“The basic element of joy, then, is profound peace, that imperturbability in the Spirit that remains with us even in the most painful, excruciating moments.” ~Pope Francis
When arriving on the oncology floor at The University of Wisconsin Hospital last week, I felt an overwhelming feeling of absolute panic wash over me. This is not an unfamiliar sentiment, as I have had a phobia of hospitals and doctors’ offices ever since my youth. But my mom’s recent illness has brought on a whole new level of panic every time I set foot inside those glass doors. Even seeing the sign reading “oncology” when the elevator doors opened on the 6th floor was enough to just about send me over the edge. I looked around me and thought, “How do all of these people, these doctors and nurses, wake up every day and come and work here? This would be the most depressing place in the world to carry out a career.” These sentences have probably circulated through my consciousness at least a thousand times over the course of the last 4 months.
But after a few days of sitting beside my mom’s bedside, I decided to open a book that a dear friend gave me to help me through this tough time. While reading, I came upon the following passage in Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, “I respect people who don’t try to escape permanently. Who run toward the pain. Who allow themselves to suffer with others, to become brokenhearted. I respect people who, enlightened or not, roll up their sleeves and give up their comfortable lives for suffering people.” I was drawn to tears. Because, as I reread this passage, I thought back to my family’s experiences the past few days. I thought of the young doctor who held my mom’s hand each and every time he came in her room, and when taking her vitals held her and said, “Let me hold you. I am here to help.” And I thought of the nurse who pulled my dad, sister and I into a private room to truly listen to us, console us and cry with us. She told us that she can tell my mom is an amazing woman because of the unmatched sense of family she feels every time she enters our room. And then we cried some more while she embraced each of us.
I believe these are the people of whom Ms. Melton is speaking. These are the people who willingly go to work each day, knowing that it will be difficult, awful even, and do it anyway. And in reflecting upon this, I realized that it sometimes takes the most terrible of situations for us to see the true good that exists in the world. We are constantly bombarded by so much hate, negativity and loss that we often fail to look up from our despair and see that within the disastrous storm of life, there are people doing good. Despite all that evil, they are working their damn hardest to make a positive difference.
This journey I am traveling right now has been awful, but it has also allowed me to raise my eyes above the hurt and see a kind of good in people that I was unable to see before. I think I now agree with Ms. Melton in that “I am grateful for the beauty in the midst of suffering. I am grateful for the treasure hunt through the minefield of life. Dangerous or not, I don’t want out of the minefield. Because truth, and beauty, and God are there.”