When I was a kid we had a brother in the ward that had diabetes. It wasn’t as common back then. Or maybe there just weren’t commercials for drugs for it. Anyway, this man had trouble with his illness. Enough that even as a child I knew he had diabetes.

He was tall and very thin, on account of having to carefully measure his calories and prick his finger many times a day to check his blood sugars. He never splurged and ate what he wanted. His food was very scientifically measured and portioned out. I remember that because at ward functions he never ate the potluck food, only food brought from home.

He was married to a very short, petite sister. They had four children, all very small and close together.

More than once I remember his wife talking to the other women after Primary about how he was doing. His health was a constant topic of the Primary teachers. It is amazing what adults will talk about when only surrounded by children. I didn’t understand then what I know now, but I remember the sisters asking her if her husband had life insurance and if they had a plan for what would she and her children would do if he passed. It was discussed as casually as what was being made for supper.

One Sunday after Primary the wife told a story to the other teachers that I’ve never forgotten. I’ve occasionally thought about it, dissecting the events and wondering even now what I would have done in her position.

Earlier in the week, her husband fell into a deep diabetic coma in the middle of the night. It can happen with diabetes. She woke up with a start, feeling a sense of impending doom. She reached for him and couldn’t rouse him. With years of experience she knew he was in trouble. She ran for the phone and called 911. While she waited for the paramedics, which took less than 5 minutes because their ambulance bay was nearby, she raced to his side of the bed and struggled to remove his temple garments before they came. He was so tall and dead weight that she worked up a sweat getting them off. She slipped on a pair of boxers they kept especially for doctor’s visits just as the rescue workers arrived at the front door. He stayed in the hospital for a few days and was released. Everything went back to normal at their house.

One of the Primary sisters in the grown-up circle of conversation asked what I thought was an interesting question at the time. “What would you have done if you couldn’t have gotten them off in time?”

I don’t remember her answer the question. As a child I got stuck on What Would Happen If You Wore Temple Garments to the Hospital? Would the doctors refuse to treat the patient? Would Heavenly Father prevent their removal by non-members? Would the wearer be struck down for letting hospital workers touch his garments?

The only things I knew about garments was what my grandmother told me. She lived with our family and sometimes I helped her gather and sort her clothes for the laundry. Once I accidentally dropped her one piece garment on the floor and she freaked out. Garments should never, ever touch the floor without having a towel spread out first. I got the lecture of my life about the sacred nature of garments and the inherent power against death and Satan’s powers contained inside those special fibers. I was terrified to even touch them after she talked to me and made sure I was never around on her assigned laundry day again. I didn’t want to be struck down by heavenly beings for accidentally mishandling her superhuman underwear.

As I grew up and attended the temple myself, I was given the same lecture by a temple worker about how to wear the garments and to not leave them on the floor, etc. When my two daughters went through the temple, the lecture had changed. The specific rules about wearing and how to treat garments had definitely loosened up. I didn’t question the changes, afraid that if I brought it up the temple worker would revert back to the hell fire and damnation speech I got with my new garments.

I carried various degrees of guilt for many years, knowing I wasn’t always treating my garments with the proper respect. But dang it, when a baby throws up on you at 3am and soaks your nightclothes and you are so tired your eyeballs want to fall out of your face, why can’t Jesus have compassion about peeling off yucky clothes and leaving them on the floor until daylight?

When I have gone to the doctor for planned appointments, most of the time I change into street underwear before I go. It just makes it easier when they want to listen to my heart or check my breathing. But I can’t imagine worrying about changing out of garments when in the middle of a true medical emergency. With most garments being two pieces it just doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore. Back then, with the diabetic brother, everyone wore one piece and that would have been a bit more of a pain, but not insurmountable for medical teams.

So what is the Standard Operating Procedure when it comes to medical needs, especially during emergencies? Do I need to practice wrestling my husband’s garments off so if he has a medical emergency I am prepared to not offend God? Has the wearing of garments ever been a problem for you while in the ER?

At the very least, this post should be food for thought about what adults discuss in the hallways at church when they think the children aren’t listening. We are.