Sor Juana de Asbaje is an Angel
Submitted by Joanna Maria Gonzales Siefert
It was 1:00 a.m. A thousand questions raced through Joanna’s mind concerning the consequences of the news of the day. Her doctor had removed a mass from her stomach, a cancerous tumor, stage III, the size of a small watermelon from her right ovary along with the ovary, and another smaller tumor from her left.
The disease had gone to the lymph nodes of her chest cavity, and it was feared, into her lungs. Joanna had a rare form of cancer that grows quickly called Dysgerminoma. In fact, the pathologist had not seen this form of cancer in ten years, and sent tissue samples on to Stanford for confirmation.
She gazed across the room to her husband who slept on a cot by her bed. He was legally blind and Joanna was putting him through college, driving him back and forth to school as well. She thought of her 8 year old daughter. Julia needed her mom. She thought of her mother she’d been rehabilitating with massage, exercise and encouragement from a horrible car accident that should have left her an invalid, but miraculously, she was recovering. Joanna would not let her give up. Joanna was tough…a pusher. It wasn’t going to happen, but now, she herself, had crumbled for the first time in her life, and sobbed into her pillow. Everything hurt. She couldn’t get comfortable to even shut her eyes…her heart ached, her body ached, and her spirit sank. Her breath became short. What if this was it. What if she died with so much left to do?
She gazed across the room at her sleeping husband once more. It had been a very long day. She shook and the tears poured down her face. A woman dressed in white walked into the room. Joanna looked up at her. She had kind eyes. She took her hand and gently put the back of it against Joanna’s right cheek. Then she stated. “You are going to be fine."
Immediately the sobbing ceased. The woman had dark black hair and light skin. Joanna expected the nurse to fix the drip or take her pulse, but she didn’t. She asked Joanna, surprisingly, if she was Catholic. Joanna became confused and stated she had been baptized as a Catholic at birth, but had attended a Baptist Bible College, but now no longer attended any church. Beginning to cry once more, she asked, “Am I suppose to be?
The woman answered, “It doesn’t matter. God hears your prayers.” Then she added, “Let me adjust you and get you comfortable." The woman adjusted the pillow and bedding and Joanna settled into her bed with a new sense of comfort.
Before she left the room, the woman stated, “After my 12 hour shift I go home and pray for my patients, and I am going to pray for you."
As the woman walked out the door, Joanna fell into a deep relaxed slumber, reflecting on the act of kindness bestowed her, waking the next morning at 6:30 a.m., Joanna got out of bed for the first time, and walked over to the nurse’s station outside her door. Approaching the charge nurse, she asked for the name of the nurse who’d come to her room the night before. The charge nurse assured her that no one had gone into her room that night. Joanna shared the kindness and described the woman, and the nurse stated, “There was no one. I was the only one here, and there are cameras and no one can get passed this desk." Discouraged about not being able to write a thank you note, Joanna went back into her room.
Later that morning at 9:30, Joanna’s mother and a friend came to pay their respects. Glancing down at the floor, the friend noticed a large gold coin on the floor…a 1988 1000 pesos coin. Picking it up, she asked Joanna if it was hers, and she said no. Joanna’s mother asked for the coin. It had a picture of a nun on it, Juana de as Baje. The coin was in the spot where the woman who had comforted Joanna had stood the night before.
Joanna went through extensive chemo therapy. She recovered. The lady in white was correct.
Joanna never knew for sure, but she felt that maybe an angel had visited her that night. She researched the nun on the coin, Sor Juana, as she was mostly called. Sor Juana was a genius astounding intellectuals of her time, reading numerous volumes at the age of three. She joined the convent so that she might be allowed to pursue an education. She was a feminist, a musician, a writer and a poet. She cared for the sick and dying, selling everything she had to give to the poor the last two years of her life. She put her pen down forever to do these things.
As if Sor Juana had given Joanna a part of her own spirit, Joanna soon found herself surrounded by many books, pursuing a degree in social work at U.C. Berkeley and working at the public library part time. Joanna also began working as a hospice volunteer with those who were dying. Each email she sends out has the quote from Aesop; “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted”.
Recently, at the suggestion of a friend, Joanna had the coin of Sor Juana put into a lovely gold mounting on a gold chain. The jeweler cleaned it up and it is a remarkable piece, radiant as Joanna’s friendly countenance. It is a piece that attracts attention and affords Joanna the opportunity to present the question; “Do you believe in angels?” If you have the time, Joanna will tell you her story, and then, like myself, perhaps you will share it with a friend and both of you will part company with peace and love in your heart, knowing there is more to life than meets the eye and we are not alone.
Written for Joanna by her friend......Jennifer Grant
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