I've just returned home from a visit to the hospital, where the father of one of my sweet friends had surgery this morning. I was sitting in the waiting room, and while my friend was receiving the news of the surgery in the adjacent consultation room, a large family gathered directly behind me.
It was quickly apparent they were not expecting to be there. This was not a scheduled surgery. They were crying. In shock. The grandmother made a comment to which all of them broke out in, "No... don't talk like that. We need you here. You can pray, grandma. He's going to need us now."
Hugs. More tears. Disbelief.
A minute later, they began putting some of the pieces together. One family member recounted, "He called me at 2am and said, 'Come help. I'm bleeding.'" Another used the words "crime scene tape" and "fingerprints." They began speculating. Who could it have been? The neighbor who is on drugs, perhaps?
Whatever had just happened overnight, it was serious.
Suddenly a doctor appeared at the doorway and motioned for the entire family to come into the consultation room next to where my friend was. I watched as they rushed to gather up their belongings, sensing the weight of tragedy they have just endured. The door closed behind the last family member.
Upon returning home, I checked our news station online and sure enough, there was the beginnings to this story I had just overheard: "investigators are saying two were wounded overnight. The sheriff's office is calling it serious."
It would've been one thing to read this story on the news. But it's a completely different experience after sitting next to their grieving, fearful bodies in the hospital waiting room.
I feel rattled. My heart aches for that family who I don't even know. God, I beg You for mercy in this situation.
Suddenly the pity party I was having for myself on the couch last night doesn't even matter.
The hospital, you guys. The hospital.
It's literally the intersection between life and death. It's a place where worlds are holding on by a thread. It's the place we go when our bodies suffer. We have to go there in order to be well again, but no one wants to be there.
The hospital conjures up so many memories of times when my world was falling apart. I can't go there now without such strong flashbacks of my own father's lung transplant and all the days I spent in the hospital praying for his recovery. Today's waiting room was the exact room in which I anxiously awaited my six year old daughter to come out of wrist surgery. And more than those who sent texts or called me or clicked "like" on my facebook statuses (though those are nice!) are the memories I'll forever have of those who physically showed up.
The more I reflect upon this morning, the more I realize how much our bodies are meant to be in community with one another. It's well and good to read about tragic situations on social media and to pray for those involved. But ultimately, I'm not truly connected, nor do they require me to be. In a way, I can keep people's suffering at arm's distance. A click away.
But it's another thing to show up. To be present physically. Bodily. The way we were created to be with one another. To smell the smells. To see the tears. To feel the sting of emotion and give an actual, physical hug rather than a cyber one. To face the awkward moments when we don't know what to say or do, but we're just there. Watching the clock tick by.
There's nothing like the hospital to snap you into reality. To suspend everything going on in the outside world because there's a sense in which "this is all that matters" here. Too often I live in a very surface-y, sterile reality where my soul doesn't get rattled, and it doesn't get suspended, and that's probably not a good thing.
But one trip to the hospital, and everything blurry and distorted suddenly comes in focus again.
Addendum: Here is the link for the family's story. They've just updated it with more information and it is so, so sad. Please be praying for this family as they've lost one family member and for this man as he fights for his life. God, have mercy.