The size twenty-nine white pants I purchased for my mission fourteen years ago don’t fit me anymore. I don’t know how many years I went to the temple to rent white pants instead of just buying a new pair. Denial, perhaps. But I was going to baptize my oldest child. So I went to the Distribution Center and purchased some. A friend hemmed them for me and I wore them, along with a new white shirt, white tie and white socks. I checked to see that the black Nike swoosh at the calf was not visible.
It was a half an hour before the service was to start. Saturday morning. Then, a cry of panic from outside my bedroom door. I quickly found myself handing the 911 operator to someone, it had to be my wife or my mom, they were the only ones there and I knelt straddling my father’s unresponsive body on the floor. His lips and fingers blue and his eyes glazed. I gave away the phone so I could bless him, but there was no peace in my mind, no transcendent spirit. So I did what I could, what I could remember. I stretched my hands out. “Oh God,” I thought, “let this be right.” And I rebuked his condition and commanded him to be well.
The emergency responders were soon there. I smile now thinking about what they thought this guy dressed in white was doing. I told them we were going to a religious service. And then we went through the litany of medications and medical history that could perhaps contextualize his condition. And then they left. At some point my sister and one of my brothers came – a physician – and they followed them to the hospital. Another brother went to the chapel to greet our friends.
I changed and drove my mother to the hospital as well.
My brother – the physician – and my sister had traveled half the continent to be there that day. You can’t keep the grandkids at the hospital, though. They couldn’t see my dad like this and they had come to see more than the aspirantly sterile floors and walls of that building. At some point, it was just me and my physician brother again. And as my mother looked on I anointed his head and my brother laid on hands to seal it. “Please let me feel your spirit,” I thought. And I did.
After church, we drove to the stake center where the font was again filled. I entered the warm grave and immersed my son. I stood with my family around him and pressed my hand to his damp head. “At the appropriate time you will be called and ordained a king and a priest to your God. And though you will die, you will yet be made alive. You will be raised up and behold your Savior and your kin.” I am shaking.
Every day I go to the hospital. Work is flexible and the hospital has wifi. I watch my dad struggle against the restraints that keep him from removing the tubes to his lungs and stomach. I know that they are giving him an amnesiate, that he won’t remember. But he is still suffering. It hurts to watch.
On a good day they extubate him. My other brother, the last sibling to arrive, has come and the four brothers surround their father. Again, I anoint his head with the oil. My oldest brother seals it. His hopeful promises quicken me as I hope they quicken my dad. They re-intubate in the morning.
Five weeks and my dad is released. He stays with us until he is strong enough to fly home. On the last day, I place my hands on my parents’ heads. My mother is spent, my father recovering. Finally, peace and clarity. Words come to me as I promised they would come to my son six week earlier: “You will prophecy, and your words shall be a stream of living fire.”