What My Hospital Roommates Taught Me About God
'I was blessed with faith, hope and love from two strangers — who knew what a fellow patient, hurting and nervous, needed to hear'
When the pain hit, I didn’t pack a Bible or a rosary. I didn’t think of it. I wish I had — but it was all I could do to grab my wallet and cellphone and zoom to the ER.
Severe abdominal pain is nothing to mess with, especially when you’ve encountered it before and worry about its provenance.
In what seemed the blink of an eye, I was admitted to the hospital, set up with an IV drip and given a series of tests. In time, after a surgeon’s extensive review, came the decision: “You don’t need that gallbladder anymore.”
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 time together.
We were separated by a curtain but shared the same quarters, breathed the same air, and worried the same worries, I am sure. 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. And as their harmonious voices filled our sterile hospital room, I found comfort and peace as I worked hard to breathe through pain.
The moment came for me to be wheeled out for my procedure. I had to pass my roommate’s bed, and I looked over at her.
She and I exchanged wan smiles. She wished me well.
“You won’t be alone,” she said warmly.
I sucked in a breath of air. Kindness, caring and a reminder of God’s love when you least expect it — this is what our world is capable of, and we can never forget it.
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 as we faced our respective challenges. “God takes care of things,” she said at one point. I loved the confidence, the certainty in her voice, even as she struggled physically. “We put our faith in Him. He is watching over all of this. He is in control.”
“Yes, He is.”
I did not know most of this woman’s background either, but once again it did not matter. Faith is faith. God is God.
She prayed from her Bible frequently, and we looked out for each other, this roommate and I. When she was hurting during the night, I asked the nurses to please spend more time with her. She had shooting pains in her back. Her arm was hurting and her speech was slurred. All of this was being investigated and watched, but still she prayed, she believed, she trusted — and she was kind.
The staff took her out for tests — and 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.
“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
It’s a complicated world, but we can never take simple things for granted — a kind word, a simple gesture, an acknowledgement. Everything matters.
It’s probable I will never see either of these people again. I don’t have a clue where they live, what their life situations are. A big city hospital can bring together complete strangers in the most desperate of circumstances — only for these same people to be dispatched again, out to their little corners of the world. But I know these ladies lived their faith when it counted most, and their lessons are lasting.
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.