She sat alone in the hallway, the “crossroads” of our end of the hospital. I saw her as I headed to the PT room, where Harpo, the therapy dog, awaited to brighten my day. She appeared frail, huddled between several blankets, sitting in a chair outside her room, her hospital tray positioned in front of her.
I watched her as I neared, the way her eyes looked at each person as they hurried past. Some spoke; some didn’t. The ones that did made her eyes light up, but it was short lived as they hurried on. As I approached her and our eyes met, I smiled and told her “Good morning!”. She smiled back and returned the greeting. I told her she seemed to have a prime spot, where two busy hallways intersected. “Yes,” she said, “A lot of people have walked past me this morning.” OUCH!
I continued down the hall to see Harpo. He’s a small, white dog (I don’t know dog breeds) and seemed happy to see me again this week. I sat down with several other patients and listened as they talked about their dogs and how much they missed seeing them and how wonderful it was that the hospital had therapy dogs. But I must say…my mind was elsewhere.
As I headed out of the PT room and turned towards my room, I could see the woman again, right where she had been earlier. I walked slowly, observing the people walking past her. Everyone walked quickly, hurrying to their destination, their own agenda firmly in place.
I slowed once again as I approached her and smiled warmly at her. I stopped and we exchanged a few words. She told me how disappointed she was that she hadn’t gone home that day like she thought she would. As I leaned against the wall to listen, she said to me, “There’s a chair in my room that you could bring out and ‘set’ a spell…if you have the time.” It was a hopeful statement…more like a question. I nodded and walked in her room to get the chair. I noticed two bouquets of flowers by the window and as I sat down in the chair, I mentioned them to her.
The first was from her daughter who lived far away. The other from her daughter’s best friend, who had been like another daughter to her as the girls grew up. With a shaky hand, she reached onto the tray and handed me the cards that were with the flowers. They were each signed (typed) with the greeting, “Feel better soon” She laughed and said, “I wish it were that easy.”
I told her my name and asked hers. Margaret she said. “I don’t really go for nicknames…I’ve had some I like and some I didn’t, so I’ve stayed Margaret.”
Well, I can certainly understand that. Some of mine were “Son-ja”, Sony no bologny, Stringbean (yes, its been a while), Stilts, Too-tall True (You have to be old to get that one)…well, you get the picture.
I asked Margaret how long she’d been here. “A week”, she told me. “You know, it’s funny,”, she said, “I had a couple people visit the first day…then one the second day, and nobody since then.” I asked her where she lived and she said it was just down the road a spell, not far. She said her nephew lived within walking distance of her house, “if you are a healthy person” and he came over about once a week to cut her grass. I told her that must be nice to see him that often. She looked deep in to my eyes and said, “I see him out the window. He hollars in the door when he gets there and when he leaves. By the time I get up out of my chair, he’s already gone.”
We talked for a while longer, about flowers and gardens and canning food. She told me she was ninety years old and had lived alone for a very long time. She said that her second marriage had been a sucess (she didn’t offer more details than that and I didn’t ask) and that she felt blessed to still be living at home.
Three doctors, all very young, passed by us and she leaned in close and confided to me that the tall, good looking one was going to be a great doctor someday. I smiled and asked her how she could know that. “Because,” she said, leaning back in her chair, “he takes the time to listen to me. The others are very polite, but they get right down to business, reading off their charts and never making eye contact. He looks me in the eye everytime, asks how I am feeling and listens to me, before he gets down to business. He has compassion. That young man is going to be a great doctor…because he’s already a great person.”
Margaret and I talked for a while longer, until the three doctors stopped in front of us and asked if they could speak to her. One of the doctors (not the tall, good looking one) asked me if I was Margaret’s daughter. I held up my arm where the IV port was, and started to say “No, I’m a patient.” Before I could say anything, Margaret patted my hand and said, “Yes, for today she is!”
We smiled at each other and I got up to leave. I reached for the chair and the “good looking” doctor stepped forward and said, “I’ll get that for you.” I thanked him and looked at Margaret, who winked and nodded. She was right…he is great person. I told her I would look for her later and headed back to my room.
I saw her still sitting there a few hours later, when I headed to supper. She called me by name and told me to enjoy my supper. I returned the greeting and headed to the dining room. After supper, when I passed her room, there were several nurses in, so I walked on by. I went by later and her room was dark, so I didn’t stop.
It’s morning now. For days I have listened to the complaints of my roommate (15 years old). I’m sure it’s hard to be confined to a hospital bed at such a young age. It’s no picnic at any age…lol. But the complaining wears on you. Margaret was such a ray of sunshine in my day. For very selfish reasons, I feel so blessed that she had to stay an extra day. Lord, thank you for Margaret and her invitation to “set a spell”.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion. –Dalai Lama