It’s a pale, foggy sunrise. A line of geese are already winging their way above the mist-encased trees. We are driving to the hospital for Rosean’s antibiotics infusion. This is a daily ritual now, for the next four weeks.
In a way it’s like visiting the pool of Bethesda. People come for the healing waters, in this case delivered through tubes from bags hung on poles and dripped into IV ports. But, unlike the competitive world of the pool of Bethesda, here everyone has help. Compassionate people guide the infirm to the chairs they will need to sit in, and make sure they are warm and hydrated. They are treated with tenderness and compassion.
We have noticed this in all departments with which Rosean has had to deal in her stay at the hospital and after. The helping people – the doctors, the nurses, the CNA’s, the transporters, the nutritionists – are gentle and caring.
They work very hard and are very competent. The Pandemic has culled the field, and even now departments are short-staffed. If one listens carefully, one can hear the usual tensions of a workplace that has become a sort of tribe: the affinities and the discords. People can’t always get to their patients when they are needed. They are always stressed, always on edge, always running just a little too close to disaster – but they are gentle and caring.
Through the experience of Rosean’s illness Rosean and I have both been reminded of our mortality. “We’re in the last stretch,” we admit ruefully to each other as we drive toward the infusion center. And by that we mean that we are in the final years, whether they be five or twenty five. We are in our 70s. We will see only one more generation of children grow into adulthood, at the most.
We are going to die. All the beauty and drama and pain and chaos of this world will fall away from us. All our dramas, all our accomplishments, all our foreboding and angst, will blow away like so much smoke. In a strange way this knowledge is like the path Christ chose in the wilderness. The highfalutin things, the prestigious things, even the helpful things, are not as important as our relationship with God, because we know that none of them can last.
At the infusion center, Rosean is whisked from wheelchair to recliner and the healing fluids begin to enter her body. She gets a warm blanket and a tall cup of water. I get a warm blanket, too. I wrap it around my fear-frozen body.
These precious hospital workers! They are like the angels who minister to Christ in the desert after he has made the hard choices he knew he had to make. After we have faced the stripping, emptying travail of dealing with a severe illness they come and take care of us.
All of them are beautiful, like sunflowers. They turn their faces toward the sun of our gratitude, opening their petals. Without them there would only be the cold emptiness of the desert: the bleak knowledge, the hard truths. Thank God for the angels.