cancer, nursing, staff nursing





Abstract: Read a heartwarming tribute to Bessie Chandler, a nurse who touched many lives throughout her 45-year career.


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It was 5:55 a.m. when Mrs. Bessie left to go see her Jesus. She left this world surrounded by family and friends, with a smile on her face. Mrs. Bessie always said she was fighting a winning battle with cancer. She won. We lost.


Mrs. Bessie, my mother, was a registered nurse (RN). When people first heard she had been diagnosed with cancer they wanted to help. She had helped so many throughout her lifetime and now they wanted to help her. Bessie always was a little nervous about speaking to large groups of people but one day at church she thanked everyone for being so concerned about her and then told the tearful crowd what they could do. She wanted everyone to go out knocking on doors in the neighborhoods surrounding the church. Mrs. Bessie said she wanted people to know the church cared about them and wanted everyone to know and love her Jesus. That Wednesday night there was no regular church service. The whole congregation went door-to-door checking on the neighborhood and sharing God's love.


Mrs. Bessie made plans to meet her Jesus. She selected a blue silk suit to be buried in that matched her beautiful eyes. The night before her funeral we held a service. I found it interesting so many people came through the greeting line saying the same thing. I expected to hear, "I'm so sorry for your loss" or "We are really going to miss her." But as 3 hours of continuous well-wishers passed, many were saying "You know, your Mom was my best friend." They were serious. People I had never met thought she was their best friend! Mrs. Bessie had a way of making everyone feel special. Other commonly reoccurring themes were "Your Mom took such good care of me" or of one of their family members. My favorite, "Your Mom was the best nurse ever." And then they shared a personal story about the care she had given.


Mrs. Bessie had a Nursing Diploma. She often said she should go back to school to earn another degree. But Mrs. Bessie had the art of nursing down to a science. She knew how to demonstrate care and compassion to patients. I have a PhD in Nursing and while I consider myself a fierce advocate for my patients, I could never study enough to learn to be the nurse she was. Nursing was in her blood and Jesus was in her soul; everyone she came into contact with knew it.


Mrs. Bessie spent her life in service first to God, and then to anyone she knew needed help. She spent most of her 45 years in nursing as a floor nurse, working on a medical-surgical unit at a local hospital. Mrs. Bessie also worked in a doctor's office, nursing home, and for a short period of time at a home health agency. As a child, I remember she would take my sister, my brother, and me along on home health visits. We would wait in the car while she went inside. When she was finished seeing patients, she would convince someone to let her have a backyard Bible school class. She took her flannel graph Bible stories with her everywhere. Once she convinced staff at a public school to let her tell children Bible stories during summer school.


Mrs. Bessie worked in a drug store after high school to earn the money to go to nursing school. Her entire nursing education, including room, board, and tuition was $600. In nursing school, she only had one good dress that she wore to church every Sunday. One day she received a letter from her father who said he was going to visit her. She was so excited as she hadn't seen him since she was three years old. She waited on the steps of the nursing building all day. At one point, a man came walking up the stairs and she asked, "Are you my father?" He wasn't. Her father did not show. In fact, Mrs. Bessie never saw her father until the day before he died. The few times she told this story she would always smile and say, "But I know who my real Father is, and He has never let me down!"


Mrs. Bessie often told me she didn't have much confidence in herself-her confidence was in God. God led her to start two churches, and in one case convince a gas station owner to sell her the land he had just bought and build elsewhere so she could start a church on that property. She and my father led the church bus ministry and she taught children's church for almost forty years. Her love for Jesus also led her to work on the mission fields of Honduras and Nicaragua, helping provide medical care and sharing God's love.


Mrs. Bessie served God as a nurse. Nursing was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate her love for Jesus to many people. Nursing allowed her to comfort those who were hurting, encourage those who were down, serve drink to those who were thirsty, feed those who could not feed themselves, and be there for people who were lonely or needed a helping hand. She used the feet Jesus gave her to go to people in need; her hands to mend broken bodies; her ears to listen to those who needed a friend; her words to comfort and witness; and the heart Jesus gave her to love everyone who would let her.


When her chemotherapy was stopped we all cried. She asked us not to cry. She said she would miss us but then she smiled and said, "Just think, I get to see Jesus!" Before she left to see her Jesus, Mrs. Bessie wrote something she wanted shared at her funeral. I think she would be pleased to share it with you today.


My Dear Friends and Loved Ones, as I write this last note, I want to thank you for coming today. The joy of loving and sharing together all these years has been mine. Please continue to pray, love, and support my family as they will need you. I will miss all of you because you have meant so much to me for so many years. I will be leaving you now because my Heavenly Father has called me home. Please do not be sad, because I will be walking the streets of gold with my Jesus, praising Him. I just wanted to thank you again for all the love we have shared over the years; but I don't want this to be a final goodbye. As I write this I pray and challenge each of you, if you are in church and serving God, please continue to do so for the rest of your life with your presence, time, talents, and your tithe. If you and your family are not in church and you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior, I pray that you will give your life to Him (even today). I pray you will all serve Him, and one day I will be waiting to meet you in Heaven. God Bless each of you until we meet again. Love in Christ, Bessie. John 3:16. (Bessie Chandler, personal communication, July 19, 2010)


Mrs. Bessie, RN, fought and won her battle. She used everything she had, including cancer, to get to see her Jesus. If you get to heaven before I do, tell Mrs. Bessie I love her and that her patients, family, and best friends will see her soon.