Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Melody (08/24/06)
TITLE: Hidden Music
By Mary Stockler
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Somewhere in the half-remembered past she must have known her name. Even now as she tried to think syllables formed in her mind but they had no meaning now. Words pressed toward her lips from time to time, but never seemed to make it out into the free air. Whenever sounds did manage to force their way through her constricted throat the nurse, uncomprehending, would smile, pat her hand, and twinkle her eyes at her. Belle looked forward to moments like that.
Nurse was there now, plumping pillows, changing the water in the unused pitcher beside the bed. Hospital regulations you know. Belle had not tasted water or had food in her mouth for years now, but she liked it when nurses came in. They gave her something to look at as her restless eyes roamed the room. Sometimes they would stop a moment and talk to her. Once one even sang. But just having them there made the lonely spot in her stomach seem a bit smaller. She felt a bit less lost when they were around, and every now and then her mind would settle as they worked, and she would have the sunshine of some clear thoughts for a change.
This was a different nurse than usual. Her hands were capable and efficient as she smoothed the bedcovers, turned Belle over, and got the gastric tube ready for feeding. Belle liked her graceful manner. As her eyes flitted up from the gentle hands to the nurse’s pretty face, Belle was startled. Through a momentary rift in her mental fog she saw that the nurse had been crying. Tears still glistened at the edges of nurse’s eyes, and one was dangling unheeded under her chin.
Belle tried to raise her hand to wipe the tear away. Her arm shook, but her hand went nowhere, and the nurse, not understanding, simply noted that her patient was agitated. Belle tried to talk, to say something comforting. No noise came out.
Nurse just went on pouring nourishment down the tube, musing as she did so on the futility of her job, of her life, of this patient’s life, of all life. She’d battled her way thru nursing school for this? To keep people alive who could not see, hear, communicate? To spend her days watching a whole nursing home full of people waiting for death? Many, like this one, as good as dead already? It was heartbreaking!
The feeding finished, Nurse capped the feeding tube and gathered her things together to leave. Then something stopped her. Belle had relaxed back against the bed. Her eyes were closed. The agitated shaking had stopped. Her white hair framing her wrinkled face seemed like a halo. Sounds were coming from her throat, and this time Nurse understood.
After a long pause, just listening to Belle, Nurse joined her voice to the melody she heard,
"What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! . . . Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer. . . . In his arms he'll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there."
Long after the song finished, Nurse stood there. Belle was asleep, the fog of unmemory swirling once again. And One who never slumbers or sleeps, who never abandons or rejects, was there too – His arms around Belle . . . and her nurse.
("What A Friend We Have In Jesus" was written by Joseph M. Scriven, 1820-1886)
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