Let me just start off by saying thank you for checking in. Maybe you’re a friend or family member, maybe you’re a fellow writer or regular blog follower of mine, maybe you just happened to land on this post via Google search. Whoever you are, thank you for taking time to join our journey through eye cancer.
Today was day three in the hospital. It was a good day, as “status quo” as a day in the hospital could be. Seth was in good spirits. The gold bottle cap plaque is still stitched in his eye. The radiation is still working to kill the cancer. The cocktail of pain medications they created for him two nights ago is still working well. Seth’s still eating two apples a day. And Dr. G is fabulously kind and intelligent. Seth lapped the unit three times holding hands with me this afternoon. And he enjoyed an awesome piece of wedding-worthy cake I brought him from Mayo Clinic. Perhaps the worst part of his day was when he admitted he’d be “lonely” when we left the hospital at 7:00 p.m.
But you see, Seth and I have this informal agreement we’ve come to realize over the past 19 3/4 years. When I’m down, he’s usually up. And when he’s down, I’m usually up. With that in mind, let me just say that Seth’s day was good. My day turned from shaky to profoundly holy between 7:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
So for all of you who are curious about the big-picture journey beyond the four walls of Seth’s hospital room, stay with me. I’m about to share more about my day. Although you must know, I’m certain my words won’t do it justice.
Let’s begin, shall we?
I got out of bed a little later than I’d wanted, but still managed to run over to Starbucks for a cup of coffee and scone for Seth before the shuttle came to pick us up. Let me just say, I was fine at this point. But I wasn’t awesome. We’ve been arriving at the hospital by 8:15 a.m. and leaving at 7:00 p.m. I’ve been writing each night after we get back (my choice), which has left me staying up extra late to get in a little quiet time alone before doing it all over again. I haven’t exercised for five days, which is too long without a workout for me. I’ve been sleeping and feeling fine from all indications, but perhaps things have continued to accumulate under the surface without my awareness.
While I was waiting for coffee at Starbucks, I received an email. It humbled me, hurt my heart a bit, and required an immediate response on my part. (Please don’t wonder too long. It’s a private matter and was completely resolved within a few hours in the most heartfelt of ways. I’m only sharing because I believe it was critical to the start and storyline of my day.)
We arrived at the hospital and took the elevator up to Seth’s room. I went right in, and Seth’s parents headed straight for coffee and the waiting room. Seth was still sleeping, so I broke out my laptop and began drafting a heartfelt response to the email I’d received earlier. I had the email completely drafted by the time Seth woke up, but didn’t send it quite yet. I got Seth his coffee and scone. I ordered his breakfast and set up his bed tray so it would be ready when the food was delivered. But Seth noticed right away that something wasn’t right. He questioned without hesitation, “Is something wrong? I can’t see well, but my other senses are making up for my lack of sight. I can tell something’s not right with you today.” I told him vaguely what had happened, and then shared “I think I’m just more tired than I know. Or it’s all piling up on me or something.”
We decided to get Seth a shower before breakfast arrived, so I broke out the hand-held shower head and Seth sat down on a chair in the bathroom, clothes and all, for his first post-surgery hair washing. I had to take off my shoes and socks so my feet didn’t get wet and I know this sounds weird, but it all felt a little Jesus-y. I wasn’t really in the mood to get wet and take my shoes and socks off. And truth be told, I’m the farthest from a hair stylist there is. But this felt like something Jesus would do. I love my husband and it was time for a washing. So I washed his hair and helped him get in the shower before I let him be.
I finished composing my email and pressed send. Seth got out of the shower, breakfast arrived shortly after and he asked me to read the last two days’ blog posts I’d written. He usually reads my blog posts quietly to himself at his leisure. Sometimes he comments, sometimes he doesn’t at all. With him not being able to read this week, he hasn’t been able to read the posts. I was feeling blah and raw, and for some reason, I wasn’t sure if I could make it through a reading aloud of my own writing. So when Seth suggested maybe his mom could read the posts to him later, it was a definite yes.
Seth’s parents came back to the room. Within a couple minutes, we got a call from Dr. G’s secretary. There was paperwork over at Mayo Clinic that had been signed and needed to be returned to Seth’s employer. We needed to pick it up in person. But a form I’d signed yesterday caused a whole lot of commotion, which meant that before I’d be able to pick up the paperwork from Mayo Clinic, I’d need to go sign more paperwork downstairs.
The day wasn’t going smoothly so far.
So I took the folder of paperwork and went downstairs to begin resolving the paperwork problem. I completed a new form and went back up to the room to have Seth sign it. At that point, Seth’s mom was ready to begin reading the last two blog posts, so it was a good time for me to bring the paperwork back downstairs and head off for a little quiet time.
Off I went. I returned the paperwork to the powers that be and let myself wander through the hospital.
