On the other side

My heart hurts today. Physically, literally hurts.

You see, I work in a hospital. Maybe it's a strange place to start working six months after my dad died, in a hospital, no less. But I couldn't deny the mysterious draw to that same setting where my family and I had been treated with such compassion and care on the day that changed everything.

It was bound to happen sooner or later, I suppose. I work with cardiologists and talk to parents who bring their children in for testing, consultations, routine check-ins. Their heart problems can range from fairly mild to fairly serious, and they're in very good hands with us.

But not one of the doctors I work with is the author of life.

This morning, I learned of the death of a patient. He was just a little boy, and I'd been following his journey from a distance for just a few days. I saw the frantic messages back and forth, his mother's desperate solicitude, the doctors' questions and evaluation and concern. His mom sent a couple of pictures, one of him at the playground, with rosy cheeks and pursed lips and twinkling eyes. In the other, he lay sleeping in her arms in the hospital. Just a corner of her face was showing, her tired brown eye a pool of anguish and broken-hearted love. How well I know that look.

Soon after I learned he'd been admitted, I reached out to a few close friends to ask them to pray. And I started praying myself. I'd never spoken to this mother, never met her son. And she'll never know me, the anonymous woman in a cubicle on the eighth floor who was rooting and hoping and praying along with her. But no matter. Still, we belong to each other. Still, her sorrow has become my own. And my heart breaks with hers.

All of these patients will die. Please, God, it won't happen for many decades, after long, full, happy lives. But each one of them, each one of us, has numbered days. Happy toddlers and healthy 63 year-olds shouldn't die, but they do. As I pass these largely joyful days in a glorious new season of my life, feeling full of hope and promise, it's easy to forget that I'm not invincible. But then God brings me back to that paper-thin veil between death and life, between this world and the next. That shock of separation between body and soul causes such pain, but amazingly, points to the greatest fulfillment that awaits us all, to the greatest love, if only we're willing to open ourselves to it. To Him, that is.

How grateful I am for this fragile heart of mine. I'll keep letting it ache and break as I work and pray within these hidden cubicle walls, helping in my own small way to heal the hearts of the children who come to us for care. I sure won't save any lives, but I sure can love.

So love I will, one beat of my hurting heart at a time.




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