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Snippets of stories heard from the other side of the curtain:

“That you, Jake!—Get me your ma!—Quick!” The muffled voice speaks with urgency, the palm of her hand thrumming the handrail of the gurney. On the other side of the curtain heavy breathing punctuates the drama. “Yeah—You got it—I’m in the ER—With a nosebleed. I’m full of packing.” Hours pass until her discharge to the nursing home.

“Your blood sugar’s down to 550—Down 200 since you’ve been with us,” the nurse says as she yanks the curtain behind her revealing muddied work boots atop the gurney. He moans, turns over. “If it keeps going down like this, we can let you go home by evening. Either that or keep you overnight to monitor you—At any rate we gotta figure out a way to keep you supplied with insulin.” More hours pass until his discharge.

“What’s happened here?” asks the doctor wearing green scrubs as he fingers the stethoscope around his neck and steps behind the curtain.

“You see—It’s like this—My mama fell off the porch and cut her head on the driveway.” Her words ache with fear. “Bleeding all over the place—She’s no business out there alone—I always tell her that—But she forgets—She’s all I got!” She stifles a sob. Still more hours pass until my room is available. As I leave the unit, I wish them God’s blessing. The toothless matriarch beams, her wound cleaned and sutured as she awaits more tests.

Such stories mitigate suffering and disclose the Compassionate Observer within our midst.

 

 

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Slowly, the women’s locker room door opens. Out limps a wizened senior, the drape of her swimming suit clinging to her thigh bearing a recent incision. She studies each step as she leans upon her helper’s forearm and inches her way toward the pool.

“Oh! She’s back!” says another, with white cornrows patterning her head like crop circles. She begins to wave. “Carolyn! Carolyn! We’re here! Over here!” Others, already in the pool, wiggle off the noodles supporting them in the water and head toward the steps. As they splash, eyes glisten with joy; gaiety implodes their spirits.

It is Tuesday morning at the Clayton Center in St. Louis, Missouri, and time for their water aerobics class. Only one other group ripples the surface of the pool at the deep end.

Carolyn looks up, a grin parting her creased lips, her shoulders shrugging off the tension. She stops, draws a deep breath. These are her old friends, the Noddlers—Their storied lives sealed by years of such Tuesdays, always followed by lunch at Subway’s.

Such groups like the Noddlers evidence the multifaceted mystery of life. Despite the crimping of physical pain and other diminishments, their spirits thrive within the so-called amniotic fluids of the heated swimming pool. Like the unborn, they are becoming the beautiful women God intended. Such happens within each Tuesday’s splashing around.

We learn from them.

 

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