Her name was Mary and I was an 18-year-old student nurse. That early morning in March, 1968, when I was first assigned to be her care-giver for the day, I felt a knot deep inside my stomach. I had heard so much about Mary and I was terrified.
You may think it is because she was a difficult and demanding patient. You may surmise that she was at death’s door and likely to pass at any given time….But Mary was the bravest woman I have ever met in my entire life!
Mary was full of cancer and in the 1960’s all too often there was no hope. We knew she would die of this horrid disease but it seemed, at that time, as though she would be with us forever. She was dying, yes, but oh so slowly and ever so painfully. To make matters worse…..
Well, let me tell you first why I was so terrified. I was told that she was a quiet old lady but so filled with cancer and infection that she had to be in Isolation. In that small hospital, the Isolation Ward was dark and dreary but what was probably the most frightening for us students was the horrible smell and the ugliness of the rotting flesh. I shan’t describe it any further than that. Because we had to gown up and wear masks etc., I gathered all I would need before entering her room so that I could clean her and change her dressings without having to go out for additional supplies. Mary was blind and she was frail. She had a small voice despite her big heart. I could tell that she craved company, being alone all the time like that. Sadly no one visited and certainly no one (myself included) just stopped in to chat. It was painful to be there and I was, like most of my fellow students, a coward. Still I tried my best to be loving and gentle with her. When I had to remove her dressings, I could have cried but what still, to this day, makes my heart stir, is that though she was trembling in severe, agonizing pain, all she did was whisper, “Thank you Jesus; thank you Jesus” I could not believe the faith of this poor woman; I didn’t understand then that we truly can cast all our cares on Him. But Mary taught me about that the very first day. I recall vividly that when I had finished doing her dressings and seeing to her other needs, I left that room a totally different person than when I had entered it. Still, though her faith touched me, I hated to be assigned to her because it was so very difficult. In the three years I was in training (Nursing School), Mary was there and I often wondered why God waited so long to ‘take her home’ but now I realize that perhaps it was so that she could be a testimony of Great Faith and Love to so many of us young students! Mary was grateful for every little thing that any of us did for her. I know I could have done far more and I still regret my immaturity in this regard. It probably wasn’t until I myself was going through a battle with bi-lateral breast cancer myself over 10 years ago that I began to understand how Mary could, during her pain and suffering, thank Jesus. You see, I experienced His loving arms about me when I was at my worst. I knew that He held Mary close to His heart each and every day. Looking back now, I believe He was there with us in that dark room.
I fully believe that when I walk through the gates of heaven into eternity one day, one of the first people I will see is a glorified and rejoicing Mary. For I know that “our” Savior has gathered her into Paradise with Him. All her tears and suffering have been removed from her forever!
Thank You, Mary!