You know how here in the drought we’re supposed to catch the water in a big dyepot while we’re waiting for the shower to warm up?
When you’re in a rush to get ready for church and you’re trying to feel prepared to give a talk, certain people might find it counterproductive to drop their good size 13 black shoe in that pot that got set not quite far enough aside afterwards. Just saying.
A trying-not-to-be-growly, “Dear, would you help me with this hair dryer?”
I laughed, I mean, what can you do, it was just so unexpected. “I was going to dry my hair.” (We got both done, pretty much.)
As we were pulling into the parking lot, Richard happened to say that the best talks he’d ever given were the ones where he’d prepared it and then had just winged it with what it felt like he should say.
Because I was saying I’d written a good talk but it just wasn’t quite…something. It was a perfectly good talk and I didn’t want to admit to myself after all that work and this close to standing up that it felt like I might be disappointed if that’s all I gave.
And in the moment of truth when I was at that podium I did what he’d done and was glad for that conversation. I said I’d prepared what I’d thought I was going to say–and I was chucking it. I set my sheets of paper to the side there.
And then I spoke straight from the heart. I knew a few people there had already heard bits and pieces of this and that but here was the whole of it in one piece.
I mentioned a woman I’d never seen before who was clearly badly struggling with–something that day, and I took a leap and said what turned out to be just the right thing for her.
Someone had seen. And in that moment we were strangers no more and I saw the burden visibly lift from her. I knew no details, just that she had found what she’d needed in that moment. We have to be willing to be present for each other and the smallest interactions matter so much.
I talked of my faults. I said, I was asked to speak on reverence within this Sacrament meeting and yet I’m the disruptive one, I’m the one who gets up and moves away if someone sits down coughing near me. I talked about why. I said, But there is no place for me being grumpy or growly when someone does. None. And I have been, and I apologize for that. We all come here to find peace, not just me.
(It was a no-names public apology to the old woman who’d come in late and coughed on me (again) after having previously given me bronchitis doing so. She’d had no way to truly know what it was like and she had never deserved my grousing–there are better ways to handle things and as you my own blog readers pointed out to me at the time and I thank you for that, she had just as much a right to sit where she wanted to as I did.)
We are here to serve God by loving one another. That only is what we should bring here (or anywhere else). Full stop.
I talked about the first, and then the second big Crohn’s flare, where my immediate reaction to it was, but, but, I don’t need another experience like this to teach me to be a nice person–I think I did a pretty good job of learning a lot the last time around. Do I have to go through this? I don’t want to!
So I prayed.
And the answer to my prayer was this:
All I had was who I was.
Okay. I decided to pray for each person who entered my hospital room after that. I wanted them to feel their work had meaning and they were valued for who they were as well as for what they did. I figured if I could drop that pebble in their ponds the ripples would go outward to countless patients after me, remembering Dr. Rachel Remen’s books in which she said there’s a certain kind of immortality in acts of kindness.
I said to the ward, You can’t pray, really pray for someone without coming to love them.
And thus one Stanford doctor came to confess one day that he’d written in my chart, Patient looks deceptively well. Do not be deceived.
Because you aren’t supposed to be that cheerful when you’re that sick.
I ran into that doctor a few months after I got out of that hospital and I called out his name. He had no idea–and then—-!!! He was ecstatic! “LOOK at you!!! You look GREAT!!!”
Love strengthened life and I was still here.
He had wondered. And now he knew.
And he knew his own caring had made a difference.
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