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I Have A Friend!
by Linda Fitzgerald
In 1982, I had a management position in our local hospital. One of my roles was to deliver social services to hospitalized folks. This was shortly after the Lord connected my heart with my head and turned my intellectual belief into a living faith.
One day, an elderly woman came through the emergency room, and she was, to put it mildly, a mess! She appeared dirty, antagonistic and very eccentric. Her long hair was matted so badly it had to be cut short. Her fingernails and toenails were so long that special scissors were required to cut them, and she was covered in human feces.
Apparently, the woman was a bit of a hermit. She had fallen outside of her home at some point and would not have been found had a concerned neighbor not looked through a window to check on her.
I got the call to go see her with instructions from the physician that I was to tell her she could not go home and would be transferred to a nursing home as soon as she was able. “She’s a real crusty broad,” the doctor said with a smile. “Good luck,” was his parting comment as he left my office.
He was right! She was one of the most hateful persons I’d yet to meet. She ordered me out of her room every time I approached and yelled at me from her bed if she even saw me walk by the door.
Finally, one day I’d had it with her. I strode in, sat down and said, “I’m here. It’s my job. And I’m not leaving until you treat me civilly!” She was so shocked. She didn’t say a word as I leaned forward to talk with her. I assured her I wasn’t going to talk about what would happen when she was ready to leave the hospital and that all I wanted was to know more about her.
She began sharing bits and pieces about herself and her life—bits and pieces I don’t remember because they are now not important. Little by little, a rapport and trust developed between us.
One morning, I was walking the hall, and she motioned me into the room. “I have a question to ask you,” she said. I sat down and waited. “Why are you so nice to me,” she asked? Before I could answer, she continued, “I’m not a nice woman! I’m mean and old and just a . . . nasty person!”
I was amused and decided to play her game. “You are right,” I said. “You are all those things, and I don’t particularly like you that way. However, I have a friend who loves you and he gives me the ability to love you even though I don’t like your ways!”
“Who’s that,” she asked?
“His name is Jesus! If you want to know more about Him, there’s a book in your bedside table that will introduce you to him.” I turned and left the room.
Later that day, I passed by, and she was reading the small blue New Testament left in each room by The Gideons.We continued to have conversation several times a day. I told her that the book she was reading was not easy to comprehend and that I’d bring her one from home that was in more modern language. She was delighted.
Just a few days before she needed to be dismissed, her attending doctor asked if I had her ready to go to the nursing home. I assured him all the plans were made and that it was charted for him to approve. “That’s not what I asked you,” he shouted. “Is she agreeable?” I told him we hadn’t even talked about it, and he was not pleased.
Fearing a major battle on my hands, I quietly walked into her room and sat down. To my utter amazement, she looked at me, took my hand and said, “I know, I can’t go home again.” Tears filled her eyes, and my heart melted.
“No, you can’t, and I’ve taken the liberty of making arrangements for you at the most caring place in town.”
“Okay,” she responded and thanked me.
Several days later, I stood by her as we waited for the ambulance fellows to transport her. They loaded her onto the gurney, wrapped her securely in warm coverings and prepared to wheel her down the hall. There was a bulge under the blankets and I asked, “What do you have there?”
“My book,” she said with a wry smile. “Thank you for being my friend, and thanks to your friend for loving me,” she whispered as they wheeled her away.
The next day the nursing home called me about another matter. “By the way,” I said, “how’s my friend?”
The response was shocking, but not surprising. “She died early this morning.” I wanted to know if she went peacefully and was told she died in her sleep holding the Bible I had given her.
Did she receive Jesus or not? I won’t know until I arrive home with the Lord. But it was a great lesson in how to approach folks who don’t know Him and might not be open to the usual straightforward approach.
That was over 25 years ago, but the memory is as fresh today as it was then. It was my first encounter with “by their fruits you will know them.” And it was by His wisdom and grace that I waited until He prepared the moment before rushing in where even angels would not tread.
Ah that we would have that wisdom and grace in these days that require we wait while He prepares the soil in which we plant seeds.
Linda S. Fitzgerald is the President of A Women’s Place Network, Inc. Her career in program development and management spans 30 years. She holds an advanced degree in Counseling Education and Organizational Development from Butler University and is an accomplished pubic speaker and the author of the children's book, "Stellar: The Teeniest, Tiniest, Star in the Whole Universe!"