Monday, September 4, 2017

Please read this story, please!

On Thursday afternoon I received an unexpected phone call informing me that a woman in the hospital had given my name as the one who could make decisions for her, and then she was intubated and placed under a medically induced comma. She was then moved to the part of ICU where most people do not leave alive.
Yuma Regional Medical Center in  Yuma, AZ Every staff member and medical professional here who helped my friend deserves a big hug, a good foot rub and a plate of chocolate chip cookies.
 I think I can take care of 2 of those things on the list!
I immediately drove up to the hospital to see my friend. I could see it in her face - death. I could feel it in the air - death. It was only a matter of time, a short time, she was on her way out.

My heart ached.

She is alone. This woman in her mid-sixties is alone. Her family is her little dog Charlie. Other than that, either everyone is dead, or unknown I suppose. She is alone. She has no one. No. One.

On top of that ... I don't know how to write this in a politically correct manner and please, don't be offended by what I'm gong to write, sometimes the facts are not easy to say, but they are the facts ... she is not someone anyone really wants to be around. She smells like cigarettes, moldy food growing old on stacks of dishes, no bathing, old coffee, a dog who does his business in the house, and clothes that just sit in a pile on the floor until they are worn again, among other odors.

On top of that ... I don't know how to write this in a politically correct manner either ... she is grouchy and stubborn and ornery and she looks it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that even though she doesn't have any family, she also doesn't have very many friends because being her friend is not easy. It is not for impatient people or the faint of heart or someone who has a queasy stomach or a heart that finds it hard to love, even if that love is not always returned.

But I sat there next to her hospital bed, knowing the end was near and I suddenly felt great sadness that her story would never be known. I don't know every part of her story, I don't even know most of her story. But I know enough to know that her story needs to be told.

I whispered to my friend, "I will tell your story. I promise."
We'll call my friend Jane.

Jane was born on a hot July day on the eastern side of the U.S., back in the early 1950's. As soon as she could, Jane's mother left the hospital ... WITHOUT Jane. Yes, without.

The hospital was able to track down Jane's mother's parents. As it was told to Jane later in her life, her grandparents very reluctantly went to the hospital and took her home. Their plans were never to keep her so there was never an effort to buy a crib, or clothes, or supplies, just the bare necessities. She slept on the couch in their trailer until she moved out in her later teens. Birthdays were rarely ever celebrated with more than just a nod in her direction and a whispered "Happy Birthday" from her grandmother.

Jane's grandfather smoked, a lot. She would sit in their trailer and watch him roll his cigarettes and hear him say the same two phrases over and over, "Don't ever start smoking!" "Don't ever turn out like your mother!"

At age 10, those words from her grandfather about smoking didn't phase her when a cigarette was offered to her. She smoked that cigarette and has been smoking ever since. She also did give birth to a baby in her teens, just as her mother had. But instead of abandoning her baby, as her mother had abandoned her, Jane chose to let a loving family adopt that baby. It is the one decision in her life that makes her feel that she did something right.

Jane does have some happy memories from her childhood. Her grandparents had a summer home by a lake. Every summer, they would make the long drive from their home state to the lake house state. Jane loved those days by the lake; days where she could leave in the morning and go exploring until nightfall and no one bothered her.

But once she graduated from high school, she left home and was never able to go to the lake house again.

Somewhere in her late teens or early 20's, Jane married a guy that made her feel so happy. Someone loved her and she felt like things were going to be okay. Until one day, three weeks (did you read that? 3 weeks!) after they were married, a woman came up to her at a bar and said, "I'm going home with your husband. He's done with you." When she discovered that the woman was telling the truth, Jane left, and never went back.

From then on, she wandered and explored. She learned how to make glass in a glass factory and loved the feeling of working hard and earning her own money and taking care of herself. But that factory closed and so, not knowing where else to go, she joined a Carnival company.
She traveled around the country with this company setting up rides, taking down rides, running carnival games, helping in every aspect of the Carnivals. She was a Carnie and indulged in every stereotypical behavior attributed to Carnies that anyone has ever heard.

