August 1973 – Midwest, USA
“When I am afraid, I will trust in Thee” (Psalm 56:3 KJV).
Vera, the other nursing assistant, was working with me that night at the nursing home, and we had just finished our lunch at 3 a.m. We relaxed in the patient lounge for a few minutes to rest our feet as we chatted. We wrapped the silverware and finished our first diaper rounds and bed baths. She picked up her purse and pulled out a small handgun.
“Pam, my dog told me to bring my gun to work tonight. She said the evil men may attack us tonight and that I should be prepared.”
I stared wide-eyed at her since I had only seen policemen carry revolvers. I stammered, “Y-y-y-your dog talks to you?”
“Oh yes, she talks with me every day. She’s my best friend!”
“Vera, please put your gun away. I’m going to check on the patients in the other hallway.” I quickly walked to the other end of the building as I prayed, Dear Lord, Please don’t let Vera shoot anyone tonight. And please keep those evil men away from us tonight. Put a hedge around us and protect us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
I realized I didn’t know the number of the police to call if the “bad men” showed up since this was the next town over from ours. I continued to check on the patients and sat and read my Bible during my next break. I decided to avoid Vera the rest of the night.
At five a.m. I began going room to room to fill each patient’s water pitcher with fresh ice water. I was still deep in thought about Vera and her talking dog and loaded gun as I walked into my last patient’s room. All of a sudden, she screamed, leaped out of bed, and lunged for me. All I saw was her long white nightgown and streaming white hair. I turned and ran out of her room and down to the end of the hallway as fast as I could, my heart racing. I stopped and turned around, but all was quiet. I waited a few minutes and asked the Lord for courage. I slowly walked back down to her room and peeked around the corner. She was back in bed fast asleep. I decided to wait and fill her water pitcher after the day shift arrived. At dawn, I walked into her room and opened her blinds. She opened her eyes and smiled sweetly at me. I exhaled a sigh of relief that the night was over.
I never saw Vera again after that night. Years later I worked as a Nurse Practitioner in a psychiatric hospital and learned much more about psychosis (being out of reality) and auditory hallucinations (hearing voices). Vera was likely mentally ill and paranoid that night. Today, we have many effective medications for psychosis, but in the 1970s only a few existed.
When growing up, I don’t recall any murders in my town or hearing about workplace violence. We read the newspaper for local news. I led a sheltered life in the country. I had no idea how much danger we were in that night if Vera would have started shooting imaginary “evil men”. We were isolated among the cornfields without 9-1-1 to call for emergencies in those days. But God clearly was my refuge and strength that night and protected us. I love Psalm 46:1 (KJV).
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”