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Friday, August 18, 2006

A Woman of Faith

I spent 28 years working as an RN. Most of that time was spent as a practicing operating room nurse. I've had many experiences that touched my heart. I've been posting about my family, because they say write about what you know, and maybe this isn't the place for this, but nursing is the other thing that I know. I wrote this story a few years ago. If you choose to read it, keep in mind that it is fiction. It is based on actual events, but only loosely, and any names used have been changed.

A Woman of Faith

A woman of faith has no need of fear because she knows that this life is but a stepping-stone to the next and greater life. The woman laying on the stretcher outside of the operating room knew this, and had a true belief that God would save her, and if not her mortal body, then her immortal soul. Still she couldn’t shake her fear. She feared the unknown answer sought by the surgeon who would soon perform her surgery, she feared going to sleep under anesthesia and ultimately, she feared death. Carmen knew that her fear of mortality was at odds with her faith, and this she acknowledged to herself with a wry and sad inner smile.

The nurse approached Carmen and introduced herself. She asked a few questions, inquired after Carmen’s comfort and then excused herself and turned toward the operating room. The nurse looked back at her patient as she pushed open the operating room door, and noted that Carmen appeared tired and frightened, but just then Carmen turned her head and smiled, and the nurse saw not fear and exhaustion, but serenity and an inner light which caused the care giver to take comfort from the patient.

Inside the operating room the scrub nurse, Dana, tended to her instruments, the only noise in the room the jarring clank of metal hitting metal as she arranged the surgical instruments, placing everything into its prescribed place so that it could be reached without hesitation or delay. Dana sang quietly to herself as she worked, a hymn perhaps, with the name Jesus the only intelligible word. Dana was also a woman of faith, and she brought her faith to work with her every day. She offered it to patients and co-workers alike, a precious gift that could be accepted or not as the intended recipient wished. Dana’s faith transformed each ordinary day into an extraordinary and joyous tribute to God. Dana and the nurse acknowledged each other and the nurse, a long-time friend and colleague, teased Dana good-naturedly about her off-key and somewhat flat singing voice. Dana laughed and invited the other woman to join her in praising the Lord. The nurse, who wasn’t a Christian, declined with a fond smile, and the two women returned to their work, counting the items laid out on the sterile surgical table. The anesthesiologist and surgeon poked their heads into the room to see if all was ready and asked if they could bring the patient in. Both women nodded, the door opened and Carmen was wheeled in on her stretcher.

The stretcher stopped beside the operating table, and the patient slid from one bed to the other. Carmen lifted her head and looked around, and seeing the drabness of the green-tiled room, the reflected overhead light glinting off steel and glass, felt her heart grow heavy. She lowered her head to the bed but kept her eyes open and stared at the ceiling, wondering how any good could occur in such a dismal and cheerless place. She felt the nurse place a strap across her legs, and obeyed the doctor who asked her to place her arms onto the padded arm-boards that stuck out at sharp right angles on either side of the operating table. She felt her arms being strapped down, and although she heard voices reassuring her that everything was routine, and all was being done for her safety, she could feel panic form as a knot in her belly, and could feel it sprout cold tentacles that spread through her torso and into her limbs. Unable to move, scarcely able to breathe, she pictured herself strapped to the OR bed as Jesus was nailed to the cross. She felt herself to be a martyr, not to faith, but to her own life, and to her faithless husband who, after numerous infidelities, had brought home to her the unwelcome gift of AIDS. He had passed on, leaving her the painful task of explaining to their children why Daddy had gone to God, and why she might soon join him in Heaven. Her children had cursed their father, and then cursed her for continuing to love him, looking in her for an echo of the anger they felt, disappointed when they couldn’t find it. She didn’t know how to explain to them that without their father, that particular man, they wouldn’t exist, and to her that was everything. No regrets, she refused to look back with regret. Carmen lifted her chin and forced herself to breathe deeply, pushing panic and self-pity into a hidden place and calling silently upon the Lord as she did so, looking to him for courage and strength.

This is when Dana turned to look at the patient and, stepping away from her table and instruments, she approached Carmen as if sensing her need. Dana removed her sterile gown and asked the patient if she would like to pray with her. Carmen responded quietly and simply and without hesitation, “Yes.” The two women began to pray out loud and I, the nurse, who had seen Dana pray with patients before, felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck as the two women turned their spoken prayer into song. Dana began first in her small, thin voice, and Carmen, eyes closed now, quickly joined her. Carmen’s voice was a wonderful surprise, deep, melodious and rich, thick and sweet as golden honey, and this is when the miracle occurred.

