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The Night I Found Love In A Hospital Room

By on September 6, 2017 in Spiritual Awakening
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The Night I Found Love In A Hospital Room

by John Mathis,
Guest writer, In5D.com

Being an oncology nurse is like being in the Peace Corps because it’s the toughest job you’ll ever love. But I never thought something I learned from my own near death experience (NDE) would be a turning point for a minister having his dark night of the soul. This is a story of wounded healers, church hymns, and unconditional love. Their synergies created a sacred space unlike any other I have been privileged to experience.

Misery. It was my primary emotion as my marriage collapsed in 2007. But no matter what chaos, instability or anger I felt in my circumstances, it paled in comparison to the trials and tribulations surrounding me from 7 PM to 7 AM, three nights a week.  I was surrounded by such bravery, determination, and in some cases, surrender, that it humbled me. If not for my NDE a few years before, I would not have seen it this way. To share in their sacred space was a privilege and honor that I shall remember always.  From this space, I want to share it with you.

I was making my midnight rounds and gathered my supplies for entering into a patient’s room. Having been a patient myself for almost a month a few years earlier, I was acutely aware that sleep is a precious commodity in a hospital. Like my Six Sigma mentor taught me:  Be Brief, Be Brilliant, Be Gone.  So, with as much ninja skills my NFL linemen frame would permit, I slid silently into my patient’s room.

It was a dark room backlit only by the citron colored lights from the parking lot a few stories below.  As my eyes adjusted, I noticed a man sitting at the foot of his wife’s bed.  Well into her eighties, the cancer had distilled this lovely woman into ninety pounds of faith, determination, and pain. I was here to address the latter. In return, I would be given the former.

My eyes continued to adjust to the scene. I could make out her husband much better now.  His sweater and dress shirt reflected the distress he had been under since his vigil had commenced a few days earlier. His shock white hair was in disarray as much as his life appeared to be. Simultaneously, it was then revealed to me that he was massaging her feet and was softly singing church hymns to her.

I froze in my steps.  I did not want to intrude into this sacred space that was before me for two reasons. One, this was one of the purest demonstrations of love and devotion I have ever witnessed. This man, a minister, was sharing a moment of true love with his partner of over 70 years. And although there must have been thousands of similar moments before this night, there would be very few of these sacred moments between them moving forward. I would not deny them that.

The other thought I had was my own unworthiness. The slow-motion train wreck of my own marriage surely had left some stain upon me. I wanted to protect them from that horror; I did not want to corrupt them with my misfortune. I was becoming conditioned to observing happiness rather than expect it in my own life.

Whether she heard my entry or felt my discomfort, my patient opened her eyes and gave me the biggest smile. She invited me in to perform my duties. Respectfully, I declined and said I could come back as I had other patients I needed to see.  She told me not to be silly in such a disarming way that I smiled and stepped forward to complete my tasks.

I made pleasant small talk during my tasks but all the while I was ruminating over the love and devotion that still encompassed them. If anything, in the silence, it was more palpable and enveloping. To this day, I still believe it was a blessing to be in their presence. I thanked them for their time, apologized for the intrusion and made a beeline for the door.

“I hear you used to sing a little bit,” she said.

I replied that I did many years ago but that I returned to school to be a nurse. The world seemed to have more people who were sick than appreciated opera. With a mortgage, a family and a couple student loans, it seemed the prudent thing to do. Many years later, I would realize I had basically traded one opera for another.

“I’d really like to hear you sing,” she stated.

My nursing experience to that point had been limited but my motto was this – if it was in my power to give, I gave. An extra ice cream, a pillow from an empty room, a back rub with a warm washcloth…all of these things made me feel like a person when I was hospitalized. I never forgot these kindnesses and made sure to pay it forward to others when I could. So, I sang a very soft version of How Great Thou Art for them. This song had meaning for me as I sang it at my father’s funeral a few years earlier. It had been his favorite and I loved to sing it for him.

They both complimented me and told me I should keep singing. I told them I had been doing it the better part of 30 years and that when the time was right, I would do so again. So, with a smile and a wave I headed to the door again.

“John, do you think God will let us keep her until Christmas,” asked the husband.

Damn it! I felt like a hippo in a tutu and I needed to get off the stage. I still felt I did not belong in this bubble of loving devotion but both seemed determined to keep me there. Singing a hymn in a darkened room is one thing; assisting a minister during a dark night of the soul is quite another. Seriously, what could I possibly offer this minister for more than 50 years?

