Many years ago, when I thought I would be boiling and coloring eggs and planning a dinner for my large family, I ended up spending the week
before Easter in the hospital with my youngest son. It was certainly unexpected, but life doesn’t ask you if you’re prepared before it throws the unexpected your way.
After rushing a very ill 18 year old to the emergency room, we spent the next eight hours waiting for a room, with nothing to do except observe what was happening around us.
Being present in an emergency room places a person in close proximity to the vulnerability of others. Here, amid the woundedness, amid the relationship of sufferers and caregivers, are powerful lessons to be learned. Just observing how each person dealt differently with suffering was an education for me.
There was the young woman, hysterical and in great pain, who was inconsolable until her husband arrived. His presence calmed her immediately.
Then there was a middle aged man, involved in a car accident, who repeatedly entered into verbal warfare with a person in the room, attempting to place the blame for his injuries on someone else, as if that would make him hurt less. He made care-giving difficult.
But the patient who touched me the most was a little old lady, obviously suffering from some form of dementia as well as physical problems, whose repeated outbursts had the tone of a raspy voiced boxer. Time after time, throughout the course of a very long day, she called out to children who were not there, “Carol, I need my puffer!!”
“Carol, are you listening to me??”
“Carol, you’re killing me here!!”
Obviously this little lady realized she was totally dependent on others and had no choice except to surrender to their care, but she seemed to also know that surrender didn’t mean giving up the fight.
In fact, after one especially loud round of outbursts, a very wise nurse was heard to say, “She’s a contendah!!”
And that she was. Still, every once in a while this suffering woman with the cartoon character voice would lose her feistiness and plead with an absent son: “Help me, please, please, please!”
It was at those times that her anger would give way to the vulnerability that is manifest when a person acknowledges their needs. This is the time when true strength rises in the heart of a person; a time when we are strong enough to be humble.
In the absence of her family, this aging woman was comforted, attended to and cared for by a wonderful staff of compassionates nurses. They spoke to her in gentle tones, encouraged her to tell her stories, rubbed her arms and legs with lotion, made her laugh.
It was a beautiful thing to see her smile, especially in the midst of her pain. It was a miracle. Not the supernatural kind, but the kind that arises from love, from letting go of self long enough to embrace another in their hour of need.
A lesson was confirmed for me during that very long night in the emergency room, and a longer week in the hospital: the surest way though pain is with love – whether it is the self-giving of family or friends, the compassionate presence of a priest or rabbi, chaplain or minister, or the exceptional care of nurses and doctors who choose to make a person feel as if they really do matter.
A wise bishop once told me that Easter was the greatest love story ever told. For Christians, it truly is. But for each of us, no matter our religious tradition, or if we have none, any day is a good time to walk with another person through their suffering and see our love give rise to the amazing grace of resurrection in another’s life.
Love is a miracle in and of itself. Giving it loosens our grip on the attachments that weigh us down. Receiving it reminds us that we are enough as we are, in this present moment, and that’s all that matters.
Thoughts to Ponder
“Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle.” ~ Marianne Williamson
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~ Lao Tzu
Laura Thonne photo on Unsplash.