She actually loved that life. She had friends, work to do, a place to sleep, food to eat, money in her pocket, opportunities to travel. It seemed to be the happiest that she had ever been.

As she grew older though, she remembered her grandmother always wanting her to be a religious girl. Jane started reading the Bible and realized she needed to change her life. She gives credit to God and the power of His word for helping her to stop the drug addictions she had picked up with her Carnie family. She started back to church and began changing her life.

She realized the Carnie life wasn't what she wanted to do anymore. With nowhere else to go, she began wandering again and eventually, she found herself living in Yuma, AZ. Well, not really. She was living along the Colorado River near Yuma. She and her little dog Charlie lived in a tent out in the desert. She did not consider herself homeless. She was very happy to be out under the stars each night and free from bills and people who hurt and the worries of day to day city life. She knew it was illegal to do what she was doing without paying or even being in an official camping spot. Whenever the Ranger would come tell her to move, she would, until he would tell her to move again. She didn't mind.
All of this happened before a hot morning in August of 2013 when I was driving down the road and I saw this little lady sitting on the side of the road and I felt a voice say, "Help her." I didn't stop, but gratefully, the voice didn't give up on me. The voice said again, "Turn around and help her."

I did.

I will be eternally grateful for that moment when I first met this daughter of God. I was nearly overwhelmed with the odor of her daily life as I helped her into my car, but my heart was also overwhelmed with a love for her that could only come from God.

There are many aspects of this woman's life that would either make people want to fix her life, or stay away. I struggled at first with exactly how to help her. I didn't want to enable unwise behavior, but I also didn't want to just walk away and ignore her (which would have been very easy to do at times.) I finally realized that all I really felt in my heart was God saying, "Just love her. Please, just love her."

As I began to hear her story, I knew why the instruction from God was to just love her ... no one ever had. No one had ever loved her just because. Love had never been freely given to her. When I think about Jane's life, I can imagine how often our Savior sat with her and walked with her and wished so much one of us mortals would see the brilliant spirit that lives within that rough exterior.

As I sat there by her hospital bed and was told that her heart was very week and was giving out, I knew exactly why. She was dying of a broken heart, literally.

Jane was born into loneliness and she was about to die in loneliness.

I called my husband who came up to the hospital to give her a Priesthood blessing and as he put his hands on her head , he felt these words to say to her, "If it is time for you to leave this mortal life, know that you will be surrounded by love and it will not be scary. But if there are still things in this life the Lord has for you to do, your body will know what to do and you will be able to continue this mortal life."
I could not find the artist of this painting. If anyone knows, please tell me so I can give credit where credit is due.

Tears poured down my cheeks as I thought of Jane's spirit leaving her body and entering the next adventure after this life. I thought of our Savior's arms wrapping around her and how He would hold her and love her and tell her that everything was going to be okay. I actually felt so happy that she was finally going to feel freedom from this earth life that has been so hard for her.
But then, the next morning, she opened her eyes and she began to get stronger and healthier and by Saturday she was moved out of ICU to another floor and she was quickly back to her grouchy, hard to love self. She is still in the hospital and is a little disgruntled that she can't find "Bonanza" on the tv.

I have to admit something that is hard to admit ... I was kind of sad about that. I was looking forward to her leaving this sad world and finding some peace. But those words told to her in a Priesthood blessing as she teetered between this life and the next kept returning to me, "...if there are still things in this life the Lord has for you to do, your body will know..."

What is it she still has to accomplish? I don't know. She can barely walk. She sits alone all day long in her chair watching tv. She lives off of a ridiculously low amount of money and food stamps. The last couple weeks of the month she eats bologna sandwiches for all three meals. She is fiercely independent and will not allow anyone to help her adjust and make some healthful changes that would help her in so many ways. She is still very sick and her habits aren't going to change. It is likely she will end right back in the ICU very soon. I asked the Lord if He would help me understand what it is she still needs to accomplish.

