For about two years I had the privilege of spending time with a remarkable woman, whom I will call Lana.
Lana grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church with two sisters and two brothers. She enjoyed a pleasant life before cancer. But after that, life became a long, painful, and difficult journey.
I met Lana in a life-care facility in Philadelphia. After searching for a way to serve the Lord, I was led to a special opportunity at this place. When I asked administrators what I could do for their patients, I learned that Lana wanted someone to read to her.
From the beginning it was a rewarding task. Lana was enjoyable to be around, and though she spoke through a tracheotomy, if you listened carefully each slow, distinct word could be understood.
I soon learned much about Lana. She had been a writer and a graduate of Penn State with a passion for films and music—especially Asian films she often had to acquire from mainland China.
In 2012 Lana was hospitalized in the ICU with severe anemia and depression. All this compounded her preexisting illness. Getting through these extra trials was difficult, but she never lost hope. She remained joyful and always felt she could overcome her situation, “just like in the movies,” she said.
As time went on, the illness progressed. I wanted Lana to continue to stay in touch with her previous career, but I also longed to renew her hope in her childhood faith. But each time I came to visit, Lana wanted me to read more salacious books. I told the supervisor that they might have to find another reader. So I prayed that Lana would let me read about Bible heroes who had faced daunting difficulties and overcome them. She agreed.
The book I started with was about Joseph. I marveled at Lana’s mind, and I could see that memory was one of her gifts. I also noticed how the Lord blessed her senses—they were so acute. I wanted to read her one of the finest books ever written about the beautiful Christ I knew and loved.
In time Lana agreed to let me read The Desire of Ages. Tests showed the cancer was progressing, but we had such good times talking about Jesus, His friends, and His healing. My greatest mission in life was to tell her more about my Best Friend.
As the cancer affected Lana’s hearing, she was told she had to start another round of chemotherapy. As she returned to the hospital, I pleaded with the Lord to spare her life until she got to know more about Him.
When Lana returned, I felt there was no way her mind could be lucid enough to remember me or the things I had read to her previously. So I prayed again. I called the care facility after a few days and was told she had been released and I could visit her. What a day that was. It was as if she had returned from the dead!
I had a clear impression my prayer was being answered. Lana’s memory was as sharp as ever, and we were able to continue to read The Desire of Ages. Lana’s response to Jesus was positive, and I could hear the change in her voice and sense her excitement at the mention of His name. My voice was guided to share His love and beauty as we witnessed the moving of the Holy Spirit.
A few days later Lana went to the hospital for the final time. I know I will see her in the earth made new.
I learned a lesson from knowing Lana. The Bible came alive, just as if someone were sharing a personal story. I can just hear Jesus repeating these words: “Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”