At work the other day:
The boom of Independence Day fireworks filled the halls and a few lucky white-haired saints sat mesmerized in bed as the light show less than a mile away lit up their dark rooms.
The South American gem grinned when I responded to her beautifully-accented English in Spanish, and spoke again, “Digame si no me entiende. ¿Ok?”
The tall undergrad asked for another clean hospital gown after sweating through the third one that night while fighting his worst infection yet.
A confused and frightened seventy-something swung his fists and screamed, “Bitch! Get the hell off of me!” as we quickly and quietly exchanged the soiled sheets underneath him for clean linen.
A tired young dad asked politely for more pain medicine, holding his hand across his belly and attempting to keep the pain from etching more permanent lines on his face.
The sweet sounds of a centenarian picking up her harmonica interrupted the constant cacophony of call bells and bed alarms that usually drilled the staff’s ears.
The aching senior’s face finally relaxed as she propped her broken leg up on the overturned plastic bucket and the warm water hit her back in her first shower since surgery.
A preschooler’s face lit up with glee as he propped himself up at the front of her powerchair and they sped down one sterile hall after another.
The stooped grandfather paused with his walker halfway between the toilet and the bed and declared, “You shoulda seen me when I was younger… I was tall AND purdy!”
A tearful wife held her spouse’s hand as he drifted off to heaven. She spoke softly while encouraging him, “Go home, honey. Mama and Pops will be there waiting for you, and I will be there shortly.”
An anxious grandmother who’d been home for less than a week held my hand and prayed, asking the Lord to bless the work of the young nurse in charge of her care.
I’ve probably learned more about humanity’s brokenness and redemption in my brief tenure here than twenty-four years of being a pastor’s kid or a couple decades of solid Reformed Christian education could’ve ever hoped to teach me. While I attribute the few gray hairs that have popped up on my dark blonde head to many an anxiety-driven shift, I’m grateful for the even more abundant glimpses of heaven while taking care of God’s most vulnerable image-bearers. I would’ve burned out after a measly six months without first understanding the incredible grace that Christ extends to me and those I care for.
We’re leaving Pennsylvania now… On to a new city in a different state where graduate school and new jobs await. I’ll no longer take care of tenured university professors and jolly, illiterate mountain men in the same twelve-hour shift. I’m so jazzed for this next step that it seems September can hardly come fast enough, but I can’t leave without first remembering and thanking those who so wonderfully welcomed and allowed me to walk with them here.