Judith Sudilovsky is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem, covering events in the region for publishers including Catholic News Services and Ecumenical News International. We asked Ms. Sudilovsky to share her thoughts on writing for the September 2012 issue of ONE, and she had this to say:
It has been five years since last I stepped through the doors of the St. Louis Hospital, near the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. But whenever I pass by the hospital doors on my way to one place or another, I recall my experience with this extraordinary place, which provides a haven for end-of-life care patients and their families; it was where my good friend Judy spent her last few months.
I learned about St. Louis Hospital when Judy, a bright, spunky, redheaded New York-born Jew, was hospitalized there toward the end of her battle with a brain tumor. When she wanted to continue working, the staff arranged for an internet connection to be set up in her room. When she missed seeing her dog, they arranged for me to be able to take her to visit him — today the hospital is one of the advanced facilities that allow therapy animals to come to the hospital and visit with the patients who enjoy spending time with them.
A year after Judy finally succumbed to the disease, a group of her friends took up a donation for this hospice and chronic care hospital, which has been run on a shoe-string budget by the congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition order since 1880.
When she received the checks that I had mailed to her, hospital director Sister Monika Dullmann invited me to come for a modest memorial ceremony she organized together with a few members of the staff who had been especially close to Judy. I was struck by the fact that even a year after her death, the staff that has accompanied so many people at the end of their lives, still sharply recalled Judy’s special optimistic spirit and her lovely sense of humor.
As we lit a memorial candle for Judy that day, I was humbled by the genuine affection I felt in the room for my friend, who had spent only a few short months there. I realized that for them Judy, like all the other countless patients who have passed through this place over the years, remained after her death a unique individual whose life had had worth and significance even in her dying moment.
Since then the hospital has occupied a special place in my heart.
I feel it is only fair to make a public disclaimer about my undeniable bias for the St. Louis Hospital and the staff who do the hardest work with love and respect. These dedicated people — Christians, Muslims and Jews, Palestinians, Israelis and foreign volunteers — who so lovingly cared for Judy, continue caring every day for all their 50 patients in the same fashion, regardless of their national origin, religion or financial status. This article is their story.