I have never met Don Watkins, nor have I met Kyle Terry; and neither did I have the opportunity of knowing Kyle's wife, Michelle, yet the lives of these people have deeply touched mine.
A portrait of Don Watkins began forming within my mind as a friend told me of his involvement with Kyle and Michelle. And although the features are obscure, the lines of the verbal drawing etched by my friend are powerful and clear, for they depict a man of great sensitivity and caring, a man on the Lord's errand.Years ago, I became acquainted with Kathy, Kyle Terry's sister. Our friendship grew, and soon Kathy became a close and cherished friend. I learned of Kathy's family, and began to feel I knew each personally, including her younger brother, Kyle.
Kyle began dating Michelle, and next I knew, they were to be married. Michelle, I discovered, had diabetes.
Several months after Kyle and Michelle were married, Kathy called. "Exciting news," she said. "Michelle's expecting." But there was concern, and I also found myself anxious over Michelle and the baby. Michelle gave birth to a healthy baby girl, but her conditioned worsened.
Although Michelle had limited energy, she was a devout and loving mother, and, despite her doctor's advice, strongly desired another child. A second daughter was born.
Don Watkins was serving as elders quorum president of the Alpine 7th Ward in the small community of Alpine, Utah. He began fellowshiping Kyle and Michelle Terry, and became a constant source of support and encouragement.
In my mind's eye, I can see a photograph of Don Watkins leaning over Kyle's shoulder as Kyle works on his car engine. Then, I can see his hands atop Michelle's head as he gives her another priesthood blessing. Later, I can see a picture of Don at the hospital, and another photo of him playing with two little girls.
Again and again, I see in my mind's eye Brother Watkins keeping company with Kyle as he stands vigil through yet another diabetic coma, myriad other complications and the weekly dialysis treatments Michelle now has to endure.
I catch additional glimpses of courage and faith - of Kyle's unfailing loyalty and ever-solicitous care, of Michelle's pluck and optimism.
"It breaks my heart to see them," Kathy said one day, describing the previous evening. I visualize the small antiseptic hospital room, and Kyle sitting on the edge of the bed, holding Michelle in his arms - rocking her gently. But I could never begin to imagine their pain and suffering, the horrendous amount of stress and anxiety, nor Kyle's feelings of helplessness. Yet, neither could I fully comprehend the tender, sweet moments - the times of godly peace and gratitude, the times when each gave the other strength to go on.
Other scenes are etched in my mind: It is a July morning. The sun's rays slant through the visitors lounge as family and friends steel themselves against the wait. Michelle is undergoing a kidney/pancreas transplant. I see Don Watkins, of course. For some time now, he has been a counselor in the bishopric.
I observe another scene weeks later. Michelle has never regained consciousness. Kathy has spent each evening and wearisome night at the hospital. I see her now, with her head leaning against her brother's shoulder. Seated nearby are Michelle's parents.
At this very moment, far from the hospital, Don Watkins takes the little girls for a ride in his locally renowned buggy that is drawn by matching Clydesdale horses.
And today I envision Don Watkins as he speaks at Michelle's funeral. Michelle passed away Aug. 1, 1989. His words are eloquent, yet the snapshops in my imagined series speak more eloquently. I think of Kyle's loss, and I thank Heavenly Father for Brother Watkins and others like him who weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn, whose hearts are touched to give time and financial assistance, who "lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees." (Heb. 12:12.)
I know that through the lonely and challenging months ahead, Don Watkins will continue to be there for Kyle, will continue to be an instrument in the Savior's hands to bring peace, comfort and hope. And I'm glad, too, for the portrait inside my mind that assures me the pure love of Christ within men's hearts is there to be found.