Today I beheld love.
It wasn’t on a garden rooftop overlooking a Roman city, or in cosy coffee shop sheltered from a winter storm.
It was in a sterile hospital room, with a too large hospital bed.
“You heard the news, right? He was an open close, nothing the docs could do for him.” The nurse looked at me, waiting for a response. I nodded in understanding.
She continued, “The docs found the tumor, and a whole lot more. It’s going to be a surprise to the family.”
She turned back to her computer, pulling up an endless page of assessments to chart.
“And him.” I said under my breath.
The nurse began typing with furious movements on her keyboard. I walked away, pulling a vitals cart behind me the nurse called after me,”Tell me if he’s in any pain and I’ll get him what he needs.”
I’ve been here before, with many patients who are going to die. It’s something I deal with on a weekly basis. I’ve grown accustomed to the high anxiety of both patients and family members. I’ve held hands, given hugs, and let people cry on my shoulder.
But today I saw something different.
“Have you heard the news?”
“Oh my . . . Yes it’s awful! Just awful.”
“Have you talked with him yet? What about Judy?”
Already the echoes of conversation quietly fill the hall as I walk down to the room. The air is thick, you could cut the emotion right out with a knife.
“Hi can I come in?” I’m not sure how they can fit all of these people in this tiny room. They’re everywhere looking from me to the bed.
I pull my squeaking cart into the room, all but crashing over the sill. “Hi I’m sorry to interrupt, I’m Jon, your aide for the day. I’ll be taking your vitals a whole lot for the next couple of hours”
My patient barely moves. His face contort with pain as he reaches to his family members on either side of the bed
A cry goes up as people scramble out of my way.”Clear out of the way! Come on, he’s got a job to do.”
A woman stands pressed between bed and IV pole. She offers a shakey smile. “Hi, I’m his wife, Judy.”
“Nice to meet you, are you doing alright?”It’s an automatic response and I can already see tears glistening in her eyes. Judy clears her throat and nods as I pull on the blood pressure cuff around my patient’s arm.
He’s silent the entire time. Silent with pain. I ask him the everyday parts of my job, check his drains and then write down all that on my note cards. All the while family members whisper to one another. They’re exchanging awkward hugs and reaching out to one another. And I am an intruder upon it.
“That should be it for now, anything else I can do?” Heads shake all around and I navigate myself through the small crowd, cart squeaking along.
At the doorway my cart jumped over the rubber lip and I pause for a moment to keep it from tipping over. I look back into the room to see my patients wife lean into her husband’s arms.
Pain is evident on both their faces. Lines of worry and sickness cut deeply into their skin. They touch foreheads. With tenderness born from decades of understanding and trust, I watch as love knits them together. They cleave to one another as a single entity there within that hospital room. Far removed from home, from familiarity and the real world.
Love. Pure love; without the caprice of youth. Love that surpasses momentary attraction or vain lust. Love that adores and endures. Love that completes two people and makes their imperfections whole.
My phone buzzes in my pocket pulling me from that moment. With a click the door shuts behind me and I’m moving moving to the next task.