Do you know what He told me?

He told me that she still has some lessons to TEACH. Yes TEACH.

So, learn I will.

If you live in Yuma and you know this woman personally, maybe she has some lessons to teach you as well. If you think she might, here are some facts about Jane that will help you to "just love her" as I have felt the Savior tell me to do on so many occasions:

She loves to come over for Sunday dinners. She loves to play board games. She loves to just sit and be a part of a family. We made her very first birthday cake 3 years ago, she was teary eyed as she blew out the candles. She loves to have her fingernails painted. The air conditioner in her trailer isn't made for the desert summer heat. She loves soft comfy socks. She loves to go to the movies. She loves to go out to restaurants and eat greasy hamburgers and ice cream. She loves "Bonanza" and any old western tv show out there. It is not easy for her to walk to her trailer park's laundry mat and she sometimes doesn't have the money to do the laundry anyway. She loves "Wheel of Fortune". She likes frog figurines and coloring those black felt marker pictures. She loves talking and visiting and she loves jokes. She loves her little dog Charlie; he is her whole world. She can't always walk all the way to the big garbage bin in her trailer park and so her garbage just piles up and up. She likes to crochet and do crafts. She loves steak but her dentures deteriorated long ago and are unusable so she can't chew the meat. But she will cut it up into very small pieces and be perfectly happy. Jane loves to laugh.

She has been an amazing teacher for my children! She loves them. Sometimes after paying all of her bills and getting the few things she needs, she will have $1 or $2 left over and do you know what she does? She will buy my son a little toy car or my daughter a treat. They don't know right now all that she has helped them to learn, but someday they will and I have a feeling they may look back and see her as one of their greatest teachers.

I had thought this post would be about someone who has passed on to the next life. I started writing it in my head as I sat there by Jane's ICU bed that long awful night.

Instead, this is a post about someone who is ALIVE. We don't have to read this and think "Oh I should have ..." We can read this and think, "I am going to ..."

I invite you to let Jane into your home and into your heart.
I invite you to not let this lonely woman die lonely.
I invite you to entertain an angel (who doesn't always seem like an angel ;) )

Inside of that rough exterior is a golden daughter of God and one day we will all see her for who she really is and we will feel honored to have had such a powerful teacher in our midst.

If you don't live in Yuma, or having closer personal contact with Jane is a bit much for you right now, I guess I just want you to know that Jane is not the only Jane in this world. Maybe you won't see your Jane sitting on the side of the road and hear a voice tell you to help her. Maybe your Jane will come to you in a whole different way.

I titled this post "Please read this story, please!" because of the message I felt the Savior tell me about Jane, "Just love her. Please, just love her." I truly felt the "please" come from Him.

He'll take care of all of the rest, the bad habits and the ways that she acts out of her heartaches and He will fix it all, He just needs someone to ... please ... love her.

Do you know one of the greatest lessons I have learned from Jane?
I have realized that we place a high importance on "being wise" when what we are really feeling is fear. We think we need to be so careful about the strangers we meet on the street, or how we help others etc. etc. etc. (and we do, don't misunderstand me) but I've learned and am continuing to learn that sometimes instead of "wisdom" we are feeling FEAR. When we can learn to decipher between the two, a whole new world of love opens up and it is amazing ... that is when you will meet your teacher Jane.

Maybe, just maybe, that is one of the greatest lessons that Jane can teach the world. It is an important lesson. How wonderful that she is here to teach it to us. Her soul is of infinite worth!!

