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What Can I Do for You?

“What Can I Do for You?” 

by Kim Power Stilson


People answer this question quite often.  They say, “a new car” or “world Peace” or “I don’t know,” when asked what is wanted for their birthday or Christmas. The less easily answered question is – “What can I do for you?” – especially when asked after trauma, disappointment, death, and tragedy.  Last month my daughter’s roommates were in a terrible car accident. They hydroplaned on their way back to college. Due to injuries, two freshman girls lost the rest of their first semester of college and one lost her life.   

My daughter, my husband and I were among the first to arrive at the hospital on the stormy day of the accident.  We knew what to do then, so we didn’t have to ask.  We made phone calls, brought in food for the anxiously waiting families, and we prayed.  A day later, when my daughter’s roommate was declared brain dead, we knew less what to do. We didn’t ask.  Hundreds of people just did what was needed to be done for the parents and family and the little freshman who would not make it to school yet and would donate her still living organs and tissues to other people with the hope of life. Through the days after the death and while the other two girls started the long journey of recovery, we found ways to help. We knew that the answer to the question of “What can I do for you?” was one that these grieving parents would not know how to answer. If they had found the words to say “bring my daughter back,” “make them whole again,” “start this day over,” we could not have helped them do it.

It’s been just over two weeks from the tragic accident that killed one girl and left two others injured; one week after the funeral that we attended for Taryn; six days after McKenzie was released from ICU; two days after once occupied college dorms are now empty of the colors that had been the beginning of these girls’ college life; one day since my daughter and one of the other roommates say for the hundredth time – that nothing is the same.  Today I call my daughter because I am finally out of things to do.  I ask her and the remaining roommates what I could do for them. They answer, “bring back my friends,” “make it the way it was.” I wish I could take back the question; the answers are too painful still.  And finally, comes an answer to my prayerful plea for something I could do – 

“Come see us and, Mommy, please bring some of those pumpkin chocolate cookies you make.”  

Oh, if only the question “What can I do for you?” was always as easy as making pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  For today I am glad I had a response to my question. 

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