Sor Anita (Sister Anita) did not quit working in the Tadeo Torres orphanage until she became so old and weak she could no longer hold a baby in her arms. Until she died, I would try to take people with me to go visit her in the home for elderly nuns as often as I could partly because she liked visitors but mostly because she changed people who met her.
Without exception, when I would take people to meet her, they would come away after one short visit knowing Sor Anita loved them. They knew this not because she told them but because she radiated love so tangible it was like warming yourself by a fire. The first time I met her I wondered if she was senile and confused me with someone else. She treated me like a son.
Sor Anita had a Christmas story she would retell if I asked her. (Okay, I don’t know if it happened during Christmas time, but let’s just say it did.)
One of the babies in her care was deathly ill. She had seen death enough times that she knew the child needed help immediately. She ran to find the doctor, who was locking the door of his office to go home. She asked him to come immediately. He said, “I have other plans.”
“Please come. He will die,” she pleaded.
The doctor, who had a reputation for being very skilled but not interested in helping those who could not pay, said, “I will see him tomorrow and not before.”
Sor Anita knew the next minute he would be gone, so she thought quickly and said with as much sincerity as she could muster: “But, Doctor, you must come. I came to you specifically. It is not just any child; the baby is your brother’s son.”
“Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” the doctor said angrily.
With that, the doctor came to see the child and, indeed, saved his life.
While she helped the doctor care for the child, Sor Anita worried what the doctor would say when he was done. The child was not really the son of the doctor’s brother (unless you consider the universal brotherhood of man).
However, when the child was finally doing better, the doctor turned to Sor Anita and said, “Sister, I am in the business of saving lives. You are in the business of saving souls. It looks like, because of our efforts tonight, both of our patients have a fighting chance to come back from the brink of death. Thank you. I guess he is my brother’s child. I will come to check on the child tomorrow. He is not out of danger yet.”
When telling the end of this story, Sor Anita would give a sly smile and say, “So, I told that doctor that my patient was also a hard case and not out of danger yet. But I told him, 'Don’t worry, Doctor. You have many brothers and they have many children.'”
Another story about Sor Anita:
Sor Anita said that a man from the country knocked on the door and asked to come in. He looked like he was in great pain, so she let him right in. He did not speak Spanish. He spoke Quechua, the original language of the Incas often spoken in the mountains.
Sor Anita could not speak to him but tried to understand if she needed to send for a doctor. He was in so much discomfort that she immediately sent someone out to the streets to find someone to translate. The man was literally dancing in pain, but finally, they found someone who could speak Quechua.
After a brief interchange, the interpreter started to laugh. Sor Anita thought this very unkind to laugh when someone was in so much pain. “What is the matter?” she asked.
“He just wants to know if he can use your bathroom.”
This blog post is third out of a series of 12 Christmas stories by founder Rex Head. Read the other stories below.