WHITE ROBED ANGEL
By Ronnie Bray
The patients knew she was an angel – that white robed figure who slowly and silently moved through the dim night hours in Ward Eight of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. Some people do not believe in angels, and I understand why they do not. But I do!
Angels come in all shapes and sizes. Their existence does not depend on whether people do or do not believe in them. Most think of angels as diaphanous spirits floating down from heaven to minister to people in times of need, before returning to ethereal realms. This angel was not visiting from heaven. She was an earthling, who did not know it, but was on her way to paradise.
The angel’s name was Norma. We had been married for almost thirteen years when she became ill. Initially it seemed to be nothing more serious than a sore throat. She took a turn for the worse, becoming hoarse, tired, and weak. I drove her to the hospital, insisting that a doctor examine her. The doctor ordered tests and x-rays.
The test results and x-rays came back. The young physician was taciturn, avoiding my gaze. “I think we’ll keep her in,” he said. “We need to do further tests.” I wheeled her into the reception ward, hugged her long and hard, and left for home. When I returned with her necessities, she was in bed in Ward 8.
She was gratified that something was being done and after some rest, she was more like the happy, laughing woman everyone knew. I spent each day with her and she had many visitors. Friends and neighbours flocked to see her, bringing her flowers, fruit, chocolates, and the mandatory energy drinks.
Her happiest day was the Sunday three of her four surviving children visited. They spent the day talking, remembering, and laughing. She loved to laugh, but her greatest attribute was her impulse to loving service. Although now enfeebled by disease, she obeyed the divine impulse to serve others, shuffling painfully through the ward, seeing to the needs of others.
A young girl, struggling to come to terms with life, lay listless and morbid. Tattooed, pierced, her arms bearing the scars of frequent self-mutilation, ostracised by her fellow-patients, brooding, and depressed. Norma encouraged her to think positively about herself and the possibilities of her life.
In the bed across from Norma was an old lady. Everything she ate came back. Norma soothed and comforted, encouraging her to take a little nourishment to get strong enough to fight the illness that was sapping her vitality.
One elderly Indian woman spoke little English. She had many visitors at one particular time of each day, but for long periods after that, she was alone and unable to join in conversations. Norma, who spoke no Urdu or Gujerati, sat on her bed and painstakingly made contact. She understood how important it was for people to have human company if they were going to feel good about themselves.
Many others, scattered throughout the large ward, were grateful recipients of Norma’s ministration. She was often up in the night, comforting those who were feeling lost, or lonely, or who were anxious, or unable to sleep. It was not easy for her to move around, because her illness sapped her strength, and made walking difficult. However, it did not stop her from visiting and helping. The nurses and doctors praised her enterprise, appreciating the value of spiritual support in healing.
In the next bed was a woman in her thirties. It was she, more than any other, who attracted Norma’s most profound compassion. She was a tender little thing who apologised every time she opened her mouth. She was so anxiety laden that it was painful to hear her. If she dropped a crumb onto the bed covers, she apologised, looking as if some ogre was going to punish her. She repeatedly complained that she was being a nuisance, and felt that she caused trouble for the staff.
One night, she called for a commode. After using it, she began to cry that she was sorry, that she was sure she had made a mess. Would they forgive her? Norma assured her that everything was all right. She spoke softly and encouragingly. The woman came and sat on the edge of Norma’s bed. Norma took her hands in her own, looked her in the eye and spoke softly but directly. “You have a Father in Heaven who loves you.” These were the last words she heard. She smiled, the only time Norma had seen her smile, then died. How fitting that the last words she heard in mortality were words of love, assurance, and hope.
The White Robed Angel had performed her ministry. Three weeks later, she was herself called to a better place where, I do not doubt, she continues to minister to fragile souls who need to learn that through all the disappointments and anxieties of life, they have a Father in Heaven, and he loves them.
Return to Welcome Page