Over the last month or so, I have been living part time at a hospital and much of that time has found us waiting and waiting and waiting again. We have eaten awful meatloaf and fake potatoes gazing across the cafeteria to see other sick and grieving people. We have made more jokes about fecal matter and bowel movements than anyone should ever make. We have put on so many yellow gowns and blue plastic gloves that we are now responsible for an entire land fill ourselves. We have washed our hands so much that they are chapped and our pores are full of antibacterial soap. We have been put in the position of having to advocate to save my mom’s life and have experienced first hand what happens when the hospital fails to call you and let you know your family member is in the hospital. We have had days fearing the very worst sprinkled with days of hope. We have met more than 10 doctors and 20 nurses. We have awaited CAT scans, X RAYS, stool samples, urine samples, blood samples, breathing treatments, physical therapy and more.
One day while waiting inside the “waiting room” a dead body with an American flag draped over it was wheeled right up to the doorway. So there I was, waiting with a corpse.
A few hours later I walked back into the waiting room and there was this older gentleman, also waiting. I had seen him the day before. His head was held low and his body was slumped in the chair. His white hair sparkled, but his eyes looked deeply sad through his glasses. I got this intense tug in my gut that I was supposed to do something, but I had no idea what. Before you knew it my body acted before my mouth had a plan. This happens to me a lot. Standing right above him in his chair, tongue tied, I blurted “Uhhhhhh, can I, can I do anything to help you?” He was so tired, with just enough energy to muster a gracious “No, but thank you.”
I went and sat back down on the couch and waited.
Then a man around 50 walked in. His skin was pasty white and I had been watching him for days pace the hospital halls like me. He was holding a piece of paper up to his eyeballs and with one eye’s eyelashes brushing directly across the words on the paper almost as though by osmosis, he said something like “Dad, we need to take Smith Road over to 1st and then a sharp left onto Jones and then it’s behind Home Depot.” In my gut, I just knew what he was talking about.
He suggested to his dad “Maybe we should call people and let them know.” His dad said “We don’t have a phone,” lifting his hands in the air with a helpless motion. That intense tug was still inside me. I stood up unsure that I should be in this room, but I trusted Destiny and said “I have a phone you can use.” They said “We don’t use cell phones, we’re old fashioned.” I offered to teach them how.
The son silenced. So did I.
Then the son said for what you could tell was the very first time he uttered these words, “I would be using your phone to tell our family that…. my, myyyyy mom just died.”
“I am sorry. I am so sorry.” What else can you say? There is nothing else that can be said. No trite answer, no quote, nor talk about your own woes suffices. These two men looked up at me after having just lost the most important woman in their life.
This kind of room is the most sacred room you can ever sit present in, I realized.
After some pause, I offered to help them call people. The son took a business card to his eye again and rattled off the numbers. I quickly realized he wanted me to dial, so I did. The answering machine came on. He was paralyzed, unsure what to do. I gently laid out the options. We could hang up or leave a message. We hung up. Here I was helping them make the call no one ever wants to make and no one was answering.
The son decided to go get his Kindle to email people. While he was away, the husband and I talked. Sixty five years they had been married. Thats six and a half decades. That’s 23,725 days. That’s life in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. That’s 4 children, 3 spouses and many grandchildren. That’s the story of this other son, the one I meet. He had been in a horrible collision in high school. A car hit him and he has never been the same. That’s why he can’t see. His dad explained that his son had lived at home his whole life, never married and in fact spent about 15 hours a day bedside his mom when she was ill. Most likely, I thought, just like she had when he was in the hospital decades ago.
The son came back and started emailing people. At one point he asked for his dad’s approval, “ Dad, I said, ‘Mom passed away at 4:30. Dad and I are fine.’ Because if I don’t say that, then the email says: Mom passed away at 4:30 and that just sounds sad.” I wanted to scream in that little room, “It is saaaaaad! Its ok to feel sad.” I looked down at my laptop. It was 5:19.
The nurses came in and said her body was ready. They were invited to wait again for the funeral home. The son left to be with his mom for what would be the very last time. The husband was glued to the chair across the room and here I was again alone with him. He said she was 95 and he was 91. I smiled. “Wow you married an older woman huh?” He smirked, “Yep, I robbed the cradle.” I said, “What a gift. Sixty five years with the love of your life.”
He got quiet. I gave him his space.
And then in the sacred, deep grief, out of the silence, he raised his voice, “His will be done.”
I echoed him, “His will be done. And let us hold onto the promise that we will have the best reunion with the ones we love in the perfect place where there is no more pain.” I wanted to, with this man, entrust God with the whole journey as I found myself with no idea as to what lie ahead.
The husband nodded and said, “She is home.”
At the very end of our journey and all along its way, may we be able to, like the husband, say ‘His will be done.’ His will done in the beauty and the pain. His will be done in beginnings and endings. His will be done in victory and loss. His will be done on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday… His will be done in good and in bad. His will be done when our prayers feel answered and when they don’t. His will be done on the gorgeous meanderings and trails that lead to love, as well as the hard pedal uphill and the wipeouts. His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, in death and all along the paths that lead to true life. On the rode ahead, there might be brakes that fail, hospital stays, run- ins with other wounded people, rain storms and love lost. We have no idea what lies on the journey home but at it’s end may we be able to say, His will be done. Those words, I have a feeling, will more readily pour out of our hearts in the most sacred of moments, when we begin uttering them in the most ordinary.