I think everyone we meet makes a difference in our lives. Kathy Sandoval moved into our ward about 10 years ago. When I saw her I thought she would provide a good chance for service. Little did I know that she would be the one who served me.Kathy's story is tragic if you think life is only about our time on earth. She married her husband who was quadraplegic as a result of a spinal cord injury. They fell in love as she cared for him as a CNA in a nursing home. When their third child was 18 months old Kathy was diagnosed with MS. Her children were sent to Alaska to live with her brother when she could no longer care for them. She and John, her husband, were side by side in a nursing home until he passed away 20+ years ago.
By the time she moved into our ward she could only move her head. She used her tongue to operate the TV remote and turned her head to push a button to answer the phone or call for assistance. She was completely dependent on others for everything else. To say Kathy was happy with her situation would be a lie. She had moments of despair, always wondering if she had done something to deserve her difficult life. "After all", she would say, "isn't that the message of the Book of Mormon"? "If you're wicked the Lord punishes you and if you're righteous He blesses you." I never had a great comeback except to say that if her condition was punishment then there were many people more deserving of it than she was. Truly bad things happen to good people.
One of the things that caused her sadness was that she couldn't do anything to serve. Also those talks and lessons about adversity - she just hated being the worst case scenario - Nobody said it but we all felt we had no reason to whine about our problems with Kathy sitting in her wheelchair nearby.
Here are a few things I learned from Kathy:
1. Get up and go to church - she was at church week after week. When we had the 9:00 a.m. start time she was dressed and put in her wheelchair at 3 a.m. because that's when the aids had time to do it. She did this every three years, 52 times - she didn't enjoy it, but she did it.
2. She was a great visiting teacher - I had the opportunity to be her companion. Many of the lessons she gave brought such a strong spirit - we had some sacred experiences in the homes of our sisters. When I visited her in the hospital the day before she died she said, "I guess we won't get our visiting teaching done this month - if any of our sisters comes by I'll be sure to give them the lesson."
3. She taught me to love and appreciate my body. If Kathy had been able to move a finger it would have been the most wonderful blessing. I do not take my ability to move and do whatever I want for granted because I knew her.
4. Regardless of your situation the only real hope we have is in the Savior. He gave her the strength to endure.
I could go on and on, I want to be sure to have a record of this sweet friend and her impact on my life. Little did I know all those years ago when Kathy joined our ward family how she would truly become my sister. I can't wait to see her on the other side of the veil, we'll talk about earth life and how her adversity was not a punishment but a blessing to everyone who knew her.