We had already decided that Christmas was not on the cards this year. My husband’s knee surgery was postponed three times. The final date scheduled was the Thursday before Christmas. The last thing we heard on the way to the hospital was that his replacement knee had been stuck in a snow storm up north somewhere – but we were to come in as planned.
The streets were festive and the air crackled with Christmas cheer. There was no time for the longing of past busy times of hustle and joyful end of year preparedness. Our minds were on what was to come and how to be in a space that held no Christmas cheer.
It was a beautiful old hospital downtown San Antonio, 24 floors with a view of the city skyline that always sparkled. His surgery was at 5:00pm and he was in recovery at 8:00pm. He was settled in his room about 9:30pm and curled up on a cot at his feet I tried to sleep.
The whirring lights, punctuating beeps and constant throb were noises from the creature that was the Nix Hospital. The elevator ran with a rumble like the start of a roller coaster at the heart of the place, constantly beating – the building was alive.
It was a hard night for both of us and the next day, Friday went much the same. Saturday was Christmas Eve and something about the Church bells outside touched my heart.
But within the chaos of that place, I found the sweetest Chapel, simple and elegant in its design. So peaceful, so quiet in the midst of all the angst that is a hospital …and Christmas. On the back wall was a triptych of stained glass with hues of calming blue and like hope, on glorious shards of yellow on the wings of a dove soared into the spiritual light. A lone candle stood on the altar below – he is here, he is here.
My body settled into meditation. I opened my book of poems and breathed in the soothing stillness. I was being filled and restored. My heart and mind softened.
The door opened with a click and I jumped- just a little. A nurse/orderly apologized for the noise. She set her purse and a ‘to go’ bag of food on a chair at the back and came towards me.
“I don’t know what to do?” she said, a question in her voice.
“Why did you come in?” I ask.
“My mother, she comes to me in my dreams. I miss her so much…it’s her birthday today.”
Goosebumps traveled up and down my body like electrical sparkles. I looked at this beautiful lady, dark hair tied back in a ponytail, her face tense, twisting her hands in front of her. She continued with quiet urgency.
“She died in 2005… But I am dreaming of her. I tell her I am missing her food…”
I replied, “How wonderful that you have that bond. That’s a strong love when she visits you so often.” I reached out and touched her hand.
She looked around into the space behind us. “What do you do?”
I realized that she didn’t know how to connect.
“Just sit down and talk to her in your head and pray. She is with you and will hear you.”
She went to the uppermost pew and sat down. I heard her voice in a whisper, talking, talking, fervent prayers spilling out. Standing up she approached the altar, bowed her head, blessed herself and turned around.
“Thank you,” she said.
I smiled again, “What was her name, your mother?”
Again the goosebumps – I had found my Christmas .