As I sat on the hospital bed, the sun had begun to set. The room, filled with light just a half hour before, began to darken. How many sunsets had I sat through in this very hospital waiting for the darkness–with Daddy, with Mama, and with Miss B? Too many. Far too many.
Last night I went to the hospital to visit a friend I had never met. We had a friend in common, my Writer Friend, who had led us to meet. Lettie and I had been trying to plan a get together over the past couple of weeks. Work schedules and sick children kept delaying our plans. She called me last Tuesday to tell me that she had today, Monday, off. So we planned to meet. Then I got the call on Saturday night–Lettie was in the hospital, had been since Thursday. I told her I’d come see her on Sunday. And so it was that we met for the first time in Room 431. Just four doors down from where Mama was in August of last year. For a ten days HospitalStay.
It was surreal being there, meeting this dear woman and her daughter and son-in-law from out of state. It was an honor hearing her stories and sharing unspoken concerns through glances with her daughter as Lettie talked about her condition. There was a lot of uncertainty, a little fear, and a whole lot of faith. We talked about the beauty of sisterhood–the challenges and the rewards. About how Lettie’s sister who is younger by 11 months took care of her when she had a hard time as a young girl, and how she sees it as her job to take care of her sister now. (I completely understand that feeling.) We talked about how not even physical distance can separate sisters. She made me laugh as she gave her honest opinion about hospital food–“You know it’s bad when even the staff says it’s not good.” She was thankful her daughter and son-in-law had brought her some food from the house. They left to go back home and eat.
I continued to sit with Lettie as she took my hand and talked about what it’s like to have someone you love pass from this world to the next right there in front of your eyes. With a squeeze I let her know that I understood. It’s the most precious and holy moment in this life–being there as life comes into the world and as it goes out.
The quiet of the moment filled the room and our spirits. She needed to get up, but she wasn’t supposed to do it without help. The nurse came down. One of Mama’s nurses, but of course she wouldn’t remember. Too many people to care for between then and now. She helped Lettie to the bathroom and took care of everything. After we got Lettie settled back in her bed, I gave her a hug and told her I’d see her soon. She took my hand again. “I love you. Thank you for coming.”
I love you too.
Oh my aching heart.
It was my honor to be there. To hear her laughter. Share her stories. Have her share her worries and hopes with me. Those very thin moments of one soul joining another along the journey.
Knowing you will never be quite the same again.
Tonight I am thankful for a new friendship that fell into place like it had always been there or was always meant to be. My heart breaks for the uncertainty and tenuousness of her physical health. And at the same time, it leaps with joy at the way she is facing what might come–with a smile and with faith.
She told me I could share anything about her story I wanted to. She has an amazing story filled with pain and love and laughter and sadness, much as we all do. But what I want most to share of her story is what I learned from her. It’s okay to ask for help. She has had to let her children and friends help her, and she is learning to accept that. The other thing I learned was it’s okay to admit you are scared. You can have faith and still be scared. It reminds me of the line of a song by Rascal Flats, “I’m Moving On,” written by Phillip White and David Vincent Williams:
“I’ve found you find strength in your moments of weakness.”
As I sat in that hospital that holds strong memories of my Daddy’s diagnosis of lymphoma four years ago–going to find him in a little room in the ER that first morning and again when he fell and broke his hip in spring of 2011, memories of Mama’s fear and faith working its way through her heart and mind and our lives over a year ago, and memories of Miss B telling me she wanted to have the surgery on her hip because she didn’t want to stay in a bed for the rest of her life. I remember standing at Daddy’s window in the room upstairs and watching the sun go down over the town as the lights above the storefronts began twinkling. Last year I sat in the chair next to Mama’s bed texting with my Writer Friend whose Mama was in the hospital at the same time; it breaks my heart that we’ve both since said goodbye to our sweet Mamas. I could look out of Mama’s hospital room window and see my babies climb out of the Fella’s car as he pulled up to bring me something from home. And last night I sat with a precious woman who gets that fear and faith can share the path and who squeezed my hand and said life is hard and smiled and filled the room with love. It might sound crazy, but as I travelled down the elevator and to the parking lot, a trip I’ve made many, many times, I had peace in my heart. Peace that came from a hand and from a heart and from a smile. And a shared journey. A peace that passes all understanding, and for that I give thanks.