The Iron Bench

I have been blessed as a physician to share experiences with thousands of patients over my career. Every so often, patients share a snippet from their lives that is remarkable.

I had been following a nonagenarian for her congestive heart failure very closely, seeing her back in the office weekly to adjust her medications in an attempt to keep her from an admission to the hospital. I am not sure how we arose at the subject, but she learned that I was Jewish. She said, very simply, that she was always fond of Jews.

Her interest in my religion sparked a wonderful story that she probably had not told for decades. When she was a little child, her father would become abusive when he drank alcohol and beat her. She learned to hide; and she would escape to her neighbor, a kind Jewish lady next door. Even at her young age, she learned to anticipate his arrival home and would run over to her neighbor’s back door, where she would be welcomed.

She said that the Jewish lady loved to bake and she would always be in the kitchen. She suspected that her neighbor would deliberately always be there for her. And while she baked, the stove was hot and would warm up a small, cast iron bench that was adjacent to the stove. And my patient remembered that the nice lady would bundle her up in a blanket and let her rest; and sometimes she would fall asleep, on that wonderfully warm bench.

She was in her early twenties, by then married with a child of her own. She grieved when she heard about the loss of that nice Jewish lady. Soon after, she received a letter that the nice Jewish lady left to her the cast iron bench in her will.

Scott Matthew Bolhack, MD, MBA, CMD, CWS, FACP, FAAP

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