I passed the row of nun portraits we viewed two days prior. I read the plaque that described Mayo’s history, how one nun dreamed of opening a hospital after a tornado back in the 1800s. And look at this place now.
I meandered through the gift shop with my eyes set on beautiful things. Flower bouquets. Handmade dolls. Delicate earrings. And plaques with words that would someday mean the world to somebody in this place.
I followed the sign to chapel. All the way up, down and around long hallways.
As I turned the corner into the chapel, a husband photographed his wife signing the cross across her chest.
A woman sat near the front, completely still, completely silent.
I was one of three in the enormous Mayo chapel.
I sat in a long pew. The chapel was incredible, beautiful, amazing and breathtaking. I let my eyes scan wherever they may. I didn’t pray so much as I experienced God’s presence for a half hour, maybe more. Light shined through yellow and blue stained-glass windows. I stared at the vanilla cream columns, the thoughtfully painted blue and white floral designs on the window arches way up high. I noted the repetitive rectangular design on the ceiling, the fans and golden chandeliers. When a young woman wheeled an elderly woman through the chapel, I noticed the stations of the cross, the beautiful paintings lining the walls.
But what I noticed most was the light coming in through the stained-glass windows, the shifting of light and shadows, first on the floor, then throughout the whole chapel. The light wasn’t predictable. But it was beautiful and soft. Unlike the world’s sometimes rude and unforgiving ways, the light was incredibly gentle and forgiving. It entered subtly and slowly. I had to wait for it, and I never knew where it would land next. A shifting of light here meant a shadow there. Freshly lit spaces were stunning and radiant in modest, unassuming ways. I likened the light to God’s ways, to the Spirit’s movement in my life. I need to learn these rhythms of grace.
When my soul felt rest, I got up, walked around the stations of the cross and examined the paintings.
In the back of the chapel, I found a large bible on a pedestal. Before walking away, I read excerpts from the page that was open. Matthew. The treasure and the pearl. Jesus Feeds Five Thousand. Jesus Walks on the Water. Other Miracles. Hmmm…of all the pages. I’ve been hearing these messages of feeding five thousand and walking on water repeatedly the past year and a half. And now here, at Mayo. God has been speaking messages of faith and obedience, provision and trust.
I made my way back to the room. Things felt much better. The chaplain came for a visit and we chatted some more. But before long, we realized I’d need to make my way over to Mayo Clinic for that paperwork. So I hopped on the shuttle.
The shuttle ride was humbling. At the Ronald McDonald House, a mama loaded her significantly disabled son onto the shuttle. At the Gift of Life transplant house, a woman wearing a scarf with a few stray hairs underneath sat down in front of me. And along the way, an unusually friendly man engaged me and eventually revealed he’s transitioning from man to woman, how it’s been hard on his wife. Dear God, what would you have me see? What would you have me learn? What would you have me experience? How would you have me respond?
At that point, I was in another world as far as I was concerned. I likened the experience to my time in Haiti. For some reason, I’d been dropped in another foreign, but holy place.
An elderly man played piano effortlessly and beautifully on Mayo Clinic’s main level. I’d approached from the upper street level, so it was impossible to ignore the crowd of patients and caregivers surrounding him. From the second I arrived, I sensed this was an incredibly holy space, even holier than two weeks prior when I’d noted the healing power of that piano. The man played and played. One song after another. How Great Thou Art. His Eye is on the Sparrow. On and on. A man limped with double leg braces. Women and men sat nearby in wheelchairs. A woman wearing bright pink nodded her head continually in agreement with the music. People threw out requests one after another. And sick people passed with caregivers one after another. The elderly man played with eloquence, all by heart. It was incredibly, incredibly holy. From my perspective up above on street level, it was so holy that it nearly took my breath away. Tears streamed and I literally had to walk away at one point and gather myself because the presence of God was so tangible.
I took pictures. I stood still and listened. I was approached by a man in his 50s who asked my story, brought me to tears, and told me I was beautiful. I moved around from side to side as my body led. I didn’t rush, but stayed still, quiet in this place of holiness. In an odd way, I wished for everyone to be here, to realize how sick we all really are, how we’re living amongst the dying and dying amidst the living, how we’re all desperate for the tender loving care of a Savior. It was another glimpse of heaven, only on earth. Ridiculously holy, indeed.
After a while, I moved on. I picked up the paperwork. I meandered down the hallway to get lunch. I picked up that tiny, amazing, $6 wedding-worthy cake from a delightful bakery, and I walked into a ladies boutique filled with beautiful clothing and jewelry. On the way out, I thanked the store owner for bringing such beauty to a place filled with such pain. “Thank you,” she said, “that means a lot to me.”
On the way to the hospital four days ago, I told Seth that if I was a screenplay writer or movie producer, I’d make a quiet, beautiful, emotionally complex and visually rich movie with a deeply spiritual and meaningful storyline. Yes, I’d make a movie that looks and feels like today. It’s title? When Beauty Falls.