Tears, ever close, threaten to bruise my eyes and spill over the dam of lids to slide down my face and drip drip drip from my chin. Every person a has story: a past, present and a hope for the future. Some stories are held tightly, choking the dismal thoughts at bay. Other stories are close to the surface and sift through fingers wide open held close to the heart.
We’re one-third of the way through chemo and a bit more with radiation. Every day we see some of the same folks and, always, new folks who clutch their blanket of hope as they wander the maze of the hospital system. Some people have friends or family to help guide them; others sit, alone, as they wait for someone to collect them for their next step or consult.
There’s no privacy, none, meaning, there aren’t any patient/staff rooms where one can go to hear what the next step will be, the next treatment, the bits of good news, the bad news tsunamis. It’s impossible not to overhear – the clinical, sometimes dulcet, voices of the nurses or staff and the wistful hopeful prayerful pleadful tones of the patients. It’s gut wrenching and I am in awe of the capability of the staff to both do their job and, generally, do it with compassion and tender care.
Why is it, do you suppose, the architects and other building planners, seemingly, have absolutely no concept of the needs of the people for whom the facility is, ultimately, designed? The waiting room and adjacent seating areas are one huge space…one huge loud noisy space where, even on the quietest of days, voices clammer to be heard…by each other and by staff. The din is amazing but, even so, overshadowed by the voices not heard. The voices of people who are withdrawn, consumed in their own thoughts while the white silence threatens to overshadow the actual noise, to bring noise to his knees. The white silence is deafening, a white blanket that is densely weighty and threatens to suffocate yet is not sufficient to prevent one from hearing the hope, always hope, lingering around and over the crowd, unseen but felt, sometimes warm and welcoming, other times shunted aside because it’s become cold and foreign. Hope is an angel of tender mercies sent to comfort but sometimes hope isn’t enough. Sometimes the news is so weighty a gut punch that one can hear the breath being sucked out of the body. I find myself holding my breath, tears gathering for someone I don’t know, the only prayer being “Jesus, help” said over and over and over as a mantra until, bodies realize they need breath to sustain even the nightmares, breath sucks inward and the process begins anew.
So many of us can handle the bad news. It’s then we muster ourselves, our prayers, our hopes, our family, our friends and begin the battle. The good news is even more easily handled, carried joyfully to the heart, sounds of exclamation of “thank God”. There have been many kind people on this journey, as well as some not so kind people, but everyone is entitled to an off day. I’m finding out what means a ‘help meet’; taking the admonition “for better and worse” truly to heart, stepping up to the plate and…some days doing my absolute worst simply because I’m human and fall down on the job. But I’m here and will always be here and, surely, that counts against the times I fall down. There are too many stories of both men and women who walked away from the bad news, who “couldn’t take it” and left. I cannot imagine. I can’t imagine how one would sleep at night or face the day should one just walk away. I can’t imagine not having the Holy Spirit to comfort, Christ to intercede or God to hear. I can’t imagine trying…wry smile…to do any of this on my own. Why? What could possibly be the use?
It’s hard, it’s difficult and, even on a good day, there are still bad things happening. We soldier on, gallows humor and all, sharing a kind smile with others on the same journey, saying a prayer for those who are in evident, immediate need, squeezing in life and love and joy and laughter amongst the tears and, yes, even on those days when we feel like the rear end of a goose.
But, above all and always, allowing kindness to guard the entry to our heart.
Blessings ~ MCV ~ staff ~ volunteers ~ family ~ friends ~ prayers ~ ever present hope ~
Soli Deo Gloria,