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I’d been working all morning on a project for the hospital and had eaten lunch at my desk (again – a sacrifice I happily make in order to have more Writing Time in the morning), and suddenly I just couldn’t sit there any more. I needed a break. I needed Peanut M&Ms.
Which I’d have to take a long walk to get, since the shortcut to the cafeteria has been closed during construction of the new hospital. I didn’t care – something was needling me to get up and get moving.
I came out of my building, a small building on the hospital campus, and immediately noticed a woman on the front porch of the MRI building next to my building. She was leaning against the railing, bent at the waist, arms on the railing. Head hanging.
Something in me recognized her body language. And what her body was saying was,
Help me, please.
Just let me breathe for a minute.
I walked by. Wondering. And Knowing.
Knowing she was waiting for someone. Someone inside the MRI building.
I walked by. I was tempted to stop.
I walked by.
I headed for the cafeteria. I didn’t quite make it – I stopped at the espresso cart and bought a brownie instead, from a woman whose English I couldn’t understand and who couldn’t understand me (“No, not oatmeal cookIE, brownIEEE…”) but who was clearly very happy to see me.
I turned around and headed back, around the building, across the parking lot between the MRI building and my building.
She was still there.
Leaning against the railing, head resting on her arms.
I changed direction and headed toward her, but meandering around the perimeter of the parking lot. Indirectly, like I do with the horses. Like I did with customers at the store. Indirectly, so they wouldn’t feel me coming and spook. Until I was right next to her.
She raised her head, and made like to move out of the way.
“Excuse me,” I said. But instead of moving past her, I stopped next to her. “Are you OK?”
She stood up a little straighter, and nodded.
“Yes, I’m OK. I’m waiting for my husband,” she said, nodding toward the building. “I’m trying to be strong.”
I nodded. “Would you like a hug?” I asked.
She hesitated, then nodded. I took her in, and when she tried to pull away, I gave her another squeeze before letting go.
She came up with tears in her eyes. “We’re here to see if his glioblastoma is back,” she said. “They take the pictures, and then we go see the doctor to find out what they show.”
“I understand,” I said quietly. Boy, did I. The hope. The dread.
I wanted to say, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be all right.” Because I know it will be. But probably not in the way she wants.
So instead I asked, “Can I get you anything?”
“No,” she said, “Thanks.”
“I’ll keep you in my thoughts,” I told her, and we parted. Both of us with tears in our eyes.
And she was in my thoughts all afternoon, as I beamed her love and courage while I worked on my spreadsheets and formulas. I beamed faith that Everything Is Going To Be All Right. Because I know it’s true.
Even if it’s not the outcome you hope for. Everything is going to be all right.
Maybe she was able to stand up a little straighter. Maybe a little breeze of grace blew through her and she was able to take her first deep breath in… days.
Maybe the entire reason I got this job six months ago and had a craving for Peanut M&Ms that turned into a brownie was for that moment. That encounter. That chance for her to be Seen. To know that she isn’t alone.
Maybe that’s the entire point.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net