This story was told to me by a friend. A retired nurse.
The nurse was passing by room 202 in the pediatric oncology wing. It was late. The hospital was decorated for Chrimstmas. Tinsel on the walls. Construction-paper chain-link garland everywhere. Pictures drawn by sick kids. Stick-figure Santas, anatomically incorrect reindeer. The gentle thrum of compressors. Mechanical beeping.
Outside room 202, a crowd was gathered around the closed door. There were maybe a few dozen doctors, nurses, techs and medical staffers congregated outside the door in silence.
“What’s going on?” said the nurse.
“Ssshhh,” said one of the doctors, pointing to the door. “Listen.”
It was singing. The nurse heard the muffled sound of singing coming from room 202. It was a child’s voice. A little girl. The song was “Jesus Loves Me.”
The medical staffers were all smiling. Some were sniffing noses, dabbing eyes.
“What’s she singing for?” asked the nurse.
“She sings herself to sleep every night,” whispered a doctor. “We all come to listen.”
The kid knew all the verses to the classic hymn. There are multiple verses to “Jesus Loves Me.” Everyone usually just sings the first one. But there are others.
“Jesus loves me this I know,
“As he loved so long ago;
“Taking children on his knee,
“Saying ‘Let them come to me.’”
The medical staffers said the child sang almost every night.
“Jesus loves me — loves me still,
“Though I’m very weak and ill;
“From his shining throne on high,
“Comes to watch me where I lie.”
There was something so paralyzingly beautiful about this child’s song. Something hopeful, but also haunting.
One of the nurses in the group, listening, was a total wreck. The others were consoling the woman. Her face was pink and swollen. Her nostrils were clogged.
This nurse said the little girl had just received bad news today. “Her treatments aren’t working,” said the nurse. “The scans came back worse than before. They say she’s probably not going to make it.”
The kid was dying. Earlier that afternoon, the little girl’s mother actually sat the child down, with the doctor, and explained it all. The mother told her child — her baby girl — that the end was nigh.
Whereupon the little girl just nodded, smiled and said, “It’ll be OK, Mom.”
“Jesus loves me — He will stay,
“Close beside me all the way;
“If I love Him, when I die,
“He will take me home on high.”
It sounds like a scene straight out of a saccharin Hallmark movie, but the following actually happened. By the time the little girl got to the last refrain, one of the nurses started singing along. Then a few others joined in.
The door to room 202 swung open, and a gaggle of medical professionals, singing the lyrics to a children’s hymn that predates the Civil War, accompanied the little girl in ethereal melody. Someone was even singing harmony.
“Yes, Jesus loves me,
“Yes, Jesus loves me…”
There were no more tears in this room. Everyone was smiling. And when they finished, the girl smiled and said, “Let’s sing it one more time.” And so they did.
And in case you were wondering, that little girl is a 29-year-old woman today.