Dusk was quickly turning to evening as I found a parking place, easier at 5pm than I’d thought it would be, maybe because a bunch of folks were leaving for the day. The sounds of rush hour city streets swallowed up the atmosphere, and the tantalizing smell of grilled meat and spices wafted up from the Mexican joint across the street.
I dashed across the lot and slid through the automatic doors, making it to an elevator just as a group of of nurses ending their shift exited, calls of “See you tomorrow!” bouncing down the halls as they parted ways. I punched “3,” for my floor and took a deep breath in step with the “whoosh” of the elevator’s ascent.
Suite 309’s door opened easily. And then–just as I’d known it would–time did a funny thing. It didn’t stop, exactly. It just…changed. Became still.
Very, very still. Like I’d stepped into a part of the universe pocketed away from the chaos and noise, the frenzy of 5pm in a major metropolitan area kept at bay by the charge nurse’s kind hello and the somehow just right array of cheap and fake fall flowers surrounding the check-in counter.
Time always does this funny thing inside the walls of a hospital. It’s as if the outside world keeps marching along while inside things move at their own pace, their own culture, their own way of being. I used to feel this as a chaplaincy intern in my early twenties. I’ve felt that way holding the hands of church members or friends laying in hospital beds. I’ve noticed it as a patient myself.
Stillness. No choice but to step out of where you came from and into what you’re there for.
In my case, the first of four weekly iron infusions for a stubborn case of iron deficiency anemia–most assuredly a result of celiac disease, and, while troublesome and annoying and not great for my energy level, nothing at all compared to what the folks around me waited for–chemotherapy. A terrifying word no matter how you say it.
One gentleman told me he’d been there yesterday, too. And the nurse said, “See you tomorrow!” as he left, and my heart flipped in an odd ache for what this holiday season must hold for him. Another man came in on crutches, smiled in recognition of the nurse, and they exchanged easy conversation–it wasn’t his first visit either.
Stillness. Like we were all in our own little snow globe scene, each with a part to play in our shaken up moment.
I’ve yet to find an unpleasant infusion suite nurse. They are kind. Gentle. They know you’d rather be anywhere else and there’s an overall quiet compassion to these suites that always makes me feel like I’m seeing the best of humanity. It’s humbling. Graceful, somehow.
They called my name and I went back, my nurse working quickly to get me set up for an hour of iron dripping slowly into my veins. (Get ready, world–I could be the next Marvel heroine–or at the very least, perhaps Pepper Potts could make me a matching suit?)
Sprite. Check! TV remote. Check! “Do you want the lights off or on?” Ooh…a nap sounds good. Check! She grinned, said she knew I just wanted to get it over with. I allowed as much, but then said, “You know, it’s fine. There’s folks a lot worse off than me down the hall.”
She stopped for just a moment, looked at me, and said, “Yes. There are.”
And then she sort of looked off in the distance for a moment, and, almost like a prayer, quietly said, “You know, sometimes, when it rains, I walk outside and raise my hands up to the sky and just stand there. Letting it rain. My husband, he thinks I’m crazy when I do this. But I tell him, ‘I see patients every day who would love to be able to feel the rain. And many of them will never feel it again. So I don’t want to take it for granted.'”
She walks outside to feel the rain, y’all. For her patients who cannot.
Stillness. Like I’d just been in the presence of the holy.
An hour later we said goodbye, and I walked out into a now inky-black night. Immediately the stillness faded and life pulled me back in to its familiar embrace. Normalcy returned, but with this little corner carved out, for what I’d just heard and seen.
Stillness. Space for my soul to remember the capacity the human heart has to love: simply and wholly and without constraint.