There’s something about spending time in a hospital. Maybe it’s the way we lock eyes with strangers in the waiting room, or in the hallway, our mutual presence a silent, white flag salute.
We share the ragged moment, because together we, or the ones we love, have learned a terrifying thing.
We are no longer invincible. Something has stripped the Superman cape from our shoulders, the one that blinds us to the danger of driving a little too fast, climbing too high, reaching for something too far. Failure creeps onto the scene, and suddenly we are shivering like Adam and Eve in the garden, aware of our naked vulnerability for the first time.
No one owes us our lives. Health is not a given. It is a gift.
At the beginning of this week, my husband had a tonsillectomy. As he drove us into the Minneapolis cityscape Monday morning, all I could think of was this: if he really wanted to turn the car around and forget this whole thing, he could.
Let’s be real. A tonsillectomy is one of the most painful surgeries an adult can face. But like so many things in life, sometimes we have to remove X to solve for Y. We have to put ourselves in what seems like the way of harm, so that in the aftermath, we find a better way to be strong.
Even if that means choosing to untie our invincibility cape, and agreeing to become weak.
Monday afternoon, as I was about to enter the hospital wing my husband was on, a set of double doors scissored opened and a bed came wheeling through. It took me a second to understand what was happening. There was a doctor in scrubs sitting next to a little boy with wide, dark eyes. The doctor was leaning back on the pillow, arms crossed behind his head, the little boy snuggled into his side. They were riding together on the rolling bed, both dressed in gauzy, puffy blue caps. I can only assume they were on their way to surgery.
The scene caught my breath. I couldn’t stop thinking about what it must have meant to that little boy to have his doctor climb up into his hospital bed and sit next to him.
Or what it would mean if all of us learned how to sit in solidarity with one another’s weakness.
Not try to fix it, right it, vindicate or validate it.
Just sit together.
Feel what one another is feeling.
Encourage one another, and listen without interrupting and interjecting.
To Be together. To sit at the kitchen table, the hospital room, the patch of grass at the park and really, truly hear one another with our hearts. To know that healing craves security, safety, and rest in the face of uncertainty.
To trust that we can supply a measure of that to one another just by being present.