What My Hospital Roommates Taught Me About God
'I was blessed with faith, hope and love from two strangers — and they knew what a fellow human being 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 rush to the ER.
Severe abdominal pain is nothing to mess with, especially when you’ve encountered it twice 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: “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, but wish I had — shared profound lessons about faith and a fervent belief in God during our brief time together.
We were separated by that flimsy hospital curtain, but we shared the same quarters, breathed the same air, and worried many of the same worries. 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 as I worked hard to breathe through pain.
The moment arrived 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 then wished me well. "You won't be alone," declared this stranger.
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, no matter what other nasty things may be going on out there.
Roommate Number Three, on the flip side of 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. "We put our faith in Him. He is watching over all of this. He is in control."
"Yes, He is."
I did not know this woman's background either, but again it did not matter. Faith is faith. God is God. And random hospital roommates connected by nothing else than medical emergencies 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 summoned the nurses and asked them 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.
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.
"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 — kind words, simple gestures, deliberate acknowledgements.
Almost certainly I will never see either of these people again. A big city hospital can bring together complete strangers in desperate circumstances — then dismiss and discard them back out into their separate corners of the world. 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.