The hospital is located near a state university that I didn't attend. Not even socially. Years ago, I took Timmy to the nearby medical offices because he was (and still is) underweight. Even so, I can't admit to being familiar with the area. It was twilight and as I turned onto Livingston, I saw the plain white cross of the hospital above the low-rise city buildings. I drove to the main entrance hoping to ask the valet where I could park. There was no one out except an alabaster statue of St. Peter. I recognized him by the keys in his right hand.
Turning back onto the street, I saw a statue of Fátima.1 I really felt at home but quickly thought about my Reformed friend in the facility.
As I entered the parking garage, I was greeting with a CASH ONLY sign. I handed over my credit card but the gatekeeper refused it. I told her why I was there and gave her all I had, ten quarters. She took my name and raised the gate. I must have that kind of face. I was prepared to show ID at the security gate and received a hall pass. I found my friend's room which was full of immediate family. It was as if they were having a quiet evening at home but, I was expected, so I didn't feel as if I was intruding. The eldest daughter stayed with us while the rest went home.
I saw the flowers that I had ordered through the hospital gift shop. They looked just like the image on the website. I saw a small, thin crucifix on the wall, rather high up. Maybe intentionally out of reach. Perhaps out of sight unless one is looking for it. The room was nicely appointed with wood trim. Not large but private. As the shift was just changing, the new nurse came in, introduced herself and looked my friend over. Then she excused herself saying she had many other patients to see but call her if needed. On the weekends, I know, hospital staff leave you alone.
There's a room on the wing devoted to quiet meditation. My friend walked me down to see it. She calls it the "Zen room." The sign on the wall said "Healing Room." Chairs line all four walls and in the center is a pergola without slats along the top. Between the four upright posts of the structure are live, green, leafy plants and a pile of large, assorted river stones. On the far wall is a shiny mosaic of a tree. The soft sound of a local radio station could be heard over the PA. My friend said she heard morning prayers said over the PA once but didn't tell me the nature of those prayers.2 That is, whether they sounded Christian. But the room sticks in her craw. She associates pergolas, plants and rocks with Zen Buddhism; I associate them with the outdoors. Not altogether in bad taste for patients cooped up.
She said a hospital chaplain had visited a couple of times but she turned her away:
She was a nun.When I was in the hospital with my first child, I had disclosed my religion on the pre-registration forms, rather proudly, as I remember. Sort of thinking the information would be necessary in the event of my death, actually. Then, early on my first morning there, a woman came with holy communion. I wasn't in the right frame of mind so I thanked her but sent her away. She came back the next morning and I asked her not to come back. On subsequent pre-registrations, I omitted details about my religion. Yes, if I were in the hospital for serious reasons, I'd think differently.
We returned to her room and her daughter left. She had her text when she reached the car and text again when she got home. I never gave personal safety there a second thought, actually. I had brought my Kindle with a FREE edition of the ESV Bible (thanks, Ellen) on it and wanted to read a couple of passages I'd heard on Ascension Thursday in church. I like reading aloud and she tolerated it. Days earlier I had asked her to pray for me in return for all the prayers I was making for her. And her prayers were answered very soundly. Which poses the problem of why, if God so clearly hears and answers her prayers, she is sick in the hospital and not actively doing her ministry at home and in church.
1 Three children. I reflexively thought Fátima, then second-guessed myself and thought Lourdes. But three children is Fátima. Three secrets, three children.
2 Whether they were Divine Office or whether she would even recognize them as such.