Sunday, September 30, 2018
©Linda Goodman September 29, 2018
Matthew 25:40 (NIV)
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.”
I could not help but notice her when she came into the room. She was a thin older woman whose hair had been bleached blonde. What made me notice her, though, was her eye makeup. Her dark black eye liner had been applied heavily all the way around both her eyes. She looked like a raccoon. Her husband was with her, and they walked to the back of the room and took seats there.
Ever since my husband and I had moved to Richmond, Virginia in September, 1998, I had wanted to teach my Storytelling In the Ministry workshop at the Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center (VUMAC) in Blackstone, Virginia. In 2000 I sent in a proposal to the powers that be, and my workshop was selected to be one of the classes available to students attending the February, 2000 Lay Speakers School. I was informed that at least six students must sign up for the class in order for it to be a part of the weekend. I asked that class membership be capped at twenty students. This was the number that would ensure that each student would be allowed enough time for some deep storytelling work during the three day workshop.
The twenty seats in my class filled up quickly. Those whose did not get into the workshop were put on a waiting list, in case someone had to drop out. I was on cloud nine! My bucket list was one bucket shorter.
My class covered three types of stories: Bible stories; traditional stories with Biblical themes; and personal (testimony) stories. I had made my reputation as a skilled storyteller by writing and telling personal stories around the country. My stories were carefully crafted, and I told them straight from my heart. This was why so many had signed up for the workshop. Everybody had a personal story to tell, and I heard incredible stories that weekend; stories of miracles; stories of heartbreak; stories of joy.
The last person to share a story that weekend was the woman with the raccoon eyes. As she stood up in front of the class, I again wondered why she had applied her makeup in such a gaudy way. I just knew it was going to take away the power of her story. The others students would most likely be so distracted by her eye make-up that they would not be paying the needed amount of attention to the story.
The woman introduced herself to the class in a shy manner. She also introduced her husband and publicly thanked him for being her driver for the weekend. She had not driven since she had retired several years earlier from her job as an ER nurse. The story she planned to tell had occurred while she was still a nurse.
Her story began:
“I was just beginning my shift, when three people were rushed into the ER,” she explained. “On the way to visiting their family, there was an accident. A thunderstorm had erupted suddenly and caused the man, who was driving, to run into a tree. Upon reaching the ER the man who had been driving and the woman beside him (his wife) were pronounced dead. Their six month old baby was still living, but the doctors examining him were convinced that the baby would not live long.”
How horrible! I said to myself. I leaned forward so that I could see her better. Her facial expressions and graceful movement drew me deeper into her story.
The woman continued:
“One of the interns did some quick research and was able to discover the names of the family members. Further research resulted in the names and phone number of the baby’s grandparents. The doctor went into his office to call them. When he came back into the ER he told us that the grandparents were several hours away and could not possibly get to the hospital before the baby died. I asked him what I could do.
“The doctor looked at me and, with a grim smile, told me that the grandparents had made just one request. They wanted their grandchild to leave this world wrapped in love. They wanted someone to hold the baby until it passed. ‘Nurse, do you think you can do that?’ the doctor asked.
“I tried to explain to the doctor that if I held that child as he asked, I would be haunted by nightmares for years to come. I could not do as he had asked me because I was scared. Already I was feeling shivers creeping up and down my spine.
“The doctor said he understood, but would like me to give it some more thought. After all, the grandparents had asked for just that one thing.
“I did think about it. I felt guilty. I felt helpless. But in the end, I agreed to hold the baby, as its grandparents had requested.
“I sat down in a rocking chair in a dimly lit room. The baby was brought to me and laid on my lap. I snuggled it gently in my arms. I ran my right hand through its soft, white hair. I waited,
“I held the child in my arms for what seemed like hours; but in fact, only a half hour had passed when I felt the baby shiver. I looked down into the child’s face. ITS STEEL BLUE EYES WERE OPEN! THEY WERE LOOKING INTO MY EYES! They seemed so deep; so calm; so holy as the child’s spirit left its body. I felt like I was looking into the eyes of God.”
At this point, the story was over. The woman raised her head from the invisible baby she had been tending and looked out into the audience with her steel blue eyes. That raccoon makeup made them look iridescent. They were so deep; so calm; so holy. I felt like I was looking into the eyes of