An Unspeakable Gift

As a community health nurse it was my responsibility to meet with hospitalized patients prior to their discharge to arrange follow up home care. The client I am remembering today was 34 years old. I had read her hospital chart and knew that she had cancer of the throat.  The doctor’s notes indicated that her life expectancy was only a few months. The social service notes recorded that she had five small children at home. Surgery had robbed her of the ability to speak.

I allowed extra time for my interview as I would need to ask her questions and then give her a small white board so she could write her answers. I introduced myself to this lady, whose name was Mary, and explained my purpose. Her face was still heavily bandaged because of the extensive surgery. When I asked my first question and handed her the white board and marker, tears ran down her cheeks.

I pondered what had prompted the look of fear and sadness. Then, hoping that I was wrong, I said, “Mary, you can’t read.” Her posture confirmed this dreaded explanation. With a sinking realization that this dying mother would never be able to tell anyone how she felt I quietly asked God, “What am I going to do?”

His answer was immediate, “Teach her to talk to me.”

I put my assessment materials aside, leaned closer to Mary’s face and said, “Mary, I am going to teach you to pray.” And so that is what I did.

I am so thankful for the teaching of Psalm 39 that assures us that before the word is on our tongue, God knows it completely. Mary could “talk” freely to God without voice or literacy. Of course, we made arrangements for her other needs, as well, with posters and pictures.

Mary then went home and I wondered how things were going.

A  couple of months later I “happened” to be in the emergency room when an ambulance pulled up and a patient was brought in by cart. I recognized her as Mary.  My heart was throbbing as I leaned over her and eagerly asked, “Mary, has God been real to you?”

Mary’s eyes shone and she lifted her hand from the blanket to show me a “thumbs up.”

When have you been unspeakably thankful for the unconditional gift of prayer?

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