Hebrews 13:2 "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

  1. If you want to read more of the story of how I met Jane, go to this link
P.S. I feel a great need to add something else here. As I wrote the words about Jane's mother, grandparents, ex-husband etc., I did not intend to vilify them. I am keenly aware that they have their own stories and their own reasons for doing what they did, we all do. That doesn't mean that everything these people did (or we do) is okay. It just means that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes that reason is that we are hurting, or confused, or ... well, stupid. ;) But its still a reason.
That is why I am so very, very, very grateful our Savior, Jesus Christ has reserved the right to judge for Himself and not for us. He knows, truly, He KNOWS. He will take everything into account and His judgements will be made out of more love than any of us can even comprehend.

So many have asked for updates on this situation so ... 
Jane was moved to a skilled nursing facility today. Going home to her dog was her greatest desire, but her health is not ready for that yet. She is happy to have a bigger tv with more channels, such as whatever channel it is that has "Bonanza", "Gun Smoke" etc. She was happy to get out of that awful hospital gown and into her favorite outfit - men's basketball shorts and a comfy t-shirt. The staff at this care facility were wonderful and I could see that Jane found a place in their hearts immediately. Jane's exemplary Visiting Teacher is taking care of Jane's little dog. The care center agreed that if he gets his shots and a good bath and cut, he can go visit her. We'll get that taken care of. 
I am so touched by how many have shared this story. I hope it will continue to be shared. I have also been touched by those who have asked how they can help. I am even more touched by those who are choosing to learn from Jane and act on the lessons she has to teach about forgiveness, courage, kindness, and love. 
Honestly, this whole experience of how she is teaching so many is yet one more learning opportunity I have been blessed with when it comes to being Jane's friend. I have learned so much watching so many of you learn as well.
That whole "Angels in disguise" thing ... I think it's real!


  1. Thank you for sharing your beautiful light with us! You have inspired me to try to be more aware of the 'Janes' in my life, and hopefully, to become more like you, and more like Him along the way!

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I need to be more aware of the other 'Janes' around me as well. There is still much I need to learn as I strive to be more like Him as well. ;)

  2. Oh how the "Janes" in our lives truly teach us to see others as the Savior and our Heavenly Father do. There are so many lessons that we can learn to truly be more Christ like. Thank you for sharing this true story with each one of us. How blessed we are to know some earthly angels!

    1. Thank you for your comment. The longer I live, the more I realize that everyone around me is a teacher and there is something everyone can teach me. You are correct, the more Christlike we become, the more we will learn from others. Amazing isn't it?

  3. Thank you for sharing such inspirational thoughts/stories on your blog. As a matter of fact, I used, from one of your previous blogs, the talk by Bonnie D. Parkin and your earlier story of "Jane" for my Relief Society lesson this past Sunday. You are one of those earthly angels, as stated in another comment..............Thank You!

    1. Marsha, we've never met, but you remain one of my only supporters on this blog. Thank you for your kind words and for seeing some worth here. I have a feeling you are an earthly angel yourself.

  4. My husband loved everyone and accepted them as they were. I have learned a lot from him but have a long way to go to treat others like I should. Thanks for the story of Jane. I loved it and was inspired by the love you and your family have developed for her. I know first hand that this is possible. I love this Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  5. Thank You Lisa, I always love your stories, your wisdom, and faith in the Lord.
    I love you and I'm proud of you; a favorite quote from grandma...

    1. Thank you Aunt Myra, I love your stories, your wisdom, and faith in the Lord as well. I love you and I'm proud of you too. ;)

  6. My cousin (who is very Christ-like) posted this, so I knew it would be worth reading. So much of our lives it caught up in unimportant (That we feel are immensely important at the time) things. I will keep my eyes and heart open, keeping equally in mind that I can not do all things for all people, but if relationships bump up against my little sphere, I will be willing. Thank you for loving Jane.

  7. Wow what and inspiring story of friendship and life.

    1. Thank you. I hope many people will read Jane's story and be inspired by the lessons she has to share.

  8. Thank you for sharing this story. I definitely have a "Jane" in my life. This J's reminded me that I need to be more giving of myself to her and her needs. You are an angel, God bless you as you bless the lives of others.


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