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Categories: celebrant musings

Miracle in a Hospice Room

Thursday mornings present as liminal space bridging ordinary and holy time. They share a ritualistic similarity beginning with a drive sweet as cinnamon rolls and heavy as dark coffee. Warming the voice with bubble lips through the scale, pretending to hold a quarter with my buttocks, breathing with my belly, I prepare.

We group together in the hospice parlor ready to leave behind us our personal cares and obsessions, putting them in a metaphorical bowl to be picked up and owned again when our work is done.

The first three rooms held no surprises. We asked permission to enter and sing; they acquiesced. For each patient, three or four songs in rich harmony later, we parted.

At room 4 we hesitated. He was obviously challenged. His right eye searched to the right and his left eye cut straight ahead with a blank stare. Boundless white were those eyes.  Not as white were his terrible teeth—fangs pointing every direction, like one of the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are. One arm was foreshortened, more like a flipper, and the sheets covered his unacknowledged torso and legs. He weighed maybe 70 pounds; I easily could have lifted him.

Shock still we stood, hesitating. I turned to check others’ faces. No one was sure. Buoyed by intuition I entered, asking permission to sing. Nothing came back—no sound, no blink, no expression. My inner knowing said, “Yes, this is right.” Motioning for the others to follow, we sat our stools round the bed and as in a lullaby began: “I am sending you light, to heal you, to hold you, I am sending you light, to hold you in love.” The words lapped round his deformed body, loving him in an embrace.I am sending you light

I half stood and leaned in, watching for any flicker to show us the way forward.

Then it happened.

He lifted his left hand, touched my right cheek, and said only one guttural word: “Mama”.

I managed to say yes, that his mama had sung to him and his mama loved him. I held his sizzling hand against my cheek.

Somehow I led several more songs. Bent double, falling out of the room behind the others, all the pent-up sorrow and joy and humility burst out as my breath escaped in a rush and tears flowed. He’d touched our hearts.

God had touched me.

Holy time, indeed.