Traffic was thick on my way to the hospital last night. It’s full-on Christmas, you know (even if Mary might not even know she’s pregnant yet), and the back roads into the two shopping malls I live near, plus any number of strip malls and restaurants, get super clogged super quick between Black Friday and New Year’s Eve. Still, I managed to find a parking place relatively easily and rushed against the cold and into those sliding doors as fast as I could.
A woman was on her way out. Wheelchair bound, clearly so ill. Another man was, too. He was lined and weathered and half-asleep and I ached for his caregiver. She looked so deep-in-her-bones tired. I took a deep breath and walked past the dark side hallways and closed offices–only the infusion suite is still open in this part of the hospital at 5pm, and I stepped into it gratefully. Knowing I would be warmly welcomed. And I was.
I noticed immediately that last week’s plastic floral arrangement had been replaced with shiny Christmas baubles of varying sizes, and cheap greenery hung wherever they’d been able to anchor it. I knew the effort had been made with good, full-hearted intention–a dash of merry and bright in the midst of sickness and trauma. But it felt off, somehow. Like we were trying to gloss things over.
A different nurse this week–no less kind and personable as last’s. But the same suite mates–faces I recognized from last week, and, that, this week, looked just as worn and worried as they had a week ago. All of us quiet and still.
Soon enough we were all hooked up to the machines and tubes that gave us whatever we’d come for. My own IV bag is the darkest, brownest red you can imagine. Liquid iron, of a sort, and it drips slowly and surely for close to an hour. And while it does, done as I am with needles, I work on distracting myself with a rerun of Chicago PD and an ice cold Diet Coke, straight from the can.
So this is Christmas inside the stillness of an infusion suite…the constant and daily grind of bodies betraying themselves and nurses offering truer compassion than is evidenced most anywhere else, and beeping machines and bandages and warm blankets upon request. It does not stop for Santa or the Christ Child either one. It just keeps going. Still and constant and never-ending.
I’m not feeling super-Christmasy, y’all. Not even Advent-y, for those church folk out there who mark the liturgical season. This sucks for someone who has delighted most of her life in the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, who typically drags out the tree as soon as the leftover turkey is stashed in Tupperware, and who adores the chaos of shopping, the hustle and bustle of music and lights and All. The. Things. holiday.
This year, I feel the truth of a world that I truly believe is crying–deep, agonizing, heart-wrenching sobs for the weight of all that is threatening to destroy us. I am sick to death of the left and the right making a mockery of democracy. I am sick to death of families torn apart by conflict and anger and selfishness. I am sick to death of children going hungry and women being judged less than. I am sick to death of money guiding every damn decision that’s made in the general public. I am sick to death of greed. Of gluttony. Of snark passing as actual opinion or fact. Of social media determining who and what we believe. Of broken hearts and broken promises and broken lives. I am sick to death of how we hurt and exclude and judge and manipulate–all in some shallow effort to make ourselves feel more secure…as if our very survival does not, in fact, depend upon our cooperative efforts at community.
Good God how we need that baby Jesus to come among us and show us the way home again. How we need to eschew Amazon (full confession: they’ve already been to my house twice this week) and embrace caring for one another. How we need to set aside our insistence on who is right and who is wrong, and simply admit that we’re all so very scared and feel so very alone, and the only way forward is to recognize that within each of us dwells a bit of the God who made us. Within each of us. Even that person you hate.
Especially that person you hate.
The grind is real. And it is hard. And some days it wins. It just does. But it cannot–it canNOT have the last word.
Because into infusion suites and shopping malls, into political posturing and policy manipulating, into hate and ugliness, into the utter shambles of our broken hearts comes, I promise you, one day, the very good news that you have not, ever, not once, been alone after all–that all along Love has walked beside you, and it will, in the end, lead you home.
And if it takes the stark stillness of four hospital walls and a needle in my veins and just wanting to get home to my precious girl to help me remember that…then I am grateful beyond measure for every bit of it.
Sometimes, being forced out of the grind and into stillness is the very best thing that could happen. Because it’s in the stillness that such a clear, calm voice is able to be heard…the one telling you that all is not lost.
And that there is, sometimes even if just in the garish beauty of a tacky Christmas decoration hung with love and care, and a cold soft drink with the tab popped open for you, hope to be found.
Hope to be found….