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God's stories are powerfully told in the hospital

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By Mary Regina Morrell
Catholic Online

"Every human life is a story told by God." Hans Christian Anderson

Every writer needs a favorite place where they can scribble notes on napkins or complete manuscripts while the noise of living plays in the background.

Hemingway had La Closerie des Lilas, his favorite restaurant in Montparnasse, Paris. I have the Terrace Café in JFK Hospital, Edison, New Jersey.

Certainly, a smoke-filled café on the left bank of Paris, where such artistic geniuses as Pablo Picasso, William Faulkner, Salvador Dali and Dorothy Parker gathered to create and exchange ideas, cannot be compared to my little hospital café.

But for me, spending close to two months in the hospital during the past year while doctors and nurses worked to heal my son and then my husband, this flourescent and formica restaurant overlooking the hospital parking lot has provided a much appreciated place of respite with plenty of coffee, the daily newspaper and really great soup.

Simple blessings are often the most meaningful.

My fellow patrons may not have included the literary or artistic giants of our time, but their conversations - their tears, their frustration, their laughter, their resiliancy - revealed the stuff of inspirational writing.

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One afternoon, when I was too tired to even write a word, I took a table near the window with my back to most of the room. Even a smile would have been too much to muster. But the noise of living crept in behind me where a very elderly dad sat eating at a small table across from his senior son.

While they ate their voices rose in anger and accusation.

"You're a useless son!"

"You're a terrible father!"

"You're a drunk!"

"You're selfish!!

It went on for 30 minutes before the son stormed out and left the father holding his head in his hands. What became clear to me, in his face and beneath all the anger, was an unspoken fear - of pain and dying or, maybe, of being alone or unloved. Certainly these two men loved each other, but for some reason had just not learned how to do it well.

Theirs was a story of the human condition, taking one step toward love and two steps back in our weakness and frailty. Jesus understood this condition and shared the secret, "Love one another as I have loved you." But dying to self is not a challenge easily met.

Any stay in the hospital, as a patient or a loved one, will confirