The make-shift hospital was full to capacity and still the wounded came. After two years the moans and stench of the suffering assaulted her senses anew each time she entered the ward. She prayed for strength, took a deep breath and walked through the door. Her job was to bring comfort to the men and she knew no better comfort than the word of God.
Cain Gandel was her first patient. She realized as she took her chair by his bed that Cain’s war was nearly over. Here was a young man named after the brother in the Bible that killed his brother and now he fought in a war where brother was pitted against brother.
Opening her Bible she began to read, “He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God . . . they desire a better country . . . God hath prepared for them a city . . . having provided some better thing for us . . .”
She glanced at Cain. His eyes were wide open but he was no longer there. While she read of a better land he had passed into God’s hands. Cain was in that better land now. The relaxed looked on his face told Leona it was so. He was where there would be no more war. She leaned over and gently closed his eyes. There was no time for tears. Others were waiting.
Herman Courtney was next. He would live but his battle scars were crippling his mind. He kept having flashbacks, especially at night. He would wake the whole ward with his screams but no one chastised him. They were all silently screaming.
Leona took his hand. “Hello Herman, you’re looking rested this morning.”
“You won’t believe it, Miss Leona but I slept the whole night through for once. Before I fell asleep I repeated the words you helped me remember yesterday, ‘Peace I give to you.’ I said it over and over until I fell asleep. The next thing I knew it was morning!”
“That’s wonderful. Would you like to learn another verse today?”
“Yes’m, I surely would. My mama used to read me the Bible. She’d be right proud to know I was learning it. I remember part of a verse. It was something about Jesus giving rest.”
“Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” She quoted.
“That’s it! I’m gonna write my momma and tell her I’m remembering the Bible and it’s keeping the nightmares away.”
“She’ll be glad to know it,” said Leona. She patted his hand and moved on.
Next was Thurlow Sheen. Thurlow was in a coma but Leona read to him anyway. “I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Their Redeemer is strong; the Lord of hosts is His name.”
Thurlow never stirred but Leona believed he heard. She continued to pass from bed to bed. She could not ease the trauma to their bodies but she hoped to offer encouragement to their souls.
Leona never knew what happened to all those young men after the war. She still prayed for them for the images of those days never left her. Years later she came upon Thurlow Sheen. She recognized him and told him how she had sat by his bedside and read the Bible to him. He grabbed her hand. “How can I thank you for reading to me?”
“So you did hear?”
“I heard every word. I didn’t think I had anything to live for. But then I began listening to the words you read. I couldn’t talk to you but I could talk to God. I told Him if He let me live I’d live for Him but if I died I’d live with Him so either way I’d live.”
Leona left Thurlow feeling encouraged herself. After 40 wonderful years she had lost her husband and with his passing she felt she had lost her reason for living. After talking to Thurlow she realized God could still use her. She had tried to encourage all those desperate men by reading the Bible to them. Now it had come full circle giving her the encouragement she needed to go on with her life. She called the local nursing home.
“Do you need someone to read to your patients?”
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