It all started with the idea to bring a little joy to hospital patients in early 1978. Over the next 40 years, Diana Desmond, assisted living resident at Newton Presbyterian Manor, would touch the lives of thousands of people when they needed it most.
After a cancer diagnosis and a stay in the hospital, Diana’s friend, Bernice Oswald, contacted Diana with the big idea.
“She said, ‘Did you know what the Lord has laid upon my heart?’ I said, ‘No.’ And she said, ‘To make bible verse cards for patients in the hospital. Just a little something on their tray could cheer them up. With your artistic ideas and craftiness, I could find a verse and we could work together.’ I said, ‘Yes! Yes! That would be the answer to my prayer, too.’”
Bernice and Diana got to work with index cards, Rick Rack, old buttons and lace and delivered their first 145 cards on February 5, 1978, to Axtell and Bethel hospitals. “Everybody loved them—the nurses and the patients. It took off from there.”
Over the next four years, the handmade cards were delivered each week to the local hospitals, nursing homes, the rescue mission, and the jail.
“It’s a joy. It’s the best therapy you can have. It’s also a top priority of mine because it’s a way of reaching out to people with the gospel. I always wanted to be a missionary, but because I had so many medical problems I couldn’t get out and go a lot of places. He keeps blessing me with ideas and different ways to do it.”
Before Bernice passed away from cancer in 1982, Diana promised her friend she would keep the tradition going. “I told her I would keep this going as long as the Lord can give me strength. She said that was the answer to her prayers.”
To fulfill her promise, Diana reached out to Mennonite Press, who offered donations of scrap paper in various sizes and colors. She also enlisted her husband, John, to help make close to 100 cards a week. “It was a process of folding and trimming and writing the verse and sometimes clipping the ends with pinking shears – it took a long process. So, my husband would help with the cutting. I would fold. I would try to have them all done by Friday and he would take them to the hospital after work. Then the hospital staff would take them back to the kitchen to put on meal trays every Sunday.”
Over the years, the cards evolved from paper into more elaborate favors. “It just depended on how the Lord brought things to my mind as to what to use. I’d get excited because ideas would come to me when I was in bed and I couldn’t wait until morning to try it.”
Some of her creations included making chicks out of cotton balls, egg cartons and paper for Easter. She also used items such as communion cups, play dough, beads and Q-tips. And one Christmas favor used a pinecone for a Christmas tree decorated with yarn and beads.
Diana and John continued making the cards together until John passed away on May 1, 2005, just shy of their 35th anniversary. But just like her friend, John’s wish was that Diana would continue the good work without him.
“One day when he delivered the cards to the hospital he told the people at the front desk that ‘this will be the last time I can bring the cards to you because I have cancer.’ After that he said, ‘It is my prayer that my wife will carry this on after I’m gone.’ I didn’t know he had told them that until after he was gone.”
Just as her cards have changed over the past 40 years, so has Diana’s life. In February of 2016, she moved into Newton Presbyterian Manor. She’s also acquired some additional help to get the cards delivered each week. But no matter what, she gets 75 cards to Newton Medical Center every week. “I’ve had carpel tunnel surgery in both wrists and have arthritis very bad. But the Lord gives strength when it’s done for Him. And with His strength, I can go on.”
Newton Medical Center recognized Diana in late March to thank her for creating the cards and bringing joy to their patients for four decades.
“It was something I sure didn’t expect. There was a cake and beautiful cut flowers arranged so pretty. They also took a collection and gave me a check to keep my ministry going. It was something very special.”