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Tender Hands

By Ruth Swaner

THE EMERGENCY CALL shattered my peaceful world. An eight-inch rod, the size of a pencil, had dislodged from a piece of machinery with eighty pounds of pressure behind it. The rod penetrated the corner of my husband’s left eye, piercing his brain.

Relatives were notified, arriving late that evening. We prayed together during the eight-hour surgery to remove bone fragments from my husband’s brain. At two o’clock the next morning we learned that Roger’s eye had not been destroyed. They could see no permanent brain damage—a miracle direct from God. However, because of extensive swelling and injury, he would need to remain in intensive care for a week, maybe more.

For the next two weeks I drove to Salt Lake City every other day from our home a hundred miles away, trying to balance Roger’s needs with those of our three teenage sons. The cost of motels, gas, and eating out quickly depleted my finances. I struggled for solutions. Two nights I slept in the hospital waiting room because the long drives were so exhausting.

Late one afternoon, as I held Roger’s hand, I realized I was too weary to drive the one hundred miles home. I prayed for relief.

At that moment a nurse called me to the telephone. I recognized the familiar voice of Dora Flack, a friend of many years who became like a mother to me after my own mother died. Hearing Dora’s voice, I almost thought it was my mom, the one person whom I needed desperately that day. She invited me to stay at her home, only twenty minutes from the hospital. I tried to control tears of gratitude, still hesitating because of the imposition. Dora gently insisted, “It’s all right, Ruth. Please come.”

As I drove into her driveway later that evening, the stress of Roger’s ordeal caught up with me, and I felt myself physically wilt. Dora and her husband ran out to greet me. LeGrand carried my bag; Dora hugged me as we walked up the steps. She offered me juice and warm homemade bread before we retired. Never had any bread tasted so good. After listening to me share the experiences of Roger’s accident, she walked me to my room. Pulling down the covers on the bed, she fluffed up the pillow, and said, “Put on your bathrobe. I’ll be right back.”

I sat on the edge of the bed, almost too tired to remove my shoes. My feet ached. I wondered if my body could relax enough to sleep.

Dora came back, carrying a big bottle of lotion. Pulling a chair close to the end of the bed, she said, “Lie down, Ruth, and put your feet in my lap.” I hesitantly followed her directions, too tired to argue.

She explained, “I often rub the feet of tired friends when they stay with us.”

Through grateful tears, I stared at the ceiling. Here was my dear friend rubbing my feet with lotion. Her patient massage gradually replaced my stress with total relaxation. Sleep was close.

“There, now. You’ll sleep well, Ruth,” she said, placing the bottle of lotion on the dresser.

After turning off the light, she hesitated. “Would you like me to stay for bedtime prayers?”

I sat up. “Would you?”

It was almost midnight as we knelt at the bedside, and I quietly prayed, completely overcome with gratitude for Dora’s tender hands which had fed my body and spirit, calmed my nerves, and released my cares. As those same hands held mine for a midnight prayer, I was lifted heavenward.

Ruth Harris Swaner graduated with a BA in Art Education from Utah State University. She and Roger Swaner are the parents of four sons. She teaches classes in creative writing and is a book author, journalist, and magazine writer. Ruth was the state president of the League of Utah Writers and has won numerous awards for her writing. She has also won awards in music composing and poetry. She is the author of Portraits From An Unfinished Woman and co-author of Hard Won Wisdom, which will be published by Desert Book in the spring of 2007.

Blog Segullah interviewed Ruth Swaner on October 26, 2006.

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About Ruth Swaner

Ruth graduated with a BFA in art education from Utah State University. She and Roger Swaner are parents of four sons. She teaches classes in creative writing and is a book author, journalist, and magazine writer. Ruth has won numerous awards for her writing. She is the author of Portraits From An Unfinished Woman (Covenant Communications), and the co-author of Hard-Won Wisdom (Deseret Book).

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