“Well, her labs indicate that she is holding her own for now but I feel that her Oncologist would be better suited to answer that question,” I replied.

Even as the words fell from my mouth, I could see his expression glaze over as though he had heard this medical speak before, so I stopped speaking from the brain and continued without a pause from my heart.

“But you are asking me to peer into the mind of the Creator…to know His will and to be able to offer you some solace.”

His gaze cleared immediately, so I continued.

“I also know that as a minister, you have had many people, come to you and ask the same question. I am not a minister and I feel any answer I can give you would be pure speculation.”

I came back across the room, gently placed my hand upon his and continued.

“What I can tell you is that the love I see between the two of you is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. To see that love, to feel that warmth surely is a sign of God’s love and how it manifested between the two of you. There are people who live their entire lives and will never feel the way that you feel for each other. God grants us only so much time in this playground before we have to return home and as long as we have lessons to teach or learn, then we know our time is not yet finished. You both have taught me a lesson here tonight and I feel that your love has other lessons to teach. So…I think you both will be here for quite some time.”

I could see the glistening streaks on his cheeks in the muted light. He managed to ask another question as he strained for composure.

“She’s been with me for so many years. I just don’t know what to do. Do we need to do more chemo? Do we need to do more surgery?”

I pulled up a small stool and sat down next to him. I put my hand upon his shoulder and offered him a suggestion.

“Before you were a minister, you were a husband. And I can tell that you are a devoted and loving husband with a fierce determination.  You have fought hard for her to live with dignity. At some point though, you will have to fight just as hard for her to leave with dignity. I don’t know if that will be before or after Christmas but when it does, you will have no regrets.”

He slid his arm around my neck and gave me a hug which I returned.  I felt his warm tears run down my neck as I imagined a Reiki symbol in my mind to promote his healing. I then became aware of my patient as I felt her hand on my other arm. This synergistic moment of love among three injured, but conjoined, souls was healing for everyone. Amidst the tears and sniffles from everyone eventually came laughter and more hugs.

There was a healing in that hospital room that night and it had very little to do with the medication I had brought with me. I left the room a very different person than when I went in. I learned that no matter the illness, state of mind, or station in life, we all have access to the divine. We only need to take the time from the comic opera of our lives and invite it into our hearts.

The next time I worked, my loving couple had left and returned to their home. Such is the life of a nurse so I silently wished them well. Another patient had occupied the room and the healthcare cycle would begin again. The final outcome would remain a mystery…so I thought.

Time passed and I accepted another job. As my exit interview drew to a close, my manager stated that this hospital floor was unlike most. There was usually some event that left an imprint on you. She asked me for mine. I had several but I told her the story of me singing to a couple and of the love that each had demonstrated for the other. She popped out of her chair as if something bit her hiney! I sat in stunned silence as she dove into her file cabinet, pulled out a hand-written letter and handed it to me.

“This belongs to you.”

With a curious brow, I read.

‘To whom it may concern,

Thank you for taking care of my mother during her short stay here. You treated her with such grace and dignity. I especially want to thank the male nurse who sang to my parents. Your song in the night and the time you spent were a blessing and brought her such peace. My father and mother have known each other since grade school and have never been apart.

We prayed, as did many others, that she would stay with us through Christmas. Please know what a difference he made in their lives. They both spoke lovingly of him at our Christmas service. Please let him know she made it through Christmas; Mom died mid-January…surrounded by family…singing church songs to her.

You were a blessing. Thank you.’

And thank you…for showing me unconditional love can exist on this earthly plane. In my heart and mind, this memory will be forever cradled. I hope it finds a place in yours.

About the author: John Mathis designs clinical databases for Watson Health at IBM.  In his spare time, he makes an organic skin cream for cancer survivors at elementalchemy.org. After his NDE in 2005, he began writing poetry and prose including a book, The Alchemist’s Heir, where a grandpa teaches his grandson how to use metaphysics to deal with a high school bully.  It’s available on Amazon or his website – www.alchemistsheir.com. Currently, his agent is looking for a home for his latest book, Guitars, Cigars and Tiki Bars – A Guy’s Path To Spirituality.  Born in Indiana, he currently lives in Durham, NC and can be contacted via www.johnmathis.me

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