Why I Embraced a Stranger in the Hospital Cafeteria

I thought my story today would be about me. I thought I’d get to my appointment and then go see my friend who was admitted to the same hospital as my procedure. I got there early so I went to see him. He, who needed to breathe, but couldn’t due to a nasty something that won’t let his lungs function. I rubbed his feet and took in big breaths in hopes that energetically it would transfer.

I left him and went to my MRI. I get into the elevator and hope that I have helped him in some small way.

I am no stranger to MRIs. I am not new to having to hold my breath and breathe in instructed sequences. I look at it as two hours of guided pranayama.

“Breathe in, hold your breath…relax.”

Two hours of mindfully staying present. Dye injected into my veins and back into the tube of breathing. Magnetic dreams when I doze in between the metered voice. I ask for direction in my life. I ask for focus and a sign as to what my purpose is here in the knocking, buzzing tube.

I leave this part of the hospital and stop in the cafe to quell the growling in my stomach. Here I ask a couple if they are in line for the pizza. They step back and indicate that they are waiting for coffee. It is in no way a happy wait. They both carry a huge sadness to which I cannot turn away. I tell them that this particular coffee has more than once warmed my stomach. This is a place that no healthy person would choose to enjoy a cup of coffee. They both answer that it is much needed and in their glassy eyes, the tears begin to well.

I gently let them know that this is my second home and that it may always be. She seems desperate to let me know that she doesn’t know yet if this is to be her new reality. They are waiting here for coffee and for some word about the future. Her face falls, his brow is furrowed with deep worry. It is here that I do something that is very unlike me. I embrace her. This complete stranger. I hug her and hold her tightly. She is my height and her heart lines with mine. The beats fall into a rhythm and we breathe there together. She holds on and I tell her to put both feet on the ground and take a step each day and in this, she is stronger than she knows. Her husband mouths, “Thank you so much.” Her hand lingers on mine as I take leave. The tears fall on both their cheeks. I get to my car and I cry for their unknown journey. I hope that our moment has helped them in some small way.

My day ended with a sweet baby hugs. I watched as his breath moved in and out. His deep belly breaths filling my arms as he slept. He is the charge of my dear friend and my visit allowed me to reflect on this day.

We are connected not in perfection, but in our broken stories. Our vulnerability, our fallibilities. It is this that gives us roots and helps to ground when faced with uncertainty. We hold space with touch and breath. My question put to the universe via the magnetic tube was answered today. “In some small way” is exactly enough.

Getty Image by Milkos

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