A Voice of Comfort

Though usually healthy and active, I recently found myself in the hospital with an unexplained medical condition that threw my whole life into disarray. As doctors drew blood, ordered MRIs, and arranged for tests, I lay in bed, bewildered by what was happening but comforted by the expertise of these professionals and the many prayers surrounding me. On my second day in the hospital, I received an extra dose of comfort in a very unlikely form – a roommate who seemed Heaven-sent.

Along with the late-night temperature checks and painful needle pricks, among other hospital absolutes, you never know who your roommate may be. Rarely does a relationship form. Marion, however, was just what I needed. From the start, we bonded over clunky IV machines and tangled wires. We watched the news together in the morning over Raisin Bran and scrambled eggs. We played “Family Feud” right along with the contestants in the evening, laughing at our answers as well as theirs. We shared stories of our families, our illnesses, our desires to return to the lives we loved. We prayed for each other and for those who prayed for us. We became fast friends in the most unusual way – without ever seeing each other. Marion was always behind that privacy curtain and so was I. Ever present but unseen.

During my hospital stay, I deeply missed my family and friends, my students and colleagues, and all those whose regular contact was absent, however temporarily. Marion filled a little bit of that for me with her soothing voice and calm demeanor. After learning she was Catholic, we shared the feeling of emptiness at not attending Sunday Mass for several weeks. But again, it was sight unseen. “Stay strong, Miss Emily,” she would say at my low points. “God will take care of you.”

Yes, of course, I agreed, knowing that God was there, caring for me, for Marion, for the doctors who cared for us. Even though I couldn’t see Him, God was there, not unlike that voice of comfort on the other side of the curtain.

Marion was discharged several days before I was, just as I received my diagnosis and began to get stronger. I happened to be talking to a nurse when the attendant wheeled her out. “Goodbye, my friend!” she called, leaving me with just a quick smile and a brief glimpse of this very special woman. Her stories, her kindness, her laugh, her compassion – these I will remember. Unlike the doctors, nurses, and therapists who worked so hard to help me, Marion played no part in my physical healing, but her comfort and friendship were necessary too, coming to me simply as a voice, an unconditional support system that sustained me as well.

By Emily Clark