A few months ago, while making some rounds at the nursing home next to Fauquier Hospital as a volunteer Chaplain; I came across an older lady named Elizabeth who is a Catholic and a real dear woman. Elizabeth is the diamond in the rough for me, when I first came across her, she was very quiet, and was enjoying listening to the TV through the hand held hospital bed speaker that was strewn across her lap. At first glance, I wasn't quite sure how to approach her, I looked around her room for some type of connection, something that I could use as an introduction or starting point, perhaps a family portrait or some other object that would mean a great deal to her. As I looked around I didn't really see a family presence in her room, I noticed a cross on her wall with two rosaries hanging from it and then noticed that she had a 1 decade rosary in her hand and she was earnestly twisting each bead as she whispered the Hail Mary over and over again.
After watching Elizabeth for a few seconds I entered her room and introduced myself. I noticed she quickly looked me over and then gave me the most beautiful smile. I was put to ease, but it was hard to understand her words. As I leaned over to her mouth so I could hear her better, I noticed that she had two Immaculate Medals on and she was quite happy to show them to me. This was my first impression of Elizabeth, a woman of great faith, living a life devoted totally to God.
Over the next couple of months I continued to visit Elizabeth at least once a week, sometimes twice. I found out that she loves to write and jot down notes and thoughts on her stationary and I asked her if there was anything that I could get her. She gave me her signature smile and whispered that she would like some bobby pins, paper clips, and an organizer to put her papers in - if it wasn't too much trouble. =) I got Mom to go buy the supplies and a few days later went into her room with her items, her face lit up and she almost cried, I had also brought her a statue of Our Lady of Fatima which she was so pleased to hold in her fragile little hands.
Elizabeth told me a few weeks ago that she won't be here much longer and not to feel like I need to bring her anything new. She is suffering from a terminal illness and I believe only has about 6 months to a year left. That being the case, I am going to go in and visit her as often as I can, her family I found out live in Connecticut and it is difficult for them to come down to see her, however I was pleased to see today that they sent her a picture of her 3 yr old grand-baby. Three weeks ago I got Fr. Melmer to accompany me to the Nursing home to visit some patients and give them last rites, we made a visit to Elizabeth's room and she almost leaped with joy at the sight of Father. Fr. gave her last rites and then communion and Elizabeth was so happy that she shed a few tears. I began bringing her reading materials each week so she doesn't have to reach the same things over and over again.
Today, I picked Mom up after Holy Hour and took her over to visit Elizabeth and another patient in the nursing home. I also brought a new statue for Elizabeth (the old one got broken by a cleaning crew), and also brought in some new reading material. She was happy to tell me that she spent 5 hrs reading the last magazine that I brought her and as always she was diligently saying the rosary while we entered and during our visit with her. I visited one other patient before seeing Elizabeth and it was amazing the difference I felt upon entering Elizabeth's room. While the other ladies room was 'cold' or desolate feeling, empty rather, she is a fallen away Catholic who refuses to go to confession before receiving communion and actually got into a long drawn out fight with Fr. Melmer over that very issue. Upon entering Elizabeth's room tonight I felt a noted difference, a 'scent' of holiness as I walked into her room, as if I could feel the angels in the room and was hit by the grace that was flowing from Elizabeth's bed.
I am learning each time that I visit Elizabeth a new lesson in my own life. To persevere, to love others more, and to truly pray. I am reading a book right now titled "The Way of a Pilgrim" and in it, the pilgrim is learning about interior prayer and how to truly unite ourselves with God with continual prayer in the heart, mind, and spirit. I get reminded of this prayer when visiting Elizabeth, here she is, suffering in a hospital bed and instead of feeling sorry for herself or despairing, she is facing the reality of her death and she is using her time here to pray, to truly unite herself to God every moment of everyday. I believe that woman is not only holy, I believe she is a saint in the making!
May we be blessed to live our days like those being lived by Elizabeth.