Wearing stained khaki shorts and a wide-striped t-shirt, a stranger sits eating cafeteria sushi from a Styrofoam tray. A black and white keffiyeh is slung casually around his neck.
X-ray technicians scoot purposefully between examination rooms, quietly intoning the names of first one patient, then the next.
A beyond-old gentleman, parchment skin stretched too thin across dying bones, moans gently from his stretcher, "Help me? Somebody help me?" The immediately on-hand nurses reassure him, again and again, that he'll soon be rescued from his stuck-in-the-hallway plight.
Settling into a suspiciously soiled waiting room chair, I search for a magazine to busy my hands; something I can pretend to read while I take in the abbreviated bits of people-stories murmuring around me. My glance meets that of a fifty-something blue collar worker. Work boots agap at the tongues, shirt sleeves rolled past his elbows, he initiates conversation.
Small talk and pleasantries are quickly set aside as I set my gaze on the two slender metal pins protruding from his swollen right hand. In answer to my query, he tells of a tumble from his camper step followed by a pain filled and sleepless night. With a satisfied grin he relays the story of pokes and prods and pinning that he's since endured. I squirm to learn that he's been without painkillers all day. He is good-humored, I think, for a man who has been shuffling from one hospital waiting room to another for the past seven hours.
Our conversation turns to his time in the city and his much missed home in Saskatchewan. We talk about his wife, his dog, his three grown children. "And I'm going to be a Grandpa for the first time. Sometime this month, actually."
He refers to his coming grandchild by name, "Parker's coming soon, but he'll be born with only half a heart. It's going to be tough on the little guy." Parker will be Lacey and Ron's first child and the family's first grand baby. My new acquaintance calmly, gently, calls the wee on-the-way boy by name again as he talks about the research he's done into the baby's condition, the surgeries that will be involved in building the boy a heart that will do what it needs to, and the documented lifespan of a child born with such a condition.
"Twenty-one, twenty-two years. That's it. I don't know. You just wonder if it'd be better if maybe something happened right when he was born, you know?"
I don't know. I don't pretend to know. So I don't suggest that I do. I ask another question or two and then my name is called. "I don't know if I'll see you again," I say, moving toward the nurse that's waiting by the exam room door, "but I'm going to pray for Parker...and for Lacey...and for you. I'll just pray."
He doesn't say anything to that. What can you say to that? His parting smile is genuine and patient and full of goodness.
So here I am, thinking about Parker and Lacey and Grandpa-to-be and wondering if maybe you'd pray, too? Parker's story, his family's story, will never be known to us. But we can ask our Everywhere, Everydetail God to connect to that story.