Letters From a Hospital Bed #23: Reflections From a 99 Year Old
Letters from a Hospital Bed is a series of reflections by Jim Houston, now entering his 100th year, in which Jim seeks to capture and reflect new insights of his ever-discoverable God, revealed through his own hospitalization, for the encouragement of all care givers.
Administrator's Note for All Visitors:
We are delighted that Dad is doing much better in terms of his energy and mobility. He is quite keen to see his friends, and it is delightful that so many of you have been able to visit. To assist us in ensuring that all have a quality visit with Dad, we request that everyone books an appointment at the following site (even if Dad says to just pop in between hours!)
Additionally, Point Grey Hospital has some institutional requirements in place for all visitors (to ensure the safety of the staff and all who call PGH home). Current requirements for all visitors are:
Must be vaccinated
Must do a rapid Covid test, administered by the home prior to entering (takes 15 mins)
Must be masked
On weekends, all must also book a time with Point Grey Hospital to visit (in addition to the calendar link above). Please email email@example.com by 5pm on the Thursday prior to your visit. (This is to help the staff as they have to administer a large number of covid tests to visitors).
If you are not able to meet the above requirements set by PGH, an alternative (if the weather is nice) is to book an appointment and take Dad out for a walk.
Your visits mean a great deal to Dad and he is delighted to be able to see so many of you. Please help us and the staff by working within these appointment parameters. Don't hesitate to contact me with any questions.
On behalf of our family, thank you so much for your time and love that you give Dad. It is certainly helping to sustain him.
April 21, 2022
Each day, in the endless patterns of our daily routine in this home, my floor is swept. It never strikes me that it much needs sweeping, but that is what happens, each day. Recently, on a day so much like any other, I was watching the face of the lovely girl who daily sweeps my clean floor and she looked so sad. I think I would have been sad if my life had revolved around sweeping a floor that seemed clean, but on this day, Lucy (not her real name) impressed me with a deeper sadness than I had seen before. And so I asked, “why are you so tired and so sad?” And thereupon, with broom in hand, large tears fell from her eyes to moisten the clean floor at her feet. My new friend Lucy wept.
There is a close community of nurses and care givers in our hospital. They are largely of one ethnic community and profess one faith. There are few exceptions. Lucy is one, from the same ethic community but professing another faith, and her sense of isolation and loneliness was breaking her heart. She is not alone. As our global population rises, alienation has become epidemic. Never were we closer together physically yet never further apart relationally. This pandemic, ever the accelerant on so many changes, has driven us behind doors, behind masks, behind even our own faces, to inhabit fear, alone. Lucy, pushing her broom, amidst all the denizens of our hospital floors, found herself weeping, with me as I recounted for her the lines of George Herbert in his poem The Elixir…”a servant with this cause, makes drudgerie divine: who sweeps a room as for thy laws, makes that and th’ action fine.”
Before Lucy came in that day, I had been reading in Ephesians 2: “for you are God’s handiwork”. When the eternal Father sent His Son, He sent Him in a peasant girl’s womb, whose husband was later a carpenter. Jesus, with His father Joseph, made yokes for oxen so fields could be cultivated, grain could be harvested, so bread could be made, so that people could eat. The economy of the whole village depended on the yokes made for oxen. Years later, Jesus was to preach “take my yoke upon you…and I will give you rest.” Jesus made good yokes. They mattered. But my friend and floor sweeper, on this day, only sensed her alienation, both social and professional. She could not even claim the professional merit of being a nurse. Events had conspired to leave her separated from others on every dimension of importance to her. And her broom, though vital to our clean hospital, was of no comfort.
Sadly, our culture, often our Christian culture, has linked far too closely, identity and work, or profession. As an academic, I know this trap all too well where who I am and my sense of belonging derives from my performance. This is the lie that Christ destroyed on the cross of Easter. In that moment, He forever rooted worth, our worth, the significance of my new friend Lucy, not in performance, but in Love. We are all Lucys, all floor-sweepers, all doing not enough for merit, all alien from one another, until the Cross of Easter fulfills every letter of the law, and we are made whole. May the prayer of George Herbert guide our hearts, hungry for significance and belonging.
Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for Thee.
Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into an action;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.
This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.
With my prayers that all your ‘floor-sweeping’ bring you joy as you do all for the Lord.
With my blessings