Angels of Mercy

Angels of Mercy

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

Angels of Mercy

Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies.

Charles E. Jefferson

My aunts, uncles, and cousins had come to our house for our annual Thanksgiving dinner in 1945. Our day was filled with plenty of good food and lots of laughter.

I was five years old, playing in the basement, when I fell off a twelve-inch-high step stool onto my back.My sister ran upstairs to the kitchen to get Mom. I wasn’t moving. Mom helped me up the steps and sat me on a chair to observe me. Noticing that I was turning yellow and blue, she quickly got my uncle to help take me to Mercy Hospital in his car.

Snow was falling on an already white street, the stars twinkling in a black sky.

After serious discussion among several doctors, I was diagnosed with a ruptured spleen that had to be removed immediately. The doctors, machines, and lights frightened me. To this day I can recall the sights and sounds that permeated that small room.

And to add to my already heightened fear, my mom and dad were not permitted to stay in the emergency room with me. Medical technology and hospital practices were different back then. My mom had worn her heavy brown tweed coat. As I trembled on the examining table, I soon realized that if I threw my head back far enough, I could see her coat draped over a chair behind me. It was less scary then because I knew my mom would never leave me without putting her coat on; it was too cold outside.

“Twenty minutes and it would have been too late,” I heard someone say.

In what seemed like a minute and an eternity, I woke up in an all-white hospital room with a big white bandage across my abdomen. White walls. White sheets. White pillows. When I look back on this, I can see a thin little girl drowning helplessly in a sea of white.

Throughout the three weeks I lay there in that hospital bed rallying for my life, nurses in white uniforms and white caps wandered in and out of my room. I didn’t feel as terrified when they were there. They changed my bandages, changed my bedding, and washed my tiny body with their soft, gentle hands. They helped feed me.

As I got stronger, they let me be a little girl, encouraging me to play. Someone had generously given me a tube of red lipstick, which I used to adorn my lips, my cheeks, and the white sheets and pillowcases. When my mom noticed the red ribbons of color splashed everywhere, she apologized profusely to the nurses.

“Let her have fun,” they insisted.

“Angels of mercy,” my mom called them.

I welcomed them into my domain. Their freshly pressed white uniforms and caps stood out in my sea of white, like doves formed in the folds of God’s clouds.

Since that snowy Thanksgiving night, my twenty allotted minutes to live have spanned more than five decades of life. I became a teacher, a writer, and best of all, a mother. I bandaged scraped knees, stayed up all night with stuffy noses, and made several visits to the emergency room with my children.

And each time I went through the double doors of an emergency room with one of my children’s hands in mine, there were nurses to graciously greet me. Their white uniforms and white caps were no longer visible, but they were still like doves formed in the folds of God’s clouds.

“Thank you,” I whisper, recalling a snowy Thanksgiving night.

And I hear my mom say, “angels of mercy,” her voice reaching me from the white light of heaven.

“Yes, Mom,” I call back, looking up past the ceiling to the sky. “Angels of mercy.”

Lola Di Giulio De Maci

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