Thursday, September 28, 2017

Grandpa Milton Johnson and the Sacrament

My grandpa, Milton Edwin Johnson was blind the last ten years or so of his life.  In reality, he was my step grandfather, but he was the only grandfather I knew and so my entire concept of “grandpa” is the kind and generous man he was.  I don’t think he ever tried to learn Braille, but Grandpa became quite adept (with the help of Grandma and others of us) at accessing information with his “talking books.” A lot of those books were on Gospel themes.

Our family attended Church with my grandparents every Sunday and we sat together most of the time.  On this particular Sunday, I requested to sit by Grandpa and was given the privilege.  Why we jostled for the opportunity to sit by Grandpa and not Grandma, I will never know, but it made him feel important (and I think Grandma was glad we made a fuss over him). 

Due to his blindness, a specific protocol had to be followed for Grandpa to take the Sacrament.  Grandpa would hold his right hand upwards on his lap.  When the emblems (bread or water) arrived for him to partake, you were to tap his hand so he would be ready and place either the piece of broken bread or the tiny cup of water in his hand in such a way that he could grasp it. 
On this particular Sunday, my mind must have drifted during the Sacrament.  I would like to imagine I was thinking about the Savior, and what I planned to do during the upcoming week to follow His example better; but my teenage girl mind was likely thinking about my latest crush.  At any rate, I was not remembering whom I was sitting by or that a special protocol must be observed. When the tray of bread arrived, I took my piece of bread, grasped the tray by the handle and offered it the person sitting next to me on my right (who happened to be my blind grandfather).  When Grandpa did not take his piece, I gently nudged him with my elbow.  As his thumb and forefinger closed in on a single piece of bread, I realized whose hand it was and felt immediate guilt that I had not followed the protocol.  I silently chided myself.  I remember thinking that I was very lucky that he did not knock the tray out of my hand sending the pieces of bread everywhere. I was very careful to follow the prescribed protocol when the water arrived.

Later that afternoon, I went to visit my grandparents.  I found Grandpa listening intently to one of his talking books.  His face lit up in excitement when he heard my voice.  “I was hoping you would come!” he said.  He then explained why he was so excited to see me.

“I saw the bread!” he exclaimed.  “I could not see your hand, but I saw the tray and the bread.”  He then went on to say, “It makes me think we take the Sacrament way too much for granted.  It is a lot more important than we realize.”  He explained that he was using his talking books to learn more about the Sacrament.  I wish I could remember the book or article we were listening to. Grandma must have helped him find it before she went down for her nap. That Sunday Grandpa and I gained a greater testimony of the ordinance we call the Sacrament.  The Spirit also bore witness to me that my Grandfather was truly worthy to partake of the sacred emblems, or he would not have been able to see the tray with the bread.  I often reflect on this incident as the emblems of the Sacrament are blessed and passed to the congregation each Sunday.

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