John Walker FILE

“Never ignore a nudge or whisper from God.” – Christine Caine

I believe it was September 2018 when my son RJ and I were shopping at one of our local big box stores. While wandering around and through the toy section, I noticed a darling stuffed animal in the form of a sloth. I received a distinct heavenly nudge to purchase the sloth.

I was a bit taken aback by this prompting because I did not know what I would do with such a stuffed animal. I do have a tradition of purchasing a large stuffed animal for each of my grandchildren (21 and counting). However, I had already given each of my grandchildren a stuffed animal, and my children advised/warned me in no uncertain terms that one stuffed animal per grandchild is enough.

However, I know that it is foolish to resist heavenly promptings, so I promptly purchased the sloth. My wife saw the sloth when I brought it into our house, and she asked me why I bought yet another stuffed animal. I authoritatively replied, “I don’t know.” I placed the stuffed animal in the back of our closet with the belief that at some point in the future I would know why I bought it.

It was a Friday evening in December 2018 when I was attending our church’s Christmas celebration. I was seated at a large round table with my wife, daughter Nicole and my newly minted son-in-law, Sean. We were eating dinner when my cellphone rang.

My niece Darcy called to let me know that her mom (i.e. my sister Joyce) had just been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Darcy told me that Joyce wanted to receive a priesthood blessing and asked if I could perform the blessing the following morning. I told Darcy that I would be honored to give my big sister a priesthood blessing.

That night, as I was lying wide awake in bed and trying to process such horrible news, I received a quiet yet powerful heavenly nudge: Give the stuffed animal to Joyce. I quickly got out of bed, removed the sloth from our closet and placed it on the floor by my shoes so that I would not forget about it come morning.

Trena, Sean and I got up early the next day and drove to the hospital, which was located at Lafayette, Colorado. I had the sloth with me as Trena, Sean and I entered Joyce’s hospital room. My big sister looked so pale and fragile as she greeted us. Joyce’s eyes promptly fixated upon the sloth. I handed it to Joyce and said that she (i.e. the sloth) was hers to keep.

Joyce fully embraced the stuffed animal and told me that she had a particular fondness for sloths. A fact known to God and His angels in September 2018, but until that moment, was unknown to me. With a large smile on her face, Joyce placed the sloth by the side of her pillow.

There was nothing good about Joyce’s prognosis. Her cancer was so severe that there was little to no benefit to be derived from chemotherapy. Accordingly, Joyce decided to forego chemotherapy.

Even though she was scared, Joyce was calm and told us that she was so grateful for family. After chatting for a few minutes, Sean and I gave Joyce a priesthood blessing of love and comfort.

After we visited with Joyce for few more minutes, we could see that she was getting tired and needed to rest. So, we each gave her a hug and said goodbye. Joyce clung to her sloth as we left the room.

I am writing this column just a few hours after having received notice of Joyce’s passing (i.e. April 2020). As I reflect upon the loss of my big sister, I am so grateful for the heavenly nudge that I received in September 2018. More importantly, I am profoundly grateful to and for a Heavenly Father who perfectly knows and loves each and every one of His children. Please humbly listen when He whispers to you.

John M. Walker is an attorney and lifelong Wyomingite who lives in Cheyenne. Email:

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