Valerie

Valerie joined the church several years ago. She was pregnant, and came to church alone. Her husband had no interest in the church. She hoped that some day he would show some interest, and in the meantime was hoping to raise her first child in the gospel. Her parents and brother were also hopeful future recipients of the gospel.

I was fortunate to be able to help the missionaries in teaching Valerie, and was honored to accept an assignment to be her first home teacher. We taught her the new member discussions, and began the regular home teaching routine. Things went well, and then her daughter was born.

After the birth of her daughter, Valerie did not come to church for several weeks. This was understandable as it was her first child, and she would not have the help of her husband during the meetings. We talked her into getting her child blessed, and to her joy, her husband and her parents came to the church on the week of the blessing. Maybe this would be the event that would bring everything together.

A few weeks went by, and neither Valerie nor her family had made it to church. Attempts to line the missionaries up with them were respectfully declined. Regular home teaching visits continued. The only meaningful progress was in our developing the beginnings of a relationship with her husband. When we first started our home teaching we had to meet Valerie at the church. But over time, her husband eventually allowed us into their home. He did not participate, other than in brief chitchat when we first arrived.

After about a year of this, Valerie’s father got cancer. She sought the help of our bishop, who gave her father a blessing. After what appeared to be a successful surgery and some treatment, her father did quite well for a time. The family was very grateful, and even came to church a couple of times. Maybe this would be the event that would bring everything together.

Missionary efforts with her family never gained any traction, and after a few weeks Valerie stopped coming to church again. Our home teaching visits continued, and we enjoyed going to her home. But not much progress was made.

Her father’s cancer returned, and attacked his aging body aggressively. Another blessing was given, but lacked the optimism of the first blessing. Soon her father passed away. Her mother took the death quite hard, as did Valerie. They both came to church a few times, and missionary discussions began with her mother. Things seemed to be going so well. Maybe this would be the event that would bring everything together.

Valerie and her brother tried to keep the family business – a TV and VCR repair shop – going. They enjoyed doing this, and thought it was their way of keeping their fathers legacy alive. And then, without warning, her mother sold the business. This angered Valerie and her brother, and caused a lot of hard feelings in the family. I don’t think Valerie ever got over this. So much for the missionary efforts.

The home teaching continued. But now it seemed that we were mainly listening to her complain about her mother, and observing her spiritual decline. We really did not know what to do.

After about a year of this Valerie got in a serious car accident. A head on collision that badly broke both her legs, and her pelvis. Her stomach was violently shoved up into her chest. Her survival was in question, and if she made it, she may never walk again.

The surgeries were successful, and her healing began. She was in a hospital bed in her home for several months. Our ward was pretty impressive during this time. Many meals and visits were made. Meaningful service was given. Her husband’s heart was visibly softened. I was proud to be a member of our ward, and to be in the middle of helping this family. Maybe this would be the event that would bring everything together.

Valerie eventually healed up enough to start moving around. We hoped to see her coming back to church again. When we made the invitations, she admitted to getting back into her smoking habit. We tried to convince her to come anyway, but she declined. We tried to get her on one of the missionary stop smoking programs, but this she also declined.

Our home teaching continued, and Valerie continued to fall. She looked worse and worse with every visit. She admitted to having some kind of addiction, but did not want to tell us what it was. And one day I met her husband at the grocery store, where he told me that they were getting a divorce. A few days later I went by there house and there was a ‘For Sale’ sign out front. Nobody was home. That was nearly a year ago. I have not seen or heard from Valerie since. We do not know where she is. She stopped by one of the families in our ward a few months ago and asked for fifty dollars. She did not look very well.

I had such great hopes!

Maybe something will happen that will bring everything together for her.

We love you Valerie.

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13 Responses to “Valerie”


  1. 1 Michelle September 11, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    These kinds of stories always tug at my heart. You never know, though. You never know….

  2. 2 Eric Nielson September 12, 2007 at 6:34 am

    Thanks Michelle.

    As I thought about this overnight, I realized that I tend to focus on the negative experiences to much. When someone joins the church, gets the priesthood, goes to the temple, yada, yada, yada. I feel like that is what is supposed to happen. No big deal. The church is true right? This should happen all the time. It is when this does not happen that I remember it, and dwell on it on and on.

    So I remember the investigator that never joined the church, the convert that fell away, etc., and ask what could I have done?

    What am I supposed to do?
    Where are the words to make you see
    what I believe is true?

    So I beat myself up over this stuff, and assume that surely there was something I could have done better. I had such high hopes.

  3. 3 the narrator September 12, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been struggling watching some people I care very much about go down a spiritual decline. I just try to have the same hope for them that others once had for me.

  4. 5 Michelle September 14, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Eric,
    One word.
    Agency.

    It’s the hardest word to consider in missionary efforts of any kind. But it’s an important one.

    Remember also the law of the harvest. That is why I said you never know. You may have been the seed planter, ya know?

  5. 6 Jason September 14, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I am currently assigned as a home teacher for someone very much like Valerie – except she is a single mother. I worry a great deal about her and haven’t seen her at church but 3 times since her baptism (about 5 months ago). I think Michelle says it all when you have to remember the Agency each individual has. I am a fixer and want to make everything work and know how much easier her life could be with the Gospel in it.

    It’s hard to watch this slow seperation from the church (she doesn’t dodge my calls, but does dodge the visits), but what else can you do?

  6. 7 Eric Nielson September 14, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Michelle:

    One word….(yeah, right) :)

    Agency wouldn’t be so bad, if it wasn’t for all the freedom of others.

    Jason:

    I don’t know. I guess keep holdin’ on.

    We could be down and gone, but we hold on.

  7. 8 david September 14, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    Michelle is right. We all have agency. Despite the best efforts by well-meaning and loving members, in the end it all falls on the shoulders of the individual to choose the right path (or not). I’ve seen several similar stories over the years, and they do tug at one’s heart. Living the gospel will never guarantee a care-free life, but it always brings more happiness and greater strength to endure.

    In addition to agency, I’ll offer another “A” word for consideration: Atonement. I’m convinced that many people in this world (if not all of us) deal with certain challenges in mortality that impact on our agency. I believe the Lord will show great mercy, made possible through the Atonement, to those who may not have enjoyed agency perfectly unimpeded by these challenges. We know that mentally retarded people, for example, will not be held accountable for their actions through the mercy of Christ. I believe that many other people who fall short of perfection in life may do so in part because of external influences beyond their control. Only the Lord knows for sure, but because we all need mercy in order to return to God, I suspect that we’ll be surprised how much mercy is shown us all. At least that’s my prayer as I struggle to make the right decisions in life and frequently fail.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

  8. 9 Naiah Earhart September 15, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    My heart goes out to her, and, well, really to all of them, and even to you. You never know the convoluted paths some of have to take.

    (Mine got pretty gnarly for a while, and around fall 2002 you could have written every bit as heartbreaking a post about me, and yet, here I am…)

  9. 10 bishop rick September 21, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    Did she get the $50.00?

  10. 11 Eric Nielson September 24, 2007 at 9:26 am

    BR:

    It is my understanding they gave her $20.

  11. 12 Dr. B. October 13, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    I hope you find Valerie again one day. People go through cycles. You can only do so much. It is the Spirit that converts and one day through your efforts and those of others she might regain her testimony. If you run across her again ask her to tell you about a time she felt the spirit. I laughed when you told us she only got $20 it was a typical Mormon response. Keep the faith and keep up the good work.


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