One of the most difficult pieces of this experience for me with being in hospitals and treatment centres was seeing others suffer. I have always been very compassionate and I have the utmost respect and admiration for nurses, doctors, technicians, first-responders and any type of worker who gives kindness and hope to those who are in their care. While I chose long ago to understand that suffering is part of the human experience and that growth and learning come from it, with the exception of those close to me that I would do absolutely anything for, I spent a lot of years trying to shut out the pain of others and just love them from a distance as best I could. Self preservation of sorts.
Each day, I would mentally send thoughts of healing and wellness for the highest good of everyone in the waiting room. Sometimes, I would block everything out around me and play Scrabble on my phone. But something happened when I started to pay closer attention to the people in the waiting room.
I started to see kindness and love in every corner of the place. There were boxes of beautiful hand made hats that some random, anonymous person left in the waiting rooms with a note that said “please help yourself”. The boxes filled up every day with new hats for patients. What a useful gift for someone who has lost their hair – can you imagine how much love they felt when they received them? There were groups of people who spent every day volunteering to drive patients to and from their treatment appointments, and wait while they were with doctors. No worries about finding or paying for parking or being too tired to drive themselves. Unbelievable kindness. There were endless examples of people accompanying their loved ones to their appointments for moral support. There were new people finishing treatment regularly who were filled with joy and hope after months of fear and anxiety. An endless supply of gifts and food being given to the staff by thankful patients who had been treated with so much kindness while under their care.
And then there was Madeleine. I met her my second week of treatment; she was in her third. We were sitting beside each other – TV on in the background with some political nonsense being babbled about – when her inside voice and candid opinion about the US President came out. She immediately looked at me and apologized, and I laughed my ass off. In fact after that, we both laughed our asses off every time we saw each other and it always made my day to see her.
What I never told this Madeleine is that just a few months earlier, my friend Madeleine passed away from cancer and it just so happens that humor; my number one medicine; was one of my favorite things about her. When she told me her name, I felt like my Madeleine was sending me hope in the form of this lovely woman who made me laugh when I needed it the most. Obviously telling her this would have been a piece of shit move so I just kept that to myself and knew in my heart how special it was. Madeleine finished her treatment and I was able to be there on her last day when she was overcome with joy and relief while I received yet another dose of love and hope through her experience.
Challenge and suffering are absolutely part of the human experience, but within those dark places is love in its many forms and light that shines through our wounds. All of these people who shared kindness, laughs, made hats, or played chauffeur had made the decision to embody that light and love to be of service to others. If I were a betting woman, I’d say it’s because they had been inspired through their own wounds. A little shift in my perspective has created a big shift in my heart.