The phone? Anita lunged toward it in a stupor. The digital bedroom clock read 2:00 AM. Dave slept soundly, unaffected.
Mrs. Anita Bronson?” said the voice at the other end.
“Yes?” Anita answered, still groggy.
“This is Warner hospital, calling concerning Mrs. Lenore Richards. Our records indicate that you are the contact person. She’s been transported here by ambulance, has extreme weakness on one side, and is confused, disoriented.
Wide awake now, Anita sat up. Mrs. Len? Oh, no.
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” she hung up.
Anita dressed in the dark room, planning to jot a note to her husband Dave before leaving. He roused a bit just then, and she spoke quickly, “Mrs. Len is at Warner ER, honey. I’ll call you soon. Try to go back to sleep.”
In the small holding room, Mrs. Len lay still and pale. There seemed to be brief recognition in her eyes, but Anita wasn’t sure. She didn’t move or speak. Anita grasped the hand of the beloved friend, counselor, prayer partner, and all-around stabilizer in her life.
The nurse quickly produced papers for Anita to sign. They were moving Mrs. Len to ICU within minutes, where she’d be able to talk with a doctor.
Anita used her cell phone to call Mrs. Len’s niece, Carla. Since Mrs. Len had little family left, Carla was her closest relative, but lived out of state. Their prearranged plan was for Anita to respond in emergencies, then immediately notify Carla, who was genuinely fond of her aunt.
“Tell Aunt Len I’m coming, Anita. I’ll see when I can catch a flight. Thanks so much for being there,” Carla finished, concern in her voice.
In the next few hours, as Anita talked to her, Mrs. Len did respond gradually, not with words but eye contact and expressions. Holding her hand , Anita felt tremor and weakness in the frail ninety-two year old body, yet there was something else. It was that quiet peace she had seen in Mrs. Len all the years she’d known her. How many had it been?
Mrs. Len had taken Anita under her wing when both of them were much younger, with a generation’s difference in ages. They had met in the church they both attended when Anita was a very young wife and mother. She was struggling with the untimely death of her own Mom. Her marriage was shaky, her child-rearing skills almost nonexistent. She had strayed badly from her Christian upbringing, making her whole life a mass of jangling discords.
As the years passed, this gracious, godly lady had patiently taught Anita in Bible classes, had prayed for her, finally with her, showing her God’s way to live. She had counseled her with longsuffering and compassion through those emotional years, slowly leading her into maturity. It was an unlikely, more-than-human friendship. Anita had never really understood it. Mrs. Len had always let her “humanness,” show, but was still amazing. She was firm, unyielding in integrity, and because of that, had endured misunderstanding, unflinching. She had worked untiringly in the church, while being a devoted homemaker. She dealt with chronic health problems, yet had cared for her much-loved husband in her seventies, until his death. She simply went on without faltering, declaring the faithfulness of her God with a buoyant, joyous spirit.
“An...” Mrs. Len’s weak voice jarred Anita back. She was asking something, maybe pointing to the table? Anita tried to interpret, touching different items.
“Water?” she asked. Not it. “Tissue?” No response. She pointed a little lower, toward the drawer.
Opening the drawer, Anita drew out the complimentary Gideons bible. Raising it up, she saw a startling change in Mrs. Len. Her eyes sparkled. She tried to smile from lips drawn sideways by the stroke. Anita knew immediately her failing friend wanted her to read aloud, as they had done so many times together. She knew just where to turn.
Reading preceding verses, she emphasized one in particular. “...Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” ( II Cor. 4:16) KJV
Their tear-filled eyes met. Mrs. Len managed to lift one hand, displaying to Anita its wrinkles and protruding veins.
“Per...ish...,” she whispered. With great effort she brought the hand up to point to her heart. “Getting newer.” she said triumphantly.
Anita nodded, squeezing her hand.
Mrs. Len slipped peacefully into her Father’s presence that night, with that “inward man” renewed completely.
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