Serving makes me feel happy

Serving makes me feel happy

At an age when most of us would be thinking about taking it easy, 87 year old Elizabeth Whittaker of the Worksop Ward, Sheffield Stake is doing nothing of the sort! A member of the Church since 1981, she was already approaching retirement age when she entered the waters of baptism, but there is nothing retiring about this mother of two who has spent most of her life as a single parent.

Keenly interested in politics, joining the Church strengthened her resolve to make a difference as she fought a couple of local government seats and served as governor of three schools, where she campaigned to get Christian religious instruction back into daily assemblies.  

Six months into her Church membership, Elizabeth experienced her first taste of Relief Society service when she was invited to help clean and iron for a sister with a newborn baby. “I’ve never liked housework much, but doing it for someone else felt completely different. I actually enjoyed it!” she remembers. “Serving makes me feel happy. There is something good about bringing a smile to someone’s face.”

At the ripe old age of 70, Elizabeth joined a convoy of Latter-day Saints delivering aid equipment and supplies to the people of Croatia. She shared around-the-clock driving of an ex-NHS ambulance with two others and was the oldest driver to make the trip.

Elizabeth’s life hasn’t been easy. She was told in her patriarchal blessing that she would “pass through the refiner’s fire”, but one thought has kept her strong: “Heavenly Father never allows us to have more problems than we can cope with.”

Three years ago, Elizabeth uprooted herself and moved home and town to become full-time carer to her terminally ill son. Now that Robert has passed away, Elizabeth acknowledges that she was granted a power beyond her own to give him the 24 hour care he needed, and is now experiencing the frustration many of us feel at no longer having the stamina or confidence to do everything we would like.

“Sometimes I feel that I’m not very useful,” she confides, “but when I start to feel that way I remind myself to be grateful for what I can still do and for what I have.” It was that sense of gratitude - at having her vision restored following operations to remove cataracts - that prompted her to crochet an altar cloth for the newly constructed Preston Temple some 15 years ago.

Elizabeth has always enjoyed driving and the first thing she did when she moved to her new ward was to offer lifts to members needing transport. She is a keen family historian and volunteered for 22 years at the stake Family History Library and continues to conduct her own research. No longer up to making the two hour drive herself to the temple, she attends as often as she can when other members can offer her a ride.

Other things that Elizabeth “can still do” include feeding the missionaries regularly, attending and participating in church meetings and socials, fulfilling her Visiting Teaching assignment and hosting a weekly craft club, which she helped form. She also loves to share the Gospel. No workman passes her door without being offered a Book of Mormon, and she is in the habit of leaving pass along cards on restaurant tables and of dropping off past copies of Ensigns at doctors’ surgeries! “I’m so grateful for the missionaries who brought me the Gospel,” she says. “The least I can do is share my testimony with others.”

When asked what motivates her to keep going and doing in spite of her advancing years, Elizabeth replied with her motto for life: “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Continuing to use and exercise her own unique talents and abilities is Elizabeth’s way of showing the Lord she is grateful for her life despite its hardships, and of bringing a smile to the face of those she serves.