The Brighter Side

Roland Fernandes has been ministering to Christians for 35 years, but on a snowy day in upstate New York last week, he said a special prayer for a 91-year-old woman under his care.

Fernandes is a certified nursing assistant at the Schenectady Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing. That’s where Margie MacHaffie, a devout Catholic, lived on the dementia unit for the last six years.

MacHaffie was slipping toward death on March 7, but the foot of snow that was piling up outside prevented any of the facility’s three outside chaplains from getting in to deliver last rites.

Nursing supervisor Mary Santiago remembered that Fernandes was an ordained minister and reached out to him to comfort MacHaffie, and a daughter, son and granddaughter who had gathered around the resident in her final hours.

He joined hands with family members, who formed a circle around MacHaffie’s bed as Fernandes delivered what MacHaffie’s daughter called “the most perfect prayer.”

Fernandes works the evening shift on the dementia unit and had helped care for MacHaffie for all the time she’d been in the 240-bed home.

“We encourage that continuity of care, trying our best to keep the same residents and their family members with the same staff,” administrator Elie Schiff told McKnight’s. “We have hard days and easy days, but everyone here is in it with their whole heart. People don’t realize how much good goes on.”

Santiago helped spread the word, sharing the story of Fernandes’ gesture at the next day’s morning meeting. The story also made its way into the local Daily Gazette.

Fernandes, a native from Guyana, South America, who moved to Schenectady seven years ago, remained humble.

“It was just a simple prayer,” he told the newspaper.

To some it was simply perfect.