"The Dying Woman in Room 401"

I had a post planned for the day but I just don't have time to get it all in place today. It's getting super busy at work so my posts are going to be getting shorter for the next few months I'm afraid. I want to share a story by By Marc Gellman that was in Newsweek years ago but that I have saved and reread periodically. I didn't paste all of it but the beginning is about how the writer is a rabbi whose best friend is a priest that is going to the hospital to minister to a woman dying of breast cancer. I really love the message of this story and I think of it often. I promise it's not a downer. You will see how the Happy Bluebird scarf relates after you read it

The Spiritual State: The Dying Woman in Room

The woman in room 402 was alone and sitting on the edge of her bed staring blankly out the window as if in a daze. Tommy said hello and I hung out by the door. I was thinking, "Mushroom, extra cheese, onions ..." OK, I admit it: I need work on the compassion side, but as I said before, it was Saturday night.

Tommy quietly and respectfully sat down on a chair next to the woman, held her hands gently in his hands, and said, just like this, "Dear, you are going to die, but you have nothing to fear because God is going to hold your soul in his hands like a little bird."

I was stunned. I had never seen such courageous honesty in talking to a dying person. My personal technique up to that evening watching Tommy, was to breeze into the room, smile and say, "Hey how ya doin? You look great! Well I have to be going now." Tommy just went straight into the truth without hesitation and without fear. It took my breath away.

Then Tommy asked her, "Dear, are you still afraid?" She was crying her eyes out and could barely blurt out the words, "Yes, Father, I am afraid now." Then Tommy repeated his healing spiel complete with the reference to God and the little bird (which he pantomimed for her by cupping his hands to show her just exactly how God was going to hold her soul in his hands like a little bird). Then Tommy asked her again if she was still afraid and all she could do was nod her head and breathlessly say, "Yes, I am still afraid." Tommy then asked her, "Why are you still afraid dear? Why are you afraid?"

The woman in room 402 then recovered enough composure to answer my best friend. She sobbed, "I am afraid because I just came into this hospital for a hernia operation! What are you talking about? Why am I going to die? "

Tommy, without missing a beat, rose and said to her, "Well then, you are not going to die!"
I was on the floor laughing so hard I thought I might die, repeating over and over, "Like a little bird ... like a little bird."
Tommy came over to me and said in an urgent voice, "Marc, I think we have to leave now."

The woman was pressing the call button like it was a detonator; Tommy pulled me out of the room by my feet. We ran down the hall outracing the security guys; we laid rubber screeching out of the parking lot. Over several beers and no pizza, Tommy looked at me quizzically and said these words which have sustained me personally through many screw-ups. I offer Tommy's words now to everyone everywhere who has done the best job they can, but even so it all just went to hell for some reasons they should have known and for some reasons they could not have known....

Tommy said, "Maybe the dying woman was in room 502."

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Hmn...sounds like my luck! Anywho...sorry things are getting hectic for you in the coming weeks. You'll get through it though. About Raverly- I'd thought about the audience. But I kind of like the idea of connecting with people who do what I do. I'm hoping to get some inspiration or ideas out of it. If I put a lot of work into it and it seems like it's not really all that worth it, I suppose I can always hang back. Here's to trying though:)


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