Strangers in a Strange Place

I’m here in the waiting room of the SICU (Surgical Intensive Care Unit), with my wife, visiting her sister.  I’ve been observing the other families that are here to visit their loved ones.  Unlike the old-days, hospitals now allow people to stay in the waiting rooms 24/7 and because of the critical condition of the patients here many families do.  Now, maybe I’m just getting old but I have to get a room at night but if I was staying for weeks like some of these people have, the expense would become prohibitive and I would be sleeping in the waiting room too.  So, what you have is a group of families basically trapped together in a room.  Typically, there is a TV, a bunch of chairs, a few tables, a few couches (these are really just wide chairs not plush sofas) and a coffee machine.  This particular hospital is luxurious in that your cell phone will work and they have free WiFi (not really free since ultimately the patients pay for it).

When we arrived late last night people were getting into comfortable clothes and getting ready to go to sleep for the night.  They are amongst strangers but because of the situation all normal rules of public vanity are null and void.  It’s different than a typical group situation like being on an airplane or bus which has a definite start and end point, this is ongoing.  People join and leave the group on their own schedule, for example we arrived Friday night and are just here for the weekend.  It hasn’t happened this weekend but sometimes a family will leave in tears and the room falls silent for a while, all knowing they could be next.  I have heard of the strange psychology of hostage situations and refugee camps; this waiting room is like a microcosm of people being held in suspense by the failing health of loved ones.  There are no bars on the door, no fence, and no crazed gunman preventing people from leaving, they are held by love and fear.  After a while the family boundaries start to blur and people become pseudo-friends for the duration of their stay.  For a while people find it easier to obey Matthew 22:39 “…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Heavenly Father,
You are an awesome God and we are a sinful people, undeserving of your loving kindness.  Please listen to your humble servant’s prayer.  I ask that, in your great mercy, no family will leave here in tears today or tomorrow, and if it is in your will, ever again.  Also, that every person here continues to act kindly to those around them when they leave here.  This I pray in the name of our Saviour, Your son, Jesus Christ.
Amen

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3 Responses to “Strangers in a Strange Place”

  1. Gah, those are seriously heavy moments that seem to stretch on hours longer than they really are. I’m not sure I’ll ever be totally comfortable with hospital visitations. You’re right though. The best thing we can do is just cover the room with prayer.

  2. Jim,

    I have been in situations like this before. The most recent was about 13 years ago while my Father was spending his last days at Vanderbilt. The family kept a vigil in the waiting room and we took turns going back to one hotel room to get some rest. At the time I wasn’t saved but I can remember Tony and some friends from his Church coming in to pray for our Father. I never thought about praying with and for other families who were going through the same thing. I think these are excellent times to share the gospel and show our love for our neighbors. Thanks for sharing…Chris

  3. Jim,

    Your post is a good example of how common hardship/tradegy produces community. You illustrate well the tangible emotional connection that must have been in that room. I wonder why it is so hard sometimes to experinces the same thing in Christian community. It would seem that our relationship with Christ would bond people the same way as other circumstances, but I have experienced that personally. It could be me. Good post sir!

    Grace and Peace.

    Tony

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