This is a true story about a little scrapbook.
Some years ago, tragedy struck in our ward. A family awoke one weekday morning to find their infant son had passed away in the night. The mother performed CPR, emergency medical care was summoned, but it was too late: a sudden case of crib death had claimed a baby who had been, by all accounts, perfectly healthy.
At some point, the Relief Society president asked my wife, an avid scrapbooker, to lend some assistance. Could Shirly assemble a scrapbook that would help the family to remember their baby boy? Nothing outlandish, mind you – just something small and basic, with space for them to attach some pictures and record some memories.
Shirly went to work, putting together something simple with ample space for the family to put pictures or write as they saw fit. She wrote a short letter, explaining the scrapbook’s purpose. She even asked another sister in the ward with a toddler if she could trace her daughter’s hand on one of the pages. (As Shirly traced and the little girl screamed bloody murder, the mother rolled her eyes and lovingly said to her daughter, “Oh, get over it!”)
Finally, the day came for Shirly to present the gift to the family. She pulled up in front of the house, anxious beyond description. What, precisely, was she supposed to say?
Finally, she exited her car, walked to the front door, and rang the doorbell. The mother answered.
Shirly’s eyes went here and there, anywhere but the grieving mother’s face. Finally, she held out the book, and said, “Here.”
The good sister saw the book, recognized it for what it was, and took it, her eyes immediately filling with tears. Shirly, at a complete loss for what to add, fled to her car.
But she didn’t get in. This is not right, she said to herself – I can’t leave her, not like this. So she went back and rang the doorbell again.
The sister answered again, holding the little scrapbook in one hand Shirly’s letter in the other. “I’m so sorry,” Shirly said, her voice filled with emotion. “I just don’t know what to say!”
The sister, tears still streaming down her face, laughed. “Neither do I!”
They embraced, and Shirly left. That was the last they spoke of the little scrapbook, but not the last that Shirly heard about it. Some months later, another sister pulled Shirly aside at church, and said, “I saw your scrapbook. I’m her visiting teacher. The family has spent some Family Home Evenings picking out different pictures and deciding what they wanted to write. She really loves it. It’s been a good way for the family to heal.”
Such tragedies are, thankfully, relatively rare in our day. But when they happen, don’t yield to the temptation to keep your distance, even when you really and truly don’t know what to do or say. Give of your time, listen, be present, mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort (Mosiah 18:9).