Institutional food-aromas wafted through the hospital corridor and into Darla’s sterile room - forerunners announcing instant mashed potatoes smothered in canned gravy. Knowing dinner would arrive within minutes, Darla finished working on her daily blog entry and slipped her laptop under the bed sheet.
Darla’s blog had become crucial while waiting for a donor’s heart that could replace her own weakened one. Hospital personnel presented factual and procedural information, but were not available to engage in personal conversations. The blog had become her designated safe place to pop the emotional cork and vent pent-up thoughts and feelings.
No one seems to get it. The physical body receives all the attention here, as if it’s some snazzy Lamborghini in a mechanic’s body shop.
Meanwhile, the true heart of the person is ignored. Who am I, anyway? A hunk of flesh with a broken pump? Does anyone know how desperately I want to LIVE, and yet how ready I must be to DIE?
Who are you, Nurse Renee, with your downcast eyes, few words, and killer-of-a-syringe? A vampire demanding blood – always more and more BLOOD? Is there a real person lurking behind your tent-like blue scrubs? Can you talk to me? Will you let me get close enough to prove I care about you?
The food cart rattled and stopped, rattled and stopped, on its way down the hallway. Finally Darla heard muffled voices outside her cracked door.
“This girl has a blog,” Nurse Judith said in a hushed voice to her helper. “Her sister gave me the link. It’s good – goes way beyond clinical stuff.” She paused, wondering if she should say more. “She’s desperate for a friend. I can finish the rounds if you’d like to stay here for a few minutes. She’s your age.”
The candy striper, Mary, nodded and pushed open the door to find Darla peering in her direction.
“Hey!” Mary offered. “How’s it going? Hungry?”
“Not really. But thanks.”
“Do you have internet access in here?” Mary asked the leading question as she scooted the tray of food into position over Darla’s lap.
“Actually, I do.” Darla patted the laptop and pulled a silver corner from beneath the sheet. “It helps – a lot.” With a surge of sudden boldness, she added, “Leave the food covered for now. Can I tell you about my computer?”
“Sure!” Mary eagerly pulled up a chair.
Delighted with Mary’s availability, Darla introduced her writing passion. “I have a blog … where I go to talk about things …”
“Awesome!” Mary exclaimed. “Want to read an entry for me?”
Darla’s cheeks flushed as she pulled out her computer and flipped open the lid. “Okay.” As she began to read, her voice adopted a sense of urgency.
I need a friend here in the hospital. Even more than that, I want to be a friend. The nurses seem preoccupied, as if their robotic hearts have been numbed by the observance of so much pain. Surely they need to be authentic on some level, for their own good. And their stories might also help me understand my increasing passion to make sense of suffering.
I’m convinced it only takes ONE PERSON to make a difference in this place. I’m desperate to find a friend here, someone to encourage me, and someone I can encourage in return. I’d like a chance to live instead of just waiting to die.”
She closed the laptop and peeked up to see Mary wiping a tear. “I’d like to be your friend,” Mary offered gently. “Will you be mine? I need one, too.” After a pause Mary rose, pushed aside the food tray, sat on the edge of the hospital bed, and grasped Darla’s hand. “Can I have your blog address? So I can read it when I’m home – and respond?”
“Of course!” Darla exclaimed. And then more quietly, “You’re an answer to prayer.”
As Mary rose to leave, Darla noticed for the first time the candy striper limped and wore a cumbersome leg brace.
“It was great to meet you, Darla – to connect with the real you, down inside. I think we have a lot we can share about suffering and redemption,” Mary said with a big smile as she shuffled through the door.
“Thank You, Lord!” Darla whispered after her. As meatloaf and mashed potatoes drenched in gravy beckoned from beneath her plate’s stainless steel warming dome, Darla heard only the Voice within her own heart: you are no longer alone.
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