A sippy cup leaked in my bag on Sunday. That's always an enjoyable experience, so enjoyable it can never be an isolated event. When I was taking everything out, I found a dry folded pink slip of paper. I opened it up and saw that it was the Visitor Pass from when I went to the hospital to visit Hattie, a woman from church. 

She was in and out of hospitals during our time in Chicago. This last visit was not long before she passed away. She wasn't very coherent, and she'd had several heart attacks and something like a dozen strokes, cancer, you name it in the last few years. When she was awake, she was trying so hard to talk to us, me and my visiting teaching companion, Beatrice. She was in and out of awake and asleep, or completely still with her eyes open staring off. Doctors had been coming in and out because her central line was coming out. They were trying to decide whether or not they should replace it, and Beatrice, a retired nurse and a stand up advocate was trying prevent it from happening. Beatrice had been the one who would pull out her phone book and call all of the area hospitals when we weren't sure which one she'd been taken to. She kept in contact with Hattie's nieces who were legally responsible for making all of the medical decisions.

One of the nurses came in and peeled off part of the tape around the line, taking some of Hattie's skin with it. She sat up and started yelling in the only way she could. She laid back down. The nurse put the tape back down. Not long after that, the doctor came in and peeled off all of the tape and a lot more skin. There was more yelling, and then she started crying. Sobbing. The saddest tears. As the doctor placed the tape down again, Beatrice asked why they kept putting the tape down if they were just going to take it off again to replace the line.

Everyone left. Beatrice was on the phone, and I was holding Hattie's hand. She'd gone back to staring at nothing. I knew her favorite song, and when Beatrice came over I thought we should sing it to her. We did. It was heartbreaking that I couldn't change the place she was in, nor the pumps taking the blood out of her stomach or the mucus out of her lungs. I couldn't make her body more than just skin and bones lying on a deflating air mattress under a blanket smeared with blood. I felt sorrowful and appreciative, inadequate, and resolved. I wanted her to drift away in the little piece of heaven I could feel around us while we were singing.

The conversation in the car on the way back to Hyde Park was somber. So many questions for God came up between us - so many that all boiled down to one - the great unanswerable question - "Why?"

Two years later and I find this pink slip, and I am thankful for the reminder of things I've been able to experience in my life. The hard things, the happy things - Hattie's funeral was a celebration and a half. This particular experience changed something in my heart, and I am better for it.


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