Laura’s Story

Laura’s Story

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

Laura’s Story

Every believer is God’s miracle.

Gamaliel Bailey

I stood in the middle of the living room waiting to meet Laura for the first time. My eyes rested on a framed photo atop the television set. In it lived a beguiling young woman with soft curly auburn hair, a winsome smile, and large azure eyes peeking beneath dark arched brows. I wondered at the joyous spirit reflected in Laura’s face but soon learned that the spark radiating from her eyes was not a trick of the camera.

Though congenital hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, numerous surgeries, and rigorous medical regimens had taken a physical toll, those trials never dampened Laura’s spirit. In spite of her weakened condition, Laura still projected the smiling innocence and radiant energy reflected in the photo.

This twenty-year-old who remained an ingratiating woman-child captivated me, her hospice nurse. Laura had never met a stranger, never learned about evil or enemies. I witnessed her grab and kiss the hand of friends—new or old—and pour forth the blessing of her smiling, unconditional love. Her spontaneous questions and dauntless curiosity endeared many hearts, including mine.

One day during my routine visit, Laura said, “I’m going to be a secretary someday,” and proceeded to tell me her dreams for the future. She had also shared this dream with her doctor, and soon he and his staff helped Laura “be a secretary.” Because her weakened condition prevented her from visiting the doctor’s office, the doctor’s office came to Laura. Photos taped to the wall around her bed documented her in her bedroom, surrounded by telephone and typewriter, smiling valiantly and proficiently, carrying out her secretarial duties, realizing her dream.

Caring for Laura was a family affair. She was especially close to her beloved grandfather, who devoted many hours of loving attention to accommodating Laura’s disabilities. He built a special cart in which she rode as he pulled her around the neighborhood, meeting and greeting neighbors, stopping for occasional friendly chats.

One day during a reflective moment at the kitchen table, Laura’s mom, Roseanna, shared that Laura had been one of triplets born prematurely. Laura’s two sisters, Libby and Chrissy, died shortly after birth, a fact that had never been discussed with Laura.

Soon after hearing this story, I was summoned to Laura’s home. Her condition had worsened. Roseanna met me at the door and, in spite of her fatigue and grief, I sensed an air of expectancy. After ensuring that Laura was comfortable, Roseanna invited me once again to rest a moment at the kitchen table, sharing yet another story.

Two nights before, Laura had been restless and Roseanna crawled into bed with her, lying “spoon fashion” to comfort her daughter. In the morning Laura awakened and whispered to her mom, “I’m tired and I’m ready.” Roseanna lay still beside Laura, her quiet presence encouraging her to reveal more. “Besides,” Laura added softly, “my sisters are waiting for me. I saw them standing in the doorway to my room.”

Stunned by Laura’s revelation, but soothed by her acceptance and readiness for death, Roseanna comforted Laura, giving her permission to go, reassuring her that those left behind would be fine. More peaceful now, Laura returned to sleep.

Roseanna then lifted herself gently from the bed and wandered to the front door of the house. Still contemplating Laura’s words, she struggled to understand how Laura could know about her sisters, wondering what or who Laura had really seen. As she opened the front door, sunshine and crisp morning air greeted her, momentarily easing her grief. Only a large, shady ash tree stood at attention in the center of a bare green lawn. Roseanna had so little time to care for a yard and always promised herself that one day she would make time to plant some flowers. As her eyes scanned the yard, a colorful spot under Laura’s bedroom window captured her attention. Closer inspection revealed three pink rain lilies, lazily intertwined. These flowers had not been there the day before. In fact, she had never seen them before in the many years they’d lived there.

And now, here I sat the next day, rising from the kitchen chair as Roseanna led me outside to the front lawn. Pointing to a spot under Laura’s bedroom window, I saw the once colorful lilies, now muted, their gray stems loosely blended into the soil that once sustained them.

As I left Laura’s home on the day she died, I lingered on the front lawn. The spot below her window was barren now with no visible sign of the earlier visitors.

Yet I knew their legacy remained.

Patricia J. Gardner

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