Ode to a Farmer’s Wife

Hospital Chaplaincy: Walking with people in the hard times

By Ian Johnston – Chaplain at John Hunter Hospital

Originally published in The Presbyterian Pulse Magazine (Dec 2015)

As a hospital Chaplain in a very large Regional Hospital I try to visit the Emergency and Intensive Care Wards first, then those patients who have come the greatest distance for their treatment, as they are much less likely to have their Minister available to call in and pray for them. Family and friends too, often find it difficult to visit on a regular basis because of the travel time required and the cost of accommodation in the City. My poem is about this dear elderly lady who was in just that situation when I saw her name and locality on my Chaplain’s list.


It was just after “Rest Time,” with patients still sleeping,
the Nurses were busy updating their notes.
I had “Out-of-Towners” brought in from the Country,
and I wanted to see those “Long Distant” ones first.

One of those patients was a little old lady, a Farmer’s wife from way out “the Back.”
She was a widow with no close relations, no one to visit and take up the slack.
Almost engulfed in pillows and doonas, the sides on her bed were raised like a Cot,
I nearly walked past that small grey haired lady, so frail and alone, like they all had forgot.

So I put on my friendliest face and mustered a heart warming smile,
before announcing my mission, to visit all the “Pressies” on File.
The Lady responded quite quickly, when she realised I was one of her own.
“I used to teach Sunday School children, when I lived with my parents at home.”

Then I asked her how she was going, and what the hospital staff hoped to gain.
She shook her head with much sadness, “My body is wracked with great pain!”
“Perhaps I could pray for that with you,” I said with all the confidence I had.
But she buried her face in the pillow, and told me, “I’m probably too bad.”

“When I married, we moved to the country, to the Bush and onto a farm
then little by little things took over, the fences, the shearing, the barn.
It was quite a long trip for the groceries, even further for mechanical parts,
when you factored in Church on a Sunday, it really challenged our hearts.

So I really don’t think that I’m worthy, to ask for your prayers for my pain,
For I left God and His house off my “Do List”, and didn’t go near Him again.
My heart ached for this suffering lady, who had toiled many years on the land
So I pulled out a tract about Jesus, and the Hymn that says he’s our friend.

I thought if I sang a few lines of this wonderful faith-lifting hymn,
my suffering patient might remember, and start putting her trust in him.
but nothing like that even got started, no memories with joy went on show,
until I launched into, “Jesus loves me”, the Bible it does tell me so.

Her face was beginning to soften, the memories brought deep humility,
I rejoiced as I heard her saying, “Perhaps you could pray for me!”
I reached out my hand and I asked her if her hand I could hold for a while,
Just while I prayed to the Father, for this daughter who needed His smile.

And when we had finished our praying, and my visit had come to an end,
I offered my tract about Jesus, and the Hymn which says he’s our friend.
The lady, unworthy no longer, reached up with her outstretched hands,
and gladly read of the Saviour, who saved her and taught her to dance.

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