When the pain hit, I didn’t think to pack a Bible, though I should have done so. I grabbed my bag and cellphone and got myself to the ER as quickly as I could.
Severe and scary abdominal pain is nothing to mess with, especially when you’ve encountered it twice before and don’t know why it’s occurring.
In what seemed the blink of an eye, this patient was admitted to the hospital, set up with an IV drip, and given a series of tests.
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In time, after a surgeon’s extensive review, came the decision: “Say goodbye to that gallbladder.”
Over the next several days, through pain, suffering and surgery, I had four separate roommates in the hospital.
I was lucky enough that two of those dear ladies — whose full names I never knew — shared profound lessons about faith and a fervent belief in God during our brief but significant time together.
We were separated by the usual flimsy hospital curtain, but we shared the same stalwart worries as our time overlapped in that room together.
Roommate Number Two and I spent the better part of a day together, and I frequently heard her reciting prayers and reading aloud from her Bible in an African language I could not identify.
The words were unfamiliar, but it didn’t matter.
They were the words of God. Her prayers were beautiful, soothing, and inspiring.
When a friend of hers came to visit, the two women prayed and sang aloud together.
I could not see them, but I heard them clearly as I took deep breaths and tried to get myself through the discomfort I was feeling.
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And as their harmonious voices filled our temporary hospital room, I found comfort as I worked hard to handle pain.
The moment then arrived for me to be wheeled out for my procedure.
I had to pass by my roommate’s bed as the nurses whisked me out, and I quickly looked over at her — not wanting to invade her privacy, but also wanting to make eye contact and to acknowledge her.
She and I exchanged wan smiles.
She wished me well. Then she said, “You won’t be alone.”
Kindness, caring and a reminder of God’s presence and love when you most need it — this is what our world is capable of, no matter what other nasty things may be going on at that moment.
Roommate Number Three, on the flip side of my surgery, shared her kindnesses as well.
This Honduran-American and I talked a lot in our day together, lying there in pain.
“God takes care of things,” she said at one point. I loved the confidence, the certainty in her voice even as she struggled physically with her own challenges.
“We put our faith in Him. He is watching over all of this. He is in control.”
I did not know this woman’s background either, but again, it didn’t matter. Faith is faith. God is God.
And random hospital roommates connected by nothing else than their medical emergencies and a time overlap can have common ground.
She prayed from her Bible frequently, and we looked out for each other, this roommate and I. When she was hurting in the darkness of night, I asked the nurses to spend more time with her. She had shooting pains in her back. Her arm was bothering her. Her speech was slurred. She wept.
Through it all, she prayed, she believed, she trusted — and she was kind to others.
The staff took her out for tests, then moved her to another floor before I left. As we bid each other goodbye, she said she was grateful God had given her a nice roommate. She told my husband, “Your wife took the time to talk with me. I thank the Lord for that.”
I felt the same way about her.
It’s a complicated world, but we can never take simple things for granted, including the power of God’s love for us.
I will never see either of these people again, almost certainly. A big city hospital can bring together complete strangers in desperate circumstances — then spit them them back out into their separate corners of the world, to go about their business and their lives.
But I know these ladies lived their faith when it counted most. I won’t forget their lessons.
Remember the words of Jesus as captured in the Gospel of Matthew (22:36-40): “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”
When I think of these two women of faith, this is what I will think of always.
This article appeared earlier in LifeZette and has been updated.