I was at UCLA medical center last Friday. I had never been before. A dear friend of mine was having cancer surgery. As his family and I waited to go up to recovery to see him I was able to witness first hand the drama of a teaching hospital waiting room.
I am not sure how many similar waiting areas there are at UCLA's Ronald Regan Center. The waiting area we were in had seating for about 75 waiting family members - each family with a story of lives interrupted by illness or injury.
Families waited anxiously to speak with surgeons about the outcome of delicate heart surgeries or transplants. One family had a nine year old daughter with brain tumors and one anxious young couple distractedly pushed around an empty stroller waiting for their baby to come out of surgery.
One young woman commented to me that last week her biggest concern had been where her five year old would attend school next year. Now she was here at UCLA, waiting to hear how her mother's bypass had gone!
This busy waiting area is where I met Vivian, a woman with huge ocean water green eyes and wavy, golden brown hair . She sat down next to me, we smiled politely at each other but for a time we said nothing. Her fourteen year old son sat to her right and looked up from his hand held game occasionally to cast a protective glance her way. She seemed so lost and vulnerable I could easily understand his concern. With soft spoken words and lilting Egyptian accent Vivian shared about her life, her family, and her husband’s long illness.
As we waited we did what I suppose people do in waiting rooms all over, we talked, and shared, we prayed, and tried to comfort each other. Within moments God forged a bridge of friendship between us. A bridge built upon the common ground two strangers share in a place like this…waiting.
There is lots of waiting, waiting to find out the outcome of a surgery. Then you wait some more until you can actually go into a room and see that person you care so much about. You wait to gently touch their hand or hug them or say something loving and reassuring.
I went up to see my friend. How hard it is to see someone you care about hurting. You want to do something, anything within your power to take their pain away…but you can’t…I couldn't... it is a helpless feeling! And yet at the same time I had this rush of emotion I didn't expect. It was so similar to the feeling I had when I held my babies and counted their fingers and toes for the first time. It was an overwhelming flood of relief that welled up inside of me. I expelled in a long breath and muttered “Thank You God, for watching over him, he is going to be alright!”
Vivian and I saw each other again outside the recovery area and we hugged like old friends. We caught up on each other’s “patients” and promised to pray for each other and then said good bye for the last time.
Where ever you are Vivian and George, I am praying for you.