will be down Saturday. They generally come on Saturday and remain over Sunday. Lucia has enough with her husband and child to care for. I’ll get along all right.”
The sisters would not think of leaving her alone and, as Mr. Brown was away for a time, Sister Brown said she would gladly stay until Lucia should come.
Saturday morning the following letter came from Lucia:
You will probably be disappointed to hear that we will not be down to see you for a while as we are leaving for Yellowstone Saturday at noon. I expected to see you before we left, but just can’t make it. I know you will forgive me.
The Simpsons are going with us or we would have taken you. We felt you would not enjoy the trip if the car were crowded. I’ll send a card every day.
Love and kisses from Lucia and Mary Beth.
Mary was visibly disappointed but uttered no word of criticism. Lucia and Harold had promised to take her to Yellowstone when they went and she had looked forward to it. Of course she would not have been able to go as things were now, but at any rate, she had counted on Lucia’s coming this weekend and remaining to take care of her. She couldn’t impose on Sister Brown much longer. She would have to hire someone, yet she hardly felt able to pay a nurse. By being careful she had enough for her simple needs, but a siege of helplessness would soon exhaust her resources.
The Bishop and Relief Society president called and other sisters helped in relieving Sister Brown. The Elders came to administer several times, but Mary seemed to have lost all desire to live. She said she was no longer necessary to her daughter and if she were going to be helpless, what had she to live for?
“Perhaps you haven’t demanded enough from your daughter,” suggested Sister Brown.
“I haven’t demanded anything from her. I always delighted to do all I could for her. I can see now that I should have cultivated friends and outside interests so that I would not have been solely dependent upon Lucia for happiness.”
“It isn’t too late yet,” said Sister Brown. When you recover you must come to the Relief Society and I am sure you will find social, spiritual, and intellectual interests that will give you new life.”
“I don’t feel that the Relief Society owes me anything, Sister Brown. I’m ashamed to confess that I saw you the morning you came to visit and purposely let you think I was not at home. I have never been loyal to the Relief Society or to the church, and this may be a punishment or perhaps the Father has just been good to me in showing me my error. After all the kindness I have received, I feel that I can never do enough to show my gratitude. If I recover, I must show it in service; if I do not recover, I must repay in some other way.”
When Lucia returned and found what had occurred during her absence she was truly remorseful and she, too, learned a life-lasting lesson.
“Never fail to welcome the Relief Society teachers,” her mother admonished her. “And never fail to give them a donation if it is your last cent.”
Mary Greenway partially recovered and became an ardent Relief Society worker and visiting teacher. The weather was never so cold or so warm that it prevented Mary from visiting her block. No work was important enough to keep her from attending her meetings. She was never happier than when doing a service in a home where service was needed. Often she remarked that she had never before known what real happiness was, and whenever she bore her testimony she thanked her Heavenly Father for helping her to see the right way and for granting her the privilege of making up somewhat for her past indifference.
She never felt that she could do enough and when she passed away it was found that, with the full concurrence of her daughter, she had left her worldly possessions to the organization she had learned to love so dearly.