that which causes hope

His skin was a color of promise- The color of rich soil, the depthless look of burgeoning dark grapes in the vineyards near his home. He had been sitting quietly in a corner of the drab waiting room marked "NUCLEAR MED" in fading letters. There was a girl with him, and it seemed they had been waiting a long time.

Everyone had been waiting a long time, in that cheerless room. Even those who had just arrived. Piece by piece, conversations floating through the stale air turned into stories. There was the little girl who would later share a room with me as she ate a radioactive breakfast ("Careful not to spill the eggs, dear, or we'll have to call a hazmat team."), having been unable to complete a barium swallow after gagging repeatedly on the dense, sick-sweet liquid. While the conversation wandered and patients were called away, the man and his daughter said nothing. They both dozed intermittently as the clock ticked on.

Not until the room was mostly empty did he speak. His English was good, if heavily accented. He had fled his own (unspecified) African country, hoping to start a family and a better life in America.

His hair was cropped close, and I could see the beginnings of grey. Surely he must be the patient. But his glance strayed continually to his daughter, who was now across the room, wrapped in his coat and trying to sleep. There was a desparate look in his eye, that I came to understand as the wild love of a parent who has no power to save their child. Haltingly, briefly, he told us her story.

She was 15, the oldest of his children, and a freshman in high school. She was very athletic and was eager to join her school's basketball team. The required sports physical seemed a nuisance, and she put it off as long as she could. She felt fine, why did she have to go see a doctor to tell her that? Still, she went, and her physical exam was mostly unremarkable. The doctor did notice a small, irregular lump in the soft flesh near her underarm. Probably nothing, it's just a small lump. We'll biopsy it just to be sure, but it's really not a big deal. Don't worry yourself over it. The doctor signed her exam form, and she was free to go.

The follow-up to her biopsy changed everything. Lymphoma. How could it be? She felt fine, she was 15, and she had cancer. The bleak prognosis reverberated through them, yet they stood fast and resolved to face what lay ahead.

Even having shared his own staggering heartbreak, he clasped my mother's pale hands in his own, seeming to read her anxiety over me. "Your daughter, she will go with God now. I feel it, she is in His hands. He will watch her."

Despite all fear, his words were those of promise.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is powerful writing in so many ways. the waiting room scene was gripping, and the characters so real. there is something to be said for turning things over to a higher power, i wish i could do it more easily.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Dreaming again said...

I live in the heart of the Bible belt ..where people (misguidedly) believe that if you are living right ... God will heal you.
(a belief I find incredibly disturbing, not to mention, not Biblical)

Someone recently asked me why I am so sure that I am right and they are wrong ..and I said three words ... "The Waiting Room"

Quite simply ... I have been able to share my faith far more in the waiting rooms of doctor's offices, hospitals etc etc etc ... if 'they' were right ... then how would the desperately sad, scared and sick ..who might not believe the same ... join hands with the hope of someone who's gone through it already and come out victorious ... if not healthier?

2:22 AM  
Blogger imfunnytoo said...

This was just beautifully written. Thank you.

9:14 PM  

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