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Sacrament Service in Slippers

By Teresa Bruce

When 2022 began, I never imagined that before 2023 arrived, I’d find myself in a sacrament service where most attendees wore slippers. Now, I’ve done so twice as the old year yields to the new. Please indulge me as I share written snapshots from the experience.

We nearly missed the first service while watching another ward’s on Zoom. A fortunate lull let me catch the notes of a recorded hymn playing softly in the living room behind a closed door, so we stepped and wheeled toward the music. Recliners, couches, dining room chairs, wheelchairs, and walkers formed a rough oval one week, a semicircle the next, with a tiny end table draped in white cloth along one side. Some residents sat (and lay) among these seating options. A few sat at the table in chairs — with and without wheels — in the adjacent dining room. One wandered back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

Last week, the second week, on Christmas Sunday, we again traversed the five or six feet from one room into the common area. This time, we “arrived” more than 20 minutes early to alleviate the anxiety of possibly being late. A children’s Christmas movie played on the wall-mounted television. (It was during this pre-service waiting time that I took the snapshot illustrating this post, not during the meeting.)

One resident, crocheting without missing a loop, said to another, “Go put your shoes on. People are coming. They’re going to look at your feet and see you’ve only got slippers on. Go get your shoes.”

The other resident “answered her not a word.” (Matthew 15:23)

The one repeated her instructions. Again. About once (maybe more) per minute. Almost every minute. While also wearing slippers.

At 11:00 a.m., when three brothers and two sisters entered the building, one of them warmly offered reassurance to these two elderly residents, saying, “Oh, that’s okay. Slippers work marvelously. They look warm and comfortable.”

The one looked dubious at his words but kept crocheting while watching the other roll away (for a few minutes before returning).

Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. (Doctrine & Covenants 6:36)

During the brief spiritual message that followed the administration of the sacrament each week (more on that below), the brother who spoke looked around the room any number of times, attempting eye contact with all but finding it with few. So it shouldn’t have surprised me that — among those whose grayed and thinning heads slumped sideways, who stared at sights unseen by the rest of us, who crocheted while commenting on footwear, or who nodded and agreed aloud (“mm-hmm”) while pulling one candy cane after another from a bag — the brother’s eyes fixed on mine for most of the meeting.

But the crux of the meeting, the reason for the service being held and the service being rendered, was to offer the ordinance of the sacrament to those who wished to partake. It was freely offered to all present, freely accepted by some, unnoticed by a few.

I listened to the lifelong familiar words with a different perspective in this unique setting:

… eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness … that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them. … 

… to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them … that they do always remember him … (excerpts from D&C 20:77, 79, emphasis added)

No mortal tongue can tell what accountability lingers when cognition declines. But this I can tell: In those few moments, the Holy Spirit spoke peace to souls in need. Even mine.

About Teresa Bruce

Teresa TL Bruce burrows into stories for work and fun. She’s published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Kids, Florida Writers Association Collections, Florida State Poets Association anthologies, Segullah's Seasons of Change, and Orlando's The Community Paper, and she was a finalist in NYC Midnight’s 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge. Teresa advises “What to Say When Someone Dies” on TealAshes.com. She’s proudest of her three dynamic daughters, super sons-in-law, adorable grandchildren, and spoiled rescue dog.

2 thoughts on “Sacrament Service in Slippers”

  1. Teresa, your warm and loving description transported me right to the scene. This is the community I cherish and feel blessed to be a part. Vaya con Dios.

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