Standing at the front door of the local hospital, I feel a tug in both directions.  One pulls me back to my car, where it’s safe and you don’t have to see the pain.  The other pulls me towards my dear friend whom I love and miss.  The heart longs to take that elevator ride and yet the head keeps trying to persuade me to walk the other way.  Thankfully the heart is more powerful and I make my way to check in.

There is a woman sitting with her attention full on the tiny baby in the car seat placed on the neighboring chair.  She is clearly tuned in to a new love in her life.  I guess it is her grandchild…..maybe her first?  Maybe I couldn’t be more wrong but the emotion is what catches my attention.  So much hope for a future full of love, laughter, misadventure and life.  It strikes me with it’s beauty.  

I’m drawn back to my reality as I can hear and feel the heaviness in my own breath.   I remember where I am going and what I have come to do.  As I gather my thoughts I can hear myself say ….”be strong”…..this is not the time to feel what I am feeling.  Or is it?  I don’t know. 

A nurse is pushing a wheel chair towards the door.  Another patient on the road to recovery, another family reunited.  Thankful indeed……hopeful for sure……relieved at last.  I find myself thinking “that’s the way it should be.”

It won’t be for all.  Some won’t go home, won’t be “fixed”, families  won’t leave together and I allow the thought to creep in…….it’s not fair.  Suddenly my mom’s voice rings in my head “life is not fair”.  She’s right I know she is, but I don’t want to hear it, not today, not now. I am snapped out of my thoughts once again by the pregnant lady in the elevator who is sharing her labor pains with everyone around her.  I think “pain with a purpose.”  Is all pain with a purpose?  It has to be……right?  If not then what is the point?  It has to have a purpose, it just does.

The room is dark and the bed is still.  The silhouette of a visitor sitting by the window reminds me that there is another dear hurting friend.  I’m taken out of my own pain to the pain of others, oh so much pain.  We sit together in mostly silence.  The original three, reunited.  A new strength rises within me.  I go into care taking mode, it’s all I know to do at the time.  Are you cold? Are you hot?  Can I get you some ice chips?  Communication with words is strained, I can’t understand the faint responses.  I pour out what I have and soak in what I can.  Each look, each word uttered, no matter how strained, is ingrained in my thoughts.  I know time is short and yet my prayers for a miracle are even more fervent.  “God hears the cries of the hurting.” 

The doctor walks in and walks back out. I feel like I don’t belong but I can’t be anywhere else. Watching from the hall, my heart knows what he is going to say and yet I hang on to the hope that his message will be exactly what we all long to hear.  It is not. 
Doctors…there mission is to save lives.  They train, work, study and strive to achieve that goal with each patient that walks through the door.  I feel a tinge of pain for him as I think what it must be like to deliver the news no one wants to hear. I think about what it must feel like to know you couldn’t fix it this time. You had given hope, you were so sure things could and would get better. You too must be grieving at the same moment you offer words of little hope. An unwavering voice that must share the one thing the listener dreads hearing most. The one thing you have dreaded having to say. Then you must walk to the next room and offer more hope. Will this time be different? Can you fix this one? Or will you repeat the dreaded conversation you just had? The shock of the first time I heard still hasn’t worn off and yet I know as I gaze at a pale and weak body that this will be the last visit. This will be my last chance. What do you say? What can you say? I choose to not say much. The visit isn’t long and drawn out and I say my goodbyes as if I’ll be back tomorrow but I know the tomorrows are very few.
How do you offer comfort when you grieve yourself? How do you console a breaking heart when yours is hanging on by threads?
There is a point where auto pilot kicks in and you don’t know how exactly you get down the hall. The elevator ride is non existent and yet here you are standing in the lobby. As we stand there sharing so much with out uttering many words, familiar faces appear. The first one looking to you for hope. Have you been up there? How is it? There isn’t much to say, the tears do the talking and the listener understands. Now they too must fight the pull out the front door and instead take the walk to what they know may be their last as well. This repeats another time to another hopeful face.
Now that familiar pull is back. I can’t leave, I want to but I can’t….I need to but I don’t. There are more tears, a little more conversation. Again I don’t know how it happens but I now stand in the parking lot. Already we have hugged and said goodbye to the father who is facing the loss of his daughter less than six months after he squeezed his wife’s hand for the last time. Hugged the husband of 40+ years who has no idea how tomorrow will happen.
It was less than two months ago, everything changed. So sudden. So brutal. How did we not know? How could we not see the beast that had already done such irreversible damage? How did everyone miss it? I want to know….it doesn’t matter….
Now the son. The brave one who has held together all the others is weeping as he wraps his arms around us. We all weep. Sometimes words say a lot less than actions and tears.
I grieve with hope, this is true. For I know as I stand in the parking lot that in the end she will be pain free. Surrounded by peace and beauty. She will be…..home…..the home her heart has longed for though she wasn’t ready to leave just yet. This is the hope, this is what I hold onto. But in that hope, in that assurance one thing is crystal clear. To grieve with hope is not to grieve pain free. It doesn’t make everything pretty, it doesn’t dry the tears. It doesn’t make it “all okay.” It certainly doesn’t keep my heart from breaking not does it act as a bandaid. This is real oh so real. I feel it now like never before. I have longed for and hoped for a different outcome. I have prayed. Cried out on my knees to the One I know and believe can change it all. I don’t trust him any less when his answer is no but it hurts… deeply it hurts.
It’s been six months and it still hurts. Yet there is still hope. I hang on to both. I need them both. I need the hope to get through the pain and I need the pain to remember why to hope. I need the comfort of a savior who’s plans are wiser than mine and more perfect than I can imagine. I will continue to grieve with hope. I wish I understood more, could answer more questions, could see more of the puzzle. Yet I feel privileged to have just been a part.
Lord it’s in your hands.