Charles Swindoll, in The Darkness and the Dawn, tells the story of a wonderful Christian named Edith Burns who lived in San Antonio, Texas. She was the patient of Dr. Will Phillips, a gentle physician who saw patients as people. He loved them all, but his favorite patient was Edith Burns.
One morning Dr. Phillips went to his office with a heavy heart because he had discovered that Edith Burns had cancer. He knew that she had an appointment that morning. When he arrived in his office she was already there. She had her big black Bible in her lap, and she was witnessing to another person who was also waiting to see Dr. Phillips. Edith had the habit of introducing herself in this way: “Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?” Then she would explain the meaning of Easter. Many times they would accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.
After being called into the doctor’s office, Edith entered and sat down. When she took a look at her doctor, she said, “Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?”
Dr. Phillips said, “Edith, I’m your doctor, and you are the patient.” And then, with a heavy heart, he said, “Your lab report reveals that you have cancer. And, Edith, you’re not going to live very much longer.”
“Why, Dr. Phillips,” Edith replied, “shame on you! Why are you so sad? Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I’m going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and many of my friends. You have just told me that I’m going to celebrate Easter forever. And you are having trouble giving me my ticket.”
Within a few weeks, Edith had reached the point in her illness where she needed to be hospitalized. “Dr. Will, I’m very near home now,” she said, “so would you make sure that they put women in the room with me who need to know about Easter?” They did just that, and one patient after another shared the room with Edith. Many of them became Christians because Edith shared with them the story of Easter and what it means to those who believe.
Everybody on Edith’s hospital floor, from staff to patients, were so excited about Edith that they started calling her Edith Easter – that is, everybody except Phyllis Cross, the head nurse. Phyllis said she wanted nothing to do with Edith because, “She is a religious nut.” Phyllis had been a nurse in an army hospital, and she had seen and heard it all. She was the original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times. She was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.
One morning the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick and could not work. Edith had contracted the flu, so Phyllis had to go in and give her a shot. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face as she said, “Phyllis, God loves you, and I love you, too. I’ve been praying for you.”
The head nurse frowned. “Well, you can quit praying for me. It won’t work. I’m not interested.”
“Well, I will pray,” said Edith. “I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family.”
“Then you will never die,” snapped Phyllis, “because that will never happen,” and she left the room abruptly.
Every day when Phyllis Cross walked into the room, Edith would smile and say, “God loves you, Phyllis, and I love you too . I’ve been praying for you.” Then one day, Nurse Cross found herself drawn to Edith’s room like a magnet draws iron. Edith said, “I’m glad you’ve come today because God has told me that today is your special day.”
Phyllis said, “Edith, you have asked everybody here the question, “Do you believe in Easter? But you have never asked me.” So, Edith asked her the question and shared the meaning of Easter, and Phyllis accepted Christ as her personal Savior. Later, when Phyllis walked into the room she realized that Edith had gone home to be with her Lord. With tears streaming down her cheeks, Phyllis said, “Happy Easter, Edith. Happy Easter!”
Then Phyllis left Edith’s body, walked quietly out of the room and over to a table where two student nurses were sitting. She smiled and said, “Hello, my name is Phyllis Cross. Do you believe in Easter?”