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Comfort, compassion in crisis

Community: Local works to console and serve families during times of need at Henry Mayo Newhall Memo

Posted: March 12, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 12, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Margery Link, a chaplain for Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, meets with a patient seeking spiritual comfort. Link has served as a volunteer for nearly 19 years. Margery Link, a chaplain for Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, meets with a patient seeking spiritual comfort. Link has served as a volunteer for nearly 19 years.
Margery Link, a chaplain for Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, meets with a patient seeking spiritual comfort. Link has served as a volunteer for nearly 19 years.
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Margery Link always felt a desire to comfort the ill and help in times of need. She realized her gift of compassion as a child when her mother was hospitalized with polio.

As the pastoral-care coordinator for Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, Link has fulfilled her lifelong dream of reaching out to people who are physically and emotionally hurt by offering them support and comfort.

Link has served as a volunteer for nearly 19 years. She continues to volunteer full time at the hospital through the support and donations of churches and other groups.

She does not emphasize a specific faith. Instead, she works nondenominationally with patients, family members and even the hospital staff.

“This is not an easy ministry, but I am very thankful for the opportunity to work here and bring hope, encouragement, comfort and spiritual support to those hurting,” Link said.

In Link’s line of work, she is constantly faced with crisis and called to minister to people during critical situations, such as impending death, terminal illness and death.

Being there
Although Link is a volunteer, she is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is nothing typical about her schedule; her day can change at a moment’s notice.

She has had to act as comforter and peacemaker at times. Link tries to see where people are coming from to serve them better. At times, that involves praying with them or just being with them, she said.

“Sometimes, you just have to sit with somebody and be there,” Link said. “Maybe they need someone to hold their hand or put an arm around them and let them know somebody does care.”

She has been called to work in the middle of the night and holidays to help comfort distraught family members during very emotional situations.

“Some people will blame God or yell at me,” Link said. “They usually come back and ask me to pray with them, then everything calms down. Prayer makes a huge difference.”

Theresa Rice, a 35-year-old mother of four children, was hospitalized at Henry Mayo in 2002, when she was diagnosed with acute leukemia.

That’s where she met Link.

Because of her severe condition, Rice was kept in reverse isolation to avoid infection. She describes her time in the hospital like “living in a bubble.”

“Margery made such an impact on my life,” Rice said. “She was always there to pray with me. She is very warm, loving and open. I felt like I could tell her anything.” 

Rice recalls Link sharing memories from her own childhood and bringing encouraging reading material for her during her stay.

“She has been a very bright light, and is genuinely caring,” Rice said. “She isn’t someone who is just doing her job, she actually cares and loves people.”

Desire to bring comfort
As a child, Link visited her mother, who had polio, once a week in the hospital. She recalls walking through the iron-lung ward and seeing other patients who were confined by this illness.

“I thought, ‘I’d like to make those people happy,’” Link said. “I always had an interest in bringing comfort and encouragement to people that were sick.”

Later, Link trained as an emergency medical technician, worked as a counselor in a behavioral-health unit and was even appointed by Gov. Ronald Reagan to the California women’s parole board.

“I feel that I’ve been blessed to have had those experiences in my background,” she said. “They have provided me with practical training.”

After meeting a chaplain at a hospital, she decided that line of work suited her.

“It’s sad that people have been educated that chaplains can only help at the end of a life,” Link said. “We can be available anytime. I’m here for no other reason than to bring comfort, encouragement, hope and faith to patients and their loved ones.”

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