A Day in a Fallen World

WaitingRoomJake Thompson10/8/15
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. • (1063 views)

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10 Responses to A Day in a Fallen World

  1. How fun it is to see your name here. Yeah, you!

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    In addition to a certain amount of sterility, hospitals can be very poor communicators. I’ve had 2 stays now at U of L Hospital, and both times they did a poor job of keeping in touch. There were many questions I had when they discharged me today, and most remain unanswered. Worse, they failed to supply me with either the medication or a prescription for it that is the key to their treatment plan. That may be resolved now, after a great deal of effort.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Now things look different.

    Because I know you have a tough teacher, should it be “look different” or “look differently”? 🙂

    But seriously, that was a lovely essay. From a technical aspect, you obviously are a student of understatement. I like that. Be sure to break up your paragraphs a bit. That makes for more pleasing reading.

    Your best line was:

    The ugliness of divorce, drug abuse, family grudges, they are sensed. They command our seating and eye contact.

    That is superb. No, I’m not above being touched by your story. I was. I hope and pray for your daughter, but it doesn’t sound very hopeful at present. But given that I know you’ve had a good and tough teacher or two, I thought you’d want a second opinion. And now that I’ve read it, I should have found a more antiseptic waiting room photo. Maybe I’ll change that out if I have time.

    All I ask is, Lord, let me die in my sleep, fall over dead when out on the trail (but preferably not eaten by a bear), or otherwise expire in familiar surroundings. Hospitals are great things, but they are necessarily utilitarian…and they are not home.

    Anyway, the last two essays (by you and Annie) are more of the things I’ve been looking for. I hope you continue to write. The only reason I bothered to offer constructive criticism is because I think you can do this.

    • Jake Thompson says:

      Thanks for the suggestions, I am hoping to grow as a writer and appreciate your advice.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The point of StubbornThings is…well…err…I’m not altogether sure. Right now it’s a vehicle for Leftist trolls to get their jollies by calling us racists.

        Because I can’t quite describe what we are, I’m becoming more and more convinced that we are a unique thing. We’re not indescribable because we’re anarchic, for I do try to be a benevolent dictator with an overall sense of order and direction. And one of those directions is not the reflexive same-old, same-old. I don’t necessarily believe in an active and personal God, but I do pray for your child. And writing about something other than “Obama sucks” is certainly one of the things we do here. I pray for your child and commend you for having a mind that dares to be something more.

        Aside from technical writing, poetry, and journalism (real journalism, not what passes for it now), I think a writer has two very broad channels that he sails in. The first is the channel of some particular culture or subculture. You basically make your mark by artfully fulfilling or reinforcing the beliefs, wishes, ideas, values, and fantasies of some culture of subculture. You become an artful echo chamber. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that, per se. Observing, even romanticizing, an aspect of one’s world is great grist for the writing mill. But often the channel of popularity, while lucrative, leads one to little more than Styrofoam Greek columns.

        The second channel, a narrower one, is that of the philosopher, broadly speaking. And that’s not to be confused with the community agitator in written form. Naysaying, although common on the internet, is not philosophy or even analysis. It’s just ranting. The established mindset of counter-culture, where anything new is hailed and anything old is torn down with glee, is part of what is tearing us apart. Real philosophy is no more about poking a stick in the culture’s eye than real journalism is about “making a difference.” But at times that stick needs to be poked, especially in the eye of the insane culture that is assembling itself around us even as we speak.

        Like a boat, sometimes in order to get somewhere, you have to tack against the wind. And StubbornThings certainly does that.

        We’ve all heard the expression, “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” But it really is, isn’t it? No man can know his own mind and honor his own self without a little introspection. Without that we are little more than an artful (if that) echo chamber for whatever screed occupies the fad-space at the time. Myself, I find that writing helps me to reveal what I actually think about something. It’s a way or organizing thoughts…with that ever-present radar detector of making sure I’m not just constructing thoughts (aka “intellectualizing”).

        But imagine going through life as unreflective as so many people are. They become like part of a group mind. And that’s not to raise the iconoclast above all others — those who gain chops by merely poking and prodding the status quo at any one time. And that’s not to say that being rude or impolite is justified because so many people out there are dullards. But it does mean having a mind, at times, of one’s own.

        And that is very difficult, especially when it comes to writing. I find myself (yeah…laugh, as you will, at this long post) clamming up and not writing about some of the things that occur to me. There’s an inherent sharing of intimacy (unless one is just a troll) that comes with writing that isn’t always easy and isn’t, for my own part, something I always want to do. Real writing, to some degree, will always be intimate. Bad writing, almost always, isn’t bad because the grammar isn’t perfect but because the person tries to stay safe behind whatever mask he’s wearing at the time. Writing can too easily be a conceit of saying something when all along one is just hiding behind clever words.

        So sometimes when I don’t feel like sharing thoughts, I just clam up. I don’t want to pretend. But what we do here, or can do here, is do some real writing, not the baloney that passes for writing on most of the internet. Not everyone can do it. You obviously can. Whether you do so here or somewhere else is, frankly, no concern of mine. I see people come and go. Some wilt under the pressure of not being able to get away with their usual baloney. Others thrive. But it’s an open door and an open invitation for people such as yourself if you want to submit some things from time to time.

        • SkepticalCynic SkepticalCynic says:

          Brad, I sincerely hope that the Holy Spirit of God comes to you in that loving way that is of our Creator and woos you so softly and quietly to the awesomeness of salvation through Jesus Christ the Son who will make you an heir to His throne for eternity.

  4. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    One can only hope there really is something better on the other side.

    • Jake Thompson says:

      As a Christian, I believe there is. I didn’t understand what it meant to be hopeful for most of my life because I thought Christianity was fideism, but it’s not. Faith is a term repeatedly presented and explained throughout the New Testament. Biblical faith can be defended within the parameters of the correspondence theory of truth (that which corresponds with reality) because we have documented accounts of people seeing Jesus Christ after he was resurrected. Furthermore, the entire Old Testament speaks of the coming Messiah (Jesus). But mostly, I hope because I know Jesus. However, for the record, I realize what you meant and appreciate it.

  5. Glenn Fairman says:

    God Bless you…..

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