Watching the women, I saw their songs become opaque and take on shape as they left their mouths, Dana’s voice a delicate green-leafed vine, and Carmen’s a jumbled profusion of brightly colored roses. The vine and roses moved toward each other and met in the center of the room where they climbed toward the ceiling, an operatic bouquet of prayer and flower. The voices floated overhead, reaching the far corners of the room where they descended and covered the dull, antiseptic walls with the splendor of unshaken belief and then, reaching bottom, swirled round and round, carpeting the floor, reaching out to the astonished care givers who witnessed, in open-mouthed wonder and amazement, the unfolding marvel of faith.

The two singing women seemed unaware of the lush beauty they were creating. I put my hand up to pluck a hanging blood red flower and just then the music stopped, the prayer ended. The flowers and vines the women had created disappeared with the fading echo of their voices, and I drew my hand back, empty. I felt the loss as a hollow reverberation in the center of my being, like a dream whose perfection is forever lost upon awakening. We witnesses to the miracle were left wondering if our minds had played tricks on us, but I can still remember the faint hint of perfume in the air. We shook our heads as though to clear away the cobwebs that had grown over our consciousnesses, but I didn’t want to lose or discredit what I had just seen; I wanted to carry it away with me, and remember and believe in it for always. I thought, in the brief moment of extreme clarity that followed, that miracles must happen around me every day, but I don’t see them because I don’t know how to look for them. Perhaps my eyes are closed to that which my mind does not fully accept, and that is the possibility that an omnipresent God is there with us every day, regardless of our faith or lack of it.

Maybe we are all God’s children whether we believe or not, and perhaps we can also be divided into two groups, those of us who live our lives searching for meaning, and those of us who live our lives with faith. Seekers after the meaning of life look in vain for an answer they will never have, while those who live with faith do not need to ask for life’s meaning because the certainty of God’s love makes the answer unimportant.

Carmen’s physical life may not have been saved on that day, but I believe her spirit was saved and in a state of grace, her place at God’s side assured. One day she will be one of His angels and will raise her voice in mystical song to lift the hearts of the sick and weary. I will listen for her.

I also believe that there’s a special place in Heaven for all those who, like Dana, are able to give of their own spirituality, who sing of their faith in voices both large and small, voices God loves, because it isn’t the size of the song that matters, but the size of the heart that sings it.


  • Very good post
    I am not a godfearing person and have very little use for him but I don’t resent those that do.
    In fact I applaud their courage in believing in something that inspires them to overcome any obstacles and accept any outcome no matter what it is.
    Faith is something we need to survive and I have faith in those around me, some even believe in your god.
    Oh, and I am a Christian btw, I just believe as I wish.
    Without faith, love, happiness and life does not exist.
    This is the perfect place for you to write and be heard.
    If you wish, there are many on my blogroll that would enjoy your words and you are welcome to go through it.
    I many be a little on the rough side for you though.
    Welcome to the blog world

    By Blogger Walker, at 6:28 PM  

  • thank you for coming over to my page, hope to see more of you, have a good weekend.

    By Anonymous poet, at 6:33 AM  

  • This was beautiful. Thanks for sharing. You have a gift with your writing.

    I would have loved to have been able to work along side of you as an RN, I am sure you were wonderful. :)

    By Anonymous Heather, at 9:04 AM  

  • Welcome to the blog world Molly--This is a very powerful post. Thank you for visiting me and leaving a comment.

    Walker could have just said to you go see Vickie but did not yet you came, why, well I am not like Walker I do believe in God--I am a Christian.

    I am a Nurse just no longer practice as I was diagnoised with Multiple Sclerosis which I have named Missy in 1989 and am on Multiple Sclerosis.

    If it were not for God, my family, my friends, the love they surround me with some days I would not make that special effort.

    BTW-Walker might be rough but he is a friend who sticks by you and will walk through fire for you.

    I hope to see more of you. Enjoy your weekend.

    By Blogger Ms. Vickie, at 3:17 PM  

  • God does wonderful things, when we least expect it. He found you for me--- another operating room nurse, a great blogger and a Christian, besides! I know I'm gonna like it here. Beautiful post!

    By Blogger Kacey, at 6:57 PM  

  • My beautiful child. What a wonderful piece of work.
    I all of us down here love it.

    By Anonymous Cheryl, at 10:39 AM  

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