By Scott Gilpin

Alone Before Surgery

Her hands grasp the top bar of her walker. Although slight, she’s sitting heavy. Quiet, solitary, arched forward with her forehead resting on the back of her hands, her face buried and unseen, she waits.

She will be on the operating table within the hour. Is she scared, resigned, does she hurt? Is she enveloped by memories of kinder days or unforgiven regrets? Is she important to anyone?

I watch her sigh and breathe. Like oxygen, we have a basic need to be wanted, to feel like we are important to someone. Loneliness is oft times found in the same hedgerow with abandonment, feeling unneeded, and, at its root, existing unloved.

Suffering is an invitation to love.

It is easily within my ability to touch lightly, say a kind word, provide some simple assurance, offer a prayer. If needed, maybe I could stumble upon some appropriate reminder that loneliness or sorrow or pain is only part of our journey; a necessary part, but, still, only a part. That God calls us and, if we stay the course through the small gate and on the narrow road, we will reach journey’s end, and find it is the beginning.

I’m haunted. All week, I’ve asked why, when called, I did nothing.

Rationalizing, I imagine I would have been intruding. She must have been praying and was probably strong in her faith, so she certainly didn’t need my clumsy approach. There is hospital paperwork I must complete. She’s black and wouldn’t want to be startled by a white man. I don’t want to be rejected.

My reticence cheated me out of a moment of illumination. To exacerbate my error, I may have stolen from her an opportunity to minister to me, to be needed.

Sometimes, all you want is a chance to correct a wrong. Every saint has a past and every sinner a future. Right?

We must see all the people. Sometimes, we must force ourselves to interact. I began writing this as some sort of atonement by offering a prayer for those who are alone and afraid. While I may still do that, I’m keen to see God’s next invitation to love.