Asburyís Most Beautiful Woman

by John C. Westervelt

It was mid-June 1996. She was passing the offering plates on the center aisle. The sun streaming through the large stained glass window bathed her face in a blended light. I thought, "She must be Godís most beautiful woman." As she gathered the offering plates to pass on to the next rows, I wondered, "The sanctuary is filled with attractive women. What is so special about this one?"

As I pondered this question, her face, still bright in the light shining through the stained glass image of Jesus, gave me the answer. Pat had a serenity that I might expect only on the face of Jesus.

Over the years I had spoken to Pat Schroeder in the halls of the childrenís division where she was a regular teacher and, in later years, a greeter.

When Pat was first diagnosed with cancer nine years ago, Sandy and Paul, my daughter-in-law and son, asked me to pray for their special friend. After a mastectomy, Pat encouraged others as she worked with the Asbury cancer support group.

When cancer returned some years later, Pat and Bob went to Duke University Medical School for six weeks, leaving their young children with friends and family, so Jon and Rebecca would not miss school. After some good years of remission, the demon cancer returned, but Pat fought on.

The offering was now over. I wondered why Pat volunteered to work as an usher. I guessed that she loves Jesus so much that she canít stop serving Him.

It was mid-February 1998. As the sanctuary filled, I focused on Patís warm smile as she stood in the aisle visiting with a friend. On most Sundays I would find Pat several rows behind me as church let out. It all began many months ago when she offered me a hug. Today we met with a hug. I said, "Sandy told me you have to start a month of daily radiation." For the first time in our nine year friendship, tears filled Patís eyes as she told me how much she misses Sandy. (Sandyís family moved to Texas in August). With encircling arms I pulled Pat to me and held on longer than for the friendly embrace. Then loosely holding her at the waist, with my eyes fixed on hers, her smile returned as she said, "You know, Sandy talks with me every Sunday."

It was March 8, 1998. Sandy told me that Bob Schroeder called on Friday to say that Patís cancer has taken a turn for the worse and that they would begin hospice.

At first, I questioned if the struggles and pain of the nine years were worth it. But then I thought I should ask Rebecca, who began sharing her motherís ordeal at age two. She is now eleven, and knows her mother, and will forever. Iíll not ask her, but I, as you, know the answer is "yes."

It was April 11, 1998. Jesus had wept long enough for this child of His so He took her home.

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