Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hospitably Yours

I have to tell you, right now, watching my kid breathe in and out, watching his numbers dip and rise in some cases more impressively than the stock market, I've temporarily lost my humor writing mojo.

I've tried writing six different pieces, a top ten list, a satire, a riff on hospital food, a letter to the editor, multiple pre-holiday bits. Most of it sounds forced to me, ergo, it would not be the right tone, or worse, it would not be funny.

Instead of telling stories, this past week, I've been hearing them.

On Monday, I took a walk to clear my head. I got into a conversation with a woman pushing a tiny but not chihuahua dog wrapped in a blanket in a real baby stroller.

Normally, my mind would reel with such made for blog material, but instead I engaged the woman in conversation. She was a former dancer, had lived in Afghanistan and her husband was an actor. She admitted sheepishly that she probably spoils her dog, but he's too little to keep up with her when she roller blades and she worries he'll get run over by a bicyclist or a car in DC, so this is how she protects him. She lamented the lack of energy for dance in Washington and thanked me for listening.

Then, there's last Friday, when I took a cab to my husband's office to get paperwork and hand off laundry. The man who drove my cab told me the story of his having grown up in DC, of being the oldest of nine and partially raised by his aunts. He explained that he was a poet and gave me a copy of his collection. It was pretty good stuff. The sparse prose had an airy and emotional tonal quality like a musical pulse.

Last night, when I was rechecking Paul into the hospital, a beautiful tall African American woman with red eyes watched as I gave Paul's history. She asked his name, his full name. "Catholic?" she asked. "Yes." "Me too." She told me how she took her kids to the Basilica because it was the one church they loved. How she'd promise them breakfast if they all went. I told her we bribe our kids with donuts or bagels too for good behavior.

Then she started to get a bit teary eyed and told me how her son broke his arm so badly, they had to sedate him for the x-ray. She told me this was the fourth time he'd been injured playing football, and that she was more worried about his head. She was alone.

I think she noticed that I noticed because she then added, "My husband left me this week." I didn't think I had heard her correctly. She repeated herself. "I'm so sorry." I started. She shook her head. "No. No. It's a good thing. It's a good thing." He had been on disability and didn't work, and it had become more and more difficult coming home to hear she wasn't doing enough. She told me she was glad he was gone. We agreed to pray for each other, and I managed to eek out three decades that night before getting distracted by medical reports and sleep.

The point of all these stories to me anyway, was to remind me to stay generous of heart and spirit and humble. We cannot know the life stories of those we write off at first glance. The doctor who treated Paul at HSC and held him through the night when I slept was the father of many, and a veteran, a survivor of bullets and bombs.

Taking my son from me and instructing me to trust him while I slept, he said, "I know how precious life is."

The nurse who brought Paul his medicines was the youngest of nine from a family in the Phillipenes. He was happy to have been assigned Paul.

All of our lives mirror the Joyful, Luminous, and Sorrowful mysteries if we let them. All of our lives have the capacity to teach others the graces and meanings of those mysteries by example. Only by listening and watching and really being open, do we have the opportunity to enter into the Glorious. Paul has been a vehicle for others to speak, and for his mother, to listen.


MightyMom said...

aaahhhh, blessings in even the most difficult of situations. what a great post!

Sometimes life is too intense to be funny.

Funny comes later.

MightyMom said...

I wanted to add....

I'm with you in spirit...holding a tiny one avoiding the monitors and trying not to pull any lines out or leads off while feeding him, using more than a few pillows to make that chair comfortable enough to sit in for hours..days...

my thoughts, my prayers, my memories...I'm with you.

SherryTex said...


JimmyV said...

I wish I'd been coming back more often so that I knew what was was up. You and Paul are in my prayers.

CB said...

We at MDO keep you all in our prayers.

Marcel said...

Sherry - I have been getting the email updates and have asked my prayer warriors to pray for your family. God Bless.
-Marcel LeJeune

reprehriestless warillever said...

Everybody has a story, it takes a special somebody to listen to it.

I am sure that the dancer and the taxi driver and the woman at check in were all glad to have someone listen to them.

I am praying for you, for Paul, and for all of the blessed people who have told you their stories.

Leticia said...

Only a mother with a beautiful heart can engage herself in the heartbreak of others in the midst of her own tragedy.
When my own daughter was in the shadow of death last December, my thoughts about the staff were far from charitable, you have shown me a better way.
Extraordinary post.

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