Voice in the Night
By Carin Klabbers

 

When I was nineteen-years-old, my friend Hanneke Boogaard was studying to become a nurse at Beatrix Hospital in The Netherlands. There, nursing students work during their study, the same as regular personnel. During her work on the night shift, Hanneke was strangely drawn to one patient in particular, a forty-year-old woman in a coma. Because Mrs. Groensma never had visitors, Hanneke remained at her bedside longer than the others. At first she tried not to admit it, since for her all patients should mean the same. But this woman fascinated her. 

When Hanneke heard the patient had no living relatives, she spent even more time with her.  She’d learned that people in comas could sometimes hear when they were spoken to. This woman had no one to do that for her, so Hanneke talked softly to her every night. Since she didn’t know her, she didn’t know what to talk about, so she told Mrs. Groensma all about herself. She explained how her parents had died in a car crash when she was young.  For hours she shared her many memories of them. That’s all she had to cling to now. How she wished she had a specific personal item to remember them by — the golden four-leaf clover locket her mother always wore. It was lost during the accident and never found, even though relatives searched the crash site and nearby ditch. Night after night, she talked and talked and grew more and more attached to Mrs. Groensma.

She would likely never come out of the coma, and she had no one in the world to care for her. Therefore, the time came for her to be transferred to a nursing home where she would eventually die. When Hanneke objected, she was heavily reprimanded for losing touch with her professional attitude and forbidden to contact the patient in the nursing home. Hanneke saw the logic of her supervisors but could not help thinking about Mrs. Groensma often.

Time went by and Hanneke became a nurse and found a job in the Beatrix hospital. One day at work she was instructing a patient when a lady, who was questioning another nurse, turned and deliberately walked towards her. It was Mrs. Groensma! They found an empty room where they could speak privately and Mrs. Groensma explained what she was doing there. 

She recalled having been in a dark and lonely place, all alone, until the voice of what she thought must have been an angel started speaking, drawing her attention. Later when that voice stopped talking to her, she longed for the sound so much that she started struggling to get to the place where the voice had come from. She came out of coma and took a long time to recover. Meanwhile she had questioned the nursing home staff. They eventually told her they had instructions to keep away a certain nurse who had made the mistake of getting too attached to her. 

As soon as Mrs. Groensma was able, she came to the hospital to find that nurse. When she heard Hanneke talk to the patient, she recognized the voice that had spoken to her during her coma. 

Mrs. Groensma took Hanneke’s hand. “I have something I want to give you to thank you. I found it fifteen years ago in a ditch and originally wanted to put pictures of my late husband and me in it and give it to my daughter. When she died I was all alone and wanted to throw it away, but I never came to it. I now want you to have it.”

Mrs. Groensma handed Hanneke a small box. Inside, sparkling in the sunlight, lay a golden four-leaf clover locket. With a pounding heart Hanneke opened it to see her parents’ photos.

Hanneke now wears the locket day and night and visits Mrs. Groensma whenever she wants.  And they talk and talk and grow more and more attached.