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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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The night split by lightening, roiled by thunder, throttled by high winds, and drenched by slanting rains feels like menacing spirits on rampage.

Yet with morning, sunlight seeps within the crevices of the pavers in my backyard and begins germinating the seeds deposited by trickster winds. After a few days, the inevitable happens. Patches of crabgrass sprawl aimlessly like the disorders that crop up in my psyche: resentments, fears, self-centeredness, and irritation. Beneath such eruptions lie rioting instincts. Ferreting them out continues to be a humbling practice because of their deep-rootedness.

The question, from whence come these disorders leads to a deeper one: the evil that exists both within and without us.

Jesus speaks to this fact in the parable of the weeds and wheat (Mt. 13). During the night an enemy cast noxious seeds into a farmer’s wheat field; in time, ugly weeds sprouted. Alarmed by this discovery, his servants asked for direction. Lest they pull up the wheat, they were told to leave the weeds alone until the harvest. Then, a reckoning would occur.

Jesus likens the wheat field to the Kingdom of God; the sower, to the Son of Man; the enemy, to the evil one; and the harvest, to the end of the world. Indeed, there will be a reckoning. “The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all… who do evil and throw them into the blazing furnace….”

Thus Jesus’s followers are not to lose heart by evil that serves to hone their skills of Kingdom-living: “They will shine like the sun.…”

 

 

She prays.

Slowly, her veined hand moves across his sunken chest. No longer is there a heartbeat. He is gone. Unfathomable peace suffuses his shriveled remains. Within that sacred moment she rests—fulfilled are her vows of almost seven years, pronounced that festive afternoon in their parish church where they had met at daily Mass, their snowy hair enhancing their flushed faces. Afterwards, merriment enlivened their white-tent reception filled with families and friends. It was all about love with its inherent sacrifices.

She prays.

Of little consequence, now, were his temper tantrums, rigid judgments, blaming—behaviors exacerbated by his Parkinson’s Dementia, three years into the marriage. Of little consequence was his frequent need in the middle of the night to pack his things in a pillowcase and go home. Of little consequence was his emptying the contents of the kitchen drawers into the refrigerator, of flooding the bathroom floor. Of little consequence was his violent reaction to placement in a skilled nursing facility, despite painstaking preparations. Now, he lives in eternal life and that’s all that matters.

She prays. Her eyes glisten.

Salted by keen suffering, she lives the mandate of Jesus Christ to be “the salt of the earth.”

Her name is Mary.

 

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