I spent most of last night in the local Emergency Room with my next-door neighbors. As I was not technically family, (I was her driver), I spent most of my time in the outer waiting room. Although last night was not the exact full moon,* it was definitely a full-moon-night at the ER. There was everything from vomiting children to psychotic teenagers. But during a quiet spell, I remembered a truth that dawned on me a long time ago: there is a lot of holy and spiritual activity in and around a hospital, all the time.
There is the constant battle for life over death. There is the constant struggle of good (health and wholeness) over bad (illness and brokenness). There is also a great deal of fervent praying going on, the desperate begging of God for more time for oneself or for a loved one, promises to God and pleadings for forgiveness before it is too late. There are priests and ministers giving last rites or hearing confession. Children, as well as parents, are whispering their last good-byes…often with Jesus standing to one side. Spirits are being released from the deceased. Babies are coming into the world with souls newly sent from God. With so much divine presence, I would not be surprised to see someone drop to a knee before entering. God dwells in such places.
Later in the evening, when the seriousness of the issues increased, I noticed even more God stuff going on among the people waiting to be ‘taken back:’ mothers were holding and comforting their sick children (temperatures seem to go up after sunset); men were wrapping blankets around their elderly parents or grandparents or wives; people were sharing personal and sometimes intimate stories of pain and hardship to total strangers; a father told of raising his children alone; young men accompanied by three or four policemen were relating sensitive details of their circumstances with them; another young man had an ankle cuff attached to his right foot…he and his friend were conversing in a casual, kind, and gentle way with other people waiting to be processed. Some people were hungry and food was shared with them. A white station wagon careened into the pull-through with horns blaring, doors opened before the vehicle had come to a stop, “She’s having a stroke!” The entire family was there in desperate support.
When I made a food run, I noticed many people sitting alone or in groups of two or three outside in the warm night…waiting…one seemingly napping against the brown brick wall (perhaps he was praying or dreaming); others were talking quietly among themselves. Even the exhausted drive-through attendant, used to the round-the-clock need for food to be taken back to the hospital, spoke in soft, hushed, gentle tones as if in respect for the serious circumstances surrounding the ones who had come to her for sustenance.
When I returned to the ER, the outer ‘triage’ waiting area was empty except for my neighbor’s wife to whom I had brought something to eat. The gentleman, whose intended meal was also in the bag, had already left. My neighbor said a silent grace over her hamburger. We ate without speaking. We were out of words and she was exhausted. After another hour or so, I drove her home and came back to stay with her husband until he was released.
At some point during the ordeal, I noticed how within the walls of the hospital, just as within the walls of a church, no one requires an introduction to speak to the person across the way or sitting beside them; you are both there for a common purpose: healing and help. Words of encouragement or hope are shared without forethought or agenda; blessings and well-wishing are sent without concern for a return; gestures of kindness and consideration are extended regardless of race, age, or circumstance. Pain is a leveler. Fear and despair know no boundaries. Disease and injury are no respecters of social standing or wealth. We are all broken and in need…and that fact is well comprehended.
I never saw looks of judgement or disapproval. I saw teary eyes of compassion and knowing eyes of having been there….eyes of tolerance and perhaps a look of relief as if in thanks for one’s own comparatively light burden, reflecting “there, but for the Grace of God, go I.”
*The next full moon will occur on Friday, April 22, 2016. It is known as the Pink Moon and may look full a day before and after to the casual observer. – See more at: http://www.space.com/16830-full-moon-calendar.html#sthash.NPzYK34A.dpuf Apparently, last night, I was a “casual observer.” The image of the moon, up top, is borrowed from the internet: (www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/full-moon.jpg)