This is where I was for part of last Thursday morning.
After months of discomfort and pain for her.
After tests and weeks of awaiting their results.
After not saying anything to anyone for the entire time until we broke the news to our children a few days before and assured them everything would be alright.
After driving my bride to the hospital at 5:15am for pre-op.
After kissing her goodbye as she was wheeled into surgery.
This is where I sat.
As I did a thought entered into my mind.
How many prayers have gone forth from here?
How many tearful pleadings?
How many angry demands?
How many were answered?
I know the answer: all of them.
But not all of them answered in the preferred manner of the asking.
Mine has been answered in such a way.
A little later I ate alone in the hospital commissary. For three days I visit, and each day I bump into someone I know.
The mom and little brother of a boy who I coached in little league. A nurse who is the mom of one of my oldest son’s teammates. A co-worker of my wife.
In solitude I did a little people watching. The Korean family with the cutest little girl ever, toddling around in bare feet with ice cream and happy squeals on her face.
The pretty young nurse in her scrubs and long ponytail, smiling her big dimpled smile as she read text after text on her phone.
The Asian-American man who made my beef philly sandwich who smiled as he watched me herd my two youngest through the line on the last day. “I have six kids,” he said. “I know what it’s like.”
“I have three. My oldest is a senior,” I smiled back.
“You’re a young pup!” he shot back. “I have two grandkids. Ain’t it great?”
Yes sir, it is.
On our way to the commissary I walk my children passed a large sitting area with a fireplace and a grand piano programmed to play soft music. Walking by it from the mezzanine above my daughter is fascinated by the music coming from a piano with no one sitting at its bench.
“The hospital has hired a ghost musician. Her name is Agatha. She plays every day.”
Eyes roll. “Da-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-d.”
The elderly volunteers who man the desk in the waiting room are amazing. When I check in with them I give my name, which they memorized and never forgot during my time there. Rose reads my sweatshirt with my son’s high school baseball team and asks about it. I tell her he is a senior.
“What are his plans after baseball and graduation?”
“He’s enlisted in the Marines. He leaves this fall.”
She smiles and tells me of her own two boys who were Marines. One was drafted by the army during the Vietnam era after he took a semester off from college to work for tuition money. He walked next door to the Army recruiting station and “signed up to be a Marine because he was mad at the Army for drafting him.” We both laugh, but I notice a slight sadness behind her eyeglasses. Eyes that smiled earlier are not smiling as much now.
After I return from the chapel she tells me the doctor is ready to give me a post-op report. I’ve met with him several times in the past as he is the man who helped us through years of infertility, questions, pain, heartache. After the birth of our first child it took us another seven years and a miscarriage. Dr. H helped us through in a manner consistent with our moral beliefs after we’d left other doctor’s offices disgusted and distraught.
Still, in this tiny room, he described the surgery that took place in words that went way over my tired and stressed mind. But in the end we found common language.
How many people have sat in this chair in this room and felt the same way?
How many did not receive a positive report?
Did Rose put her arm around them to comfort them when they emerged in confusion and pain?
My wife’s recovery room is a few doors down from the baby nursery. Ten years ago it also housed the NICU, which has since been relocated to another area. It was in this room that ten years ago I sat beside an incubator and watched my second son of a few weeks struggle for life. I sat in a chair and listened to the monitors beep with each heartbeat and the respirator record his breathing. Several times he stopped. Each time I nudged him with a gloved finger so he would breathe again. When I walked him by this room on Sunday and told him the story he stopped to look inside through the window, lost in thought, while looking at two brand new baby boys in their knit caps. I had never told him that story before.
Returning from our lunch the kids and I pass the ghostly piano again. Walking down the stairs we approach it and I say “Hello Agatha” to the empty piano bench. I lift the keyboard cover to show them the keys being “played”.
My daughters eyes widen and she grins. “I do believe in ghosts!” and then she looks at me sideways to let me know she’s humoring me once again. It’s a little game we play.
I believe in prayer.
I believe in healing.
I believe the nursing staff at this hospital to be the best.
I believe in the skills of our doctor.
I believe in the wonder and trust of a child.
I believe it’s going to be alright.
Our home is awash in the most beautiful scents right now. Floral arrangement galore.
Our freezer is full (and getting fuller) of meals prepared by family and friends who know that outside of a BBQ my culinary skills are good enough to feed me, but not three children and my wife. For me to feed them consistently would take a small miracle. And while I do believe in miracles…
I, too, believe in friendship. It is a most under appreciated miracle.