Recently I spent a few hours in a hospital waiting room. I came prepared, knowing it would be a bit of time sitting, I had my book and a note pad and my phone. I arrived and contentedly settled down for a morning of waiting. I’d barely been sitting for five minutes when a woman in her mid forties walked by me pushing her mother in a wheel chair. As she passed, she pointed out the waiting room, the little coffee shop behind me, the pictures on the wall. The woman was giving her mother ‘the tour’ of the hallway. Gently she explained everything as if this was the first time her mother had ever seen these walls, but I knew that wasn’t the case. The nurses that walked by greeted the senior in the wheelchair, calling her by name. This woman was a regular, if not a resident, this was not the first time she had been toured down these halls.
Only moments later I watched a mother snap at someone who brushed by her teenaged son. The son had clearly had a serious accident of some sort, his entire one side; leg, arm, face had been badly injured. He was covered in bandages and casts and the two of them were slowly and carefully strolling down the hall together. The mother walking a step behind her son, was loudly protecting him from harried people as they pushed their way by.
Not two minutes after these invalids passed by my chair a commotion arose in front of me. A woman was going in for surgery, but she clearly didn’t speak, whether she was non-verbal or didn’t know English, I don’t know, but her husband stood beside her. The nurse had come to take her away for her operation and the husband was demanding that he stay with her until she was wheeled in. “She can’t speak to you.” He kept saying. “I can help you!” The nurse was reluctant to allow him to follow, but finally consented and turned his questions towards the husband instead. I watched a wave of relief wash over the couple as they made their way towards the operating rooms, the husband’s arm around his wife.
Minutes later a woman in her thirties came and sat near by with her husband. He was clearly agitated, and she kept re-assuring him. I listened to her make jokes and encourage him. She squeezed his hand and said all the right things as he was called and left to walk towards the operating rooms. As soon as he was out of sight she closed her eyes, took a deep breath and then got up and paced. For the remainder of my wait I watch this young wife pace the floors in worry over her husband’s surgery.
I saw a woman in her sixties come and bring coffee for one of her friends who had been waiting longer than me.
A retired gentleman sat beside me and told me of the nice dinner plans he had for his wife when she recovered from her operation.
A dad prepped his young son as they walked down the hall to visit the guy’s mother who was waiting to see them.
I sat there, book untouched, phone silent, and absolutely in awe of what I was witnessing. I have seen many types of love. I’ve seen young love and romantic love, I’ve seen parental love and sibling love. I’ve seen best friends and 40 years of marriage love, but in that
waiting room I saw a different type of love. I saw messy, hard, sacrificial love. I saw a group of people, who all had other things they could be doing; giving up their time, energy, patience, and potentially freedom to be there for their people. People who loved their mothers, wives, children, husbands, friends, so much that they would voluntarily be in a hospital and stand by the side of the people that meant the most to them.
When we are sick, when we go for surgery, when we are injured or hurting or our bodies are breaking down, we are not at our very best. We are not always the most beautiful or engaging, we are not always even ourselves, and yet, I saw dozens of people who were choosing to stand up for, stand beside, walk the halls, advocate for and love the people in that hospital. A daughter, whose mother can no longer talk, walk or remember walked up and down those halls, chatting with her mom, loving her, despite how hard and saddening an experience that must have been. A mother, whose teenage son probably drove her crazy more often than not would bring out her ‘momma bear’ voice in order to make sure no careless passerby knocked into him. A young wife who paced for hours waiting for her husband to return to her side, a senior man planning ways of celebrating his wife’s recovery, so many people loving through those difficult, uncertain and not pretty parts of life.
I was deeply humbled. Love isn’t always neat and easy and romantic. It’s not all Hollywood and happy endings and graceful departs. Life his hard, loving people is hard, being there, standing firm, walking with others through the messiness of life, is hard. I came away from that room awestruck by how much people love. In a world where we see the fake and the fickle, where broken homes and estranged families and divided opinions happen regularly, it was truly an inspiration to see that love is stronger, tougher and still rampant in the world today. A truly wonderful and inspiring view of human commitment – may I continue to endeavor to love as fiercely and unwaveringly as those people in that waiting room. Love is clearly not all sunshine and roses, but it can truly be an incredible sight to behold.