I have been reflecting on my hospital placement. I get into the car at about 8am on a Sunday and I drive on empty roads to the Queen's Medical Centre. There is not another car on the road and the A52 is very straight and at certain times of the year, you drive straight into the rising sun.
I have been thinking about how in many ways the Kingdom work which people associate with God is somehow an easier undertaking than other tasks, more mundane. It struck me this morning driving back home to consider all the things my husband does on a Sunday morning to enable me to do this, as he looks after our two young children.
At the hospital, I collect people for church. We keep picking up slips for random wards which we visit with a wheelchair so that we can take people to chapel. The service is broadcast on the hospital radio for people who can not attend. After the service, I visit people on the Gynacology ward. I walk from bed to bed pulling up a chair here and there with people who don't mind my dropping by. All these people with their stories... I have met with confusion, sadness and desperation but not bitterness or cynicism, yet. In some ways I am surprised and in some ways I am not.
I find I am faced with the very uniqueness of each person, assumptions are blasted away if you ask questions. I am collecting narratives in my head. I was there with E as she ran for buses in her youth to the factory where she replaced the springs on the bobbin machines, I can see L's three handsome Italian sons in my imagination and the wives that she has welcomed into her home. B's mind had convinced her that she had not a single relative in the whole world until the small fluffy elephant clutching the word 'Nana' on her bedside cabinet demonstrated otherwise. It must have been someone else's she convinced herself as she kissed it repeatedly, asking me if I knew those people (the nursing staff) and were they my family?
D had come in for a fall and been told she had cancer and felt guilty that she kept crying. M had been moved for causing a nuisance on the ward and seemed to drift in and out of consciousness as I spoke to her. We spoke about crisps...yes just crisps and what flavours she liked and the view from her window and she smiled about the yellow walls and the space she had since they had moved her... and the view, tower blocks! But what a fabulous view! C lifted her legs with such finesse and speed as the nurse's broom came near, she revealed a dexterity about which she was proud and we spoke about her keep-fit regime, Peter her budgie who likes to watch TV, and how she really had not been out in years and sometimes just goes to bed in the middle of the day.
It is not difficult to see these women, more often than not in their seventies and eighties, as teenagers, mothers and then middle-aged. Children have grown-up and husbands have died and as the years have passed their worlds seem to have shrunk.
On my way back home, I ask that I might help God's Kingdom to come back in my world. Life has gone on as normal without me. I arrive home alone for half an hour, pyjama bottoms litter the hall, thrown off in a hurry as the kids have got dressed downstairs for church. There is a chicken and some potatoes already cooking in the oven and I will prepare vegetables as my husband and the children come back from swimming lessons.
I put it all out on the table as they bustle through the door, patience with one another frayed, hungry and cold with dripping wet chlorine hair. But I am struck by all the colour and energy here. Children with tempers and pink cheeks, noise and mess and busyness. And here is the test...here is the mundane and ordinary, nothing heroic about the tasks here...dinner time, bath time, squabbles to sort out, hair to dry and games to referee, budgets to balance and forward-planning for the week ahead to negotiate. And in many ways it is harder than anything I have done in the hospital.