I am standing in the hall of the ICU. I am praying. That’s all I can do. I’m praying for time. I feel a tap on my shoulder, the ICU nurse simply says: “She’s here.”
* * *
She doesn’t look up when she asks, “Will I ever be in the ICU?”
How do I answer this? Sitting in a chair next to Rachel’s bed, we have been drawing pictures for the nurses, and now we are deciding who gets which picture. Rachel is undergoing treatment for lymphoblastic leukemia. She is 7 years old, and treatment has just begun. I watch her shuffle through the pictures. She is so positive and kind, always thinking of others regardless of her pain.
“Can I at least see the ICU? Can you take me for a visit?”
* * *
The lights are dim, and I can hear the monitors inside the room. Before I enter the room, I say a prayer. I have never met this patient. I’m not even supposed to be here. While I was visiting Rachel, my nurse friend Cheri had approached and asked if I could make a chaplain visit to her ICU patient, Harvey. I slide open the door and enter the room.
“Hello? Who are you?”
I quickly introduce myself as I take in the contents of the room. He invites me to sit down, explaining that his vision is not so good anymore. I sit and talk to Harvey. He is 99 years old. He has been in wars I have only read about in textbooks. After his stroke two weeks ago he was transferred from a nursing home to the hospital. He sighs when he speaks. I ask if there is anyone I can call for him, and his cloudy blue eyes turn away.
“My daughter, but we haven’t spoken in 15 years. She won’t come.”
I look through Harvey’s chart for a contact number. There it is. I ask Cheri about the daughter. Messages have been left, but no one has called back. I’ll give it a try. As I reach into my pocket for a pen, I feel the folded piece of paper, a drawing. Rachel. I ask Cheri about a visit to the ICU. Rachel can be brought by wheelchair only to the doors. She will be able to look in but not enter.
That sounds like enough.
Sitting at the nurses’ station in ICU, I hang up the phone. No answer. As I try the second number I hear the alarm of a Code Blue. I look up to see everyone heading into Harvey’s room. No. No. No. I pick up the phone and dial again. Dear God, I just need a miracle. On the second ring she picks up.
* * *
The room is quiet. Harvey is not well. I pray with him, and we read Scripture. I tell him his daughter is on the way. He can’t talk. But his tears let me know he understands.
* * *
She’s here! I pick up my Bible and walk toward the ICU. The doors open, and I see Cheri pushing Rachel’s wheelchair. Behind them is a woman wearing a visitor’s badge. Impossible timing. I greet a smiling Rachel, then introduce myself to Rhonda, Harvey’s daughter. As I walk Rhonda to the room, I give her a quick update. We enter Harvey’s room. I stand back and watch a reunion that yields forgiveness. Shortly after, Harvey passes away.
* * *
As Rhonda and I walk out of the room we pass the nurses’ station. Cheri has something for Rhonda. It’s a drawing from Rachel, two butterflies. Cheri explains, reminding Rhonda of the little girl in the wheelchair. Rhonda holds the drawing, smiles through her tears, mumbles “God bless her,” and slowly walks away.
* * *
I peek into the room. Rachel is sleeping. I pray for strength for what is to come. It has never been more obvious to me: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt. 19:14). n
Dixil Rodríguez, a college professor and volunteer hospital chaplain, lives in Texas.