Jake Thompson 10/8/15
The Hospital Waiting Room • It is no great secret to those who know sorrow that things change quickly. Today, things changed. When I called my wife back I heard a familiar panic. It was hard to understand her. She was trying to tell me something, something that couldn’t be true. Was true. There are others here, others who know sorrow, others who know things change quickly.
I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t spent a lot of time in waiting rooms. My first experience was when my mother was in a car accident. I was in my early twenties then. That was the first time I was involved in something absolutely inconceivable, the first time the inadequacy of trusting in my own strength confronted me with blatant cruelty. I wonder how I got through it without knowing the Lord. I am glad I know the Lord now. This time it’s my stepdaughter—I hate that word. You see, when I married her mother I made vows to the kids. I married their mother; I married her kids. I love them. She is my daughter and my daughter is in trouble. I am holding her newborn baby, a little boy, and he is beautiful. He is in trouble. He has no idea that I am crying on him.
Hospitals these days are engineered, designed to be sterile and efficient. It seems like someone told me once that they started out of compassion, but this place is an employer, a business, a machine. As I look around, I see this room is carefully arranged. The intentional placement of chairs suggests grouping. The room quietly controls by forcing its occupants into four groups. Without conversation, people enter and obediently submit to a plan of order. Right now, I am in a group of chairs next to my wife. The other chairs are empty. I notice there is a bookshelf—nearly empty. There is a bowl that contains what I am looking for. I am thankful to the Gideons. “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word” (Psalm 119:28). I think for a moment, how many must have heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit here? I thank the Lord as time seems to bend.
Now things look different. Everyone is here and tensions are evident. I am talking about the horizontal aspects of life. Death demands attention, and death looms over this room in a nauseating foreshadow. The ugliness of divorce, drug abuse, family grudges, they are sensed. They command our seating and eye contact. Everyone here loves my daughter. In this waiting room none of us are in control. My parents are here.
My daughter’s three-year-old girl is at my house. She does not know. Down the hall my daughter’s chest rises and falls to the controlled rhythm of the life support machine. Her brain shows no activity. I sit in a green chair. I sit in this waiting room. Around me all of these people who love her talk. My sister-in-law, a nurse practitioner, fills us in with all of the details of her condition. I don’t know why. I look at my father. When I was young he could fix anything, but now he can’t. When my mother was in a car accident he could not. My mother, next to him, sits sunken in her chair, her body frail. Her spinal column injury from the accident left her paralyzed, now complicated with osteoporosis. The years in the wheelchair have been hard on her. In her eyes I see Christ. I am aware, in this green chair, in this room, that the Lord used my mother’s accident to help me see Him. I am so thankful that I know the Lord. I sit in this green chair, in this room. My eyes pour out my heart. I miss her.
We all wait.