Joe. Not his real name. But he may have been severely beaten over some kind of drug/money deal and he may have undergone surgery. And he may have been sharing a room with my husband in the hospital last week.
But he was definitely a hard roommate. Probably around 20 years old. Probably had been pretty healthy and hospital-free. Probably a bit entitled.
Definitely without loving family at his side. He was all alone and he knew it. He asked for someone to call his family. He demanded attention when his pain escalated. He was vocal about the medications he wanted. He was a heart-wrenching case.
Bud introduced himself through the curtain and a tentative relationship began. Joe occasionally asked Bud to help him, which he did. One time Bud went over and talked with him for quite some time and got to read to him from the Gospel of John. And at some point in the relationship, Joe cried out that he wanted to change. Bud showed him the way to the One who can change everything. And Joe prayed to receive Him.
And Joe was moved to a different room.
Matthew arrived – also not his real name. Matthew was on the opposite end of the spectrum from Joe. Good job, loving wife, clean life. But Matthew struggles with anxiety. We saw some of his anxiety response and it was pretty intense.
Bud sat with him a couple of times and listened to him talk about his anxieties, about what brought him to the hospital, about his life. And Matthew had a front row seat to our drama.
The curtain is not a wall; it is not a soundproof barrier. That thin fabric hanging between beds is simply a flimsy attempt at dignity for those who are publicly enduring hardship.
Matthew heard every time the doctors came in and all asked the same questions. He heard Bud’s medical issue and what brought him to the hospital. And he heard every time a doctor came in with a not-so-great report. He heard the words with us, “mass,” “tumor,” “lesions.” And he heard it at the same time we did – Cancer. As we were absorbing the words “lesions in the brain” Matthew was absorbing right along with us. This poor man, who struggles with anxiety, was enduring all of this with us.
And, thankfully, he was absorbing our prayers as well. In our grief we prayed; in our fear we prayed; in our sadness we prayed. Matthew was there. It is my belief that our prayers ministered to Matthew (as well as ourselves.) As he saw us cast our anxiety on God, Bud also shared with him just how to do that for himself. I don’t know that there was any great shift in Matthew’s belief system; but I do know that seeds were powerfully sown. Matthew had a very clear picture of how to cast all his cares on the Lord…I believe that image will stay with him for a very long time.