I was having one of those pity party days when you choose to just see everything in a negative light. I kept making excuses for why I shouldn’t go to the temple but somehow we got there. Not only was I in a bad mood, I was annoyed with myself for being in a bad mood. After a very quiet 45 minute drive to our temple, we didn’t waste time getting inside. We were on a tight schedule to be back in time for when the baby would be hungry again.
Just as I left the recommend booth, someone called my name. It was a dear, sweet friend. We had been through a lot together. Years ago we had both buried a child within 3 months of each other and grieved their absence together. I had not seen her for about a month. I was surprised to see her in the temple because she was still rehabilitating after a serious car accident. She had lost control of the left side of her body as a result of her injuries. The last time I saw her she was still in the hospital. I immediately felt humbled as she shuffled in with her walker. How hard was it really for me to get to the temple that day? Not very. My pride hit the floor and ran out the temple doors.
I quickly realized why I needed to be there that day. I offered to help her get ready. I took her temple bag from her husband and promised to take good care of her. This was an easy role for me to take. I thought back to the times I had supported her as a doula* in two of her births and reminded her of that. I told her not to worry if she needed help changing. She laughed, “Well, you have seen it all already, haven’t you?” As she changed we reminisced about her births. She had been in fits of laughter right into her transition of labor. (The only woman I had ever supported to ever do that.) It was one of the things that endeared her to me that she was so joyful. Today she was just grateful to be in the temple. Full of joy that she could move the toes on her left foot.
I helped her change, go to the restroom, get her temple packet and find a seat. It took a while. She had to move much slower than usual. I was so grateful for that. I had been rushing, rushing, resisting the spirit. She helped me slow down and find her rhythm, just like when I supported her in birth. I felt like her temple doula. It was such a privilege. She apologized for inconveniencing me. I was quick to tell her that there was nothing I would rather be doing right at that moment. And I meant it. After I helped seat her in the assembly hall next to her husband, I hugged her and thanked her for letting me help her. I told her that I really needed that today and then rushed out. Tears were stinging my eyes and I was so ashamed of my previous pity party.
I’m sure if I had not been there that day that one of the temple workers would have helped her and taken on the role of a “temple doula.” But I really needed to experience that. We can be a “doula” for God’s children on both sides of the veil. The truth is I felt like I was the one benefitting. I did not end up having time to do the ordinances I had planned in the temple that day so I sat in the waiting area and studied my scriptures while my husband completed his. These words graced the entrance:
“But the Lord is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2:20
I sat there silent, asking forgiveness, and giving thanks for a small and simple moment in his holy temple. The ordinance work we do there is every so critical but there are other kinds of service offered there too, like what my friend allowed me to do, and that is what my heart needed.
*Doula is a Greek word meaning female servant. Today it is a term used to describe professional labor support, doing whatever is needed to support the mother through pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum.