Vignettes From a Hospital Room

———————————————————— Cross-legged and weary I sit at the edge of Bryan’s hospital bed. The chaplain stands next to us her gentle face lit with a wide smile. In one hand I hold a thin wafer and in the other a small plastic cup, not much bigger than a thimble.

“This is my body broken for you.” I break the crisp cracker between my fingers and feel as if I could break right along with it. Bryan catches me eye and we share a quick smile before consuming the bread.

My attention shifts to the cup, the blood of Christ spilled for the redemption of all mankind, “This is my blood, poured out for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” We drink remembering.

The chaplain sweeps up both of our hands and begins to pray as tears run down my cheeks. How desperately I need this God - this God who comes, who understands, who suffers right along side me. The chaplain gives my hand one final squeeze and I begin to wipe my eyes. “I’m Latin,” she says with her gentle smile back in place, “I can handle tears.” She hands me a tissue and before I know it Bryan and I are sitting again alone on the hospital bed.

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I squeeze my body into the narrow hospital bed beside Bryan and feel glad that we are both little enough to lay here side-by-side. I can feel warmth radiating from his body, but I shiver from cold.

Each with a book in our hands we lay there and read. Hour passes hour as his IV drips fluids into his blood stream. The light begins to fade in the room and Bryan’s head drops comfortably onto my shoulder. He sleeps and I pray.

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Eagerly I cut the tape from the box and pull apart the folded cardboard flaps. The address said it was from a friend from church, but what I find inside is an assortment of gifts from many friends. I open card after card filled with encouraging words and pass them to Bryan to read after me.

I pull a cozy blanket from the box and touch it gently, appreciating how incredibly soft it feels, especially after the stiff sterile blankets of the hospital. I pull out a few games and find a board game that has always been a family favorite. Yarn finds it’s way out of the box and into my hands, I turn it over in my fingers and imagine what wonderful things I could crochet from it.

Then my hands fall on the books, and I feel a new wave of astonishment sweep through my body. Someone knows me. Someone took the time to figure out books that I really wanted and could truly use. I hug them close to my chest as if hugging the friend who sent them.

With each new thing that we pull from the box I feel more known and more amazed. This box is not from old friends, it is from new friends we are only just beginning to know, and yet I can see through this package that they do know us, and value us. Gratitude fills my heart as tears fill my eyes.

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It’s Christmas morning. My parents just walked in the room. Before they sit down, before they even take off their coats, my mom begins to tell us a story.

“I have something to tell you…” She starts by sharing about how Thaddeus school was doing this thing where they collected gift cards for seven families in the school who could use some extra help this Christmas and ends by handing me a little Christmas gift bag. We are one of the families.

My eyes are filled with tears as I take the bag in my hands. My mom gives me a quick hug before wiping her own tears from her cheek. I sit down on the edge of Bryan’s bed and pull gift card after gift card out of the little bag. I marvel quietly at the generosity of people I have likely never met.

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The tears flow freely down my cheek. I try to hold back a sob, but it escapes from my lips unhindered. Bryan stirs in bed and looks over at me. “Are you ok?” he asks feebly. “Yes, just overwhelmed and so grateful.” I begin to tell him about the email I just finished reading. It is from an old friend of his from high school, a woman I met only a few times, years ago, when Bryan and I were newly married. She heard about Bryan’s cancer and has been reading my blog. She wants to help. She has shared our story with others and they want to help too.

“They just sent $800 to my Paypal account.” I choke back more tears as I say the words aloud to Bryan, “And they want to send a box of gifts for the kids as well.” Bryan reaches out his hand as I move closer to him and sit down on the edge of the bed. “People are amazing.” He whispers the words quietly and yet we both feel the weight of them. People really are amazing and there really is so much love in the world. The truth of this fills the room as we sit quietly with our hands clasped together.

 

Rejoicing in the journey,

Bethany

 

MelanomaBethany Stedman