June 1, 2015

Searching the Obvious

Code blue. Someone is in physical distress and requires immediate response. I recognize the room number. It is a chaplain’s multitask: run and pray. I stop at the door and watch the physicians work. A nurse ushers me closer to the bed. I take a deep breath and look at my friend Scott.

. . . .

I was assigned training at a rehabilitation center close to my home. The first day I walked the halls alone. Some rooms had the door open. Family and friends were visiting loved ones who were confined to beds, wheelchairs; in other rooms a patient was alone, recovering from a stroke or an injury, something surgeons and doctors could not cure.

“It’s a waiting process, you know,” Scott said the first time we met. “Rehabilitation simply means there is hope, I think. It may never come.” Scott, Room 401, is a successful CEO who has suffered three heart attacks and a stroke, and has had five heart surgeries. He can no longer walk. No family or friends. Simply endless days of routine and waiting.

the Holy Spirit creates in us an innate need to take care of one another.

Scott has only one friend: Brent, a retired florist (his son runs the business now). Brent is at the rehabilitation center every day. He brings fresh flowers for his wife, who is in a coma. He reads to her from a weathered Bible, the one they used in family worship. I often hear Brent reading the Bible to Scott as well. Once a week Brent’s son visits at night and leaves a small bouquet of flowers in Scott’s room for Scott to wake up to. Somehow, the Holy Spirit creates in us an innate need to take care of one another, to be kind to one another.

. . . .

At 1:00 a.m. I stand in the hall listening to monitors, breathing machines. No visitors, but these patients are not alone. I walk quietly to their doors, pray, and feel the calm of the Holy Spirit traversing the halls with me.

I stop at Room 401. Today I did not spend time visiting Scott. Emergencies abounded. As I passed Brent’s room, he was reading the book of Mark to his wife. I will try to come back. I stop by Scott’s room and I see his gaze on the new bouquet on the table. He smiles and asks me if I am here to visit. But I have four emergencies to handle.

“I’ll be back, Scott.”

. . . .

I hold Scott’s hand, watching the monitor for his vitals. The code blue has passed. It’s 4:00 a.m. He survived. Will he wake up? A nurse arrives to check the breathing tube and administer medication. I walk to the chapel, make it to the second pew, sit, cover my face, and begin to cry. “I’ll be back, Scott.” I never went back. The day slipped away. I talk to God, hand Him my sorrow. I’m exhausted, and amid tears I lie on the pew and inadvertently fall asleep.

I wake suddenly. Right in front of me, held between pages of a hymnal, is a white rose with a long ribbon that almost reaches the floor. I sit up, remove the flower, and read the writing on the ribbon: “Peace He brings us. God is with us, always.”