“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Talbot, but we did all we could—Your husband’s heart just gave out on us,” said the emergency room doctor to the silver-haired woman sitting across from me. She gasped, then sagged onto her lap, while still rubbing the slim gold band on her finger, a gesture that seemed to quiet her during our long wait in the cry room for news. Earlier, her husband had collapsed onto the breakfast room table where paramedics revived him.

After a pause, the doctor slipped next to her on the couch and gently touched the back of her tweed coat. Stunned, she looked up, her ashen jowls mouthing speech, her dark eyes in bondage to angst. “I think I remember that your sons are on the way, that you’ve already made arrangements?” he said looking softly at her while smoothing his tie beneath his medical coat.

She nodded, then searched the confines of the room, grabbed a magazine from the coffee table, then threw it down. She was beside herself: her tears glacier-hardened. It had been that way the whole time I was with her.

Then, with balled fists, she sprang from the couch and shuffled toward the lobby. Outside, earlier snow showers had turned into whistling wind-capped snow spirals. From their midst emerged three figures, shoulders hunched, attentive to icy patches on the ground. She, too, saw the figures and with reckless abandon headed toward them, her arms outstretched, again drenching her flats. In the next moment, the sons slipped off their overcoats and raising their arms, tented their mother from the snow; then, hugged, their bodies swaying like a wind-up toy: release.

I watched for long moments–one of my favorite chaplain stories from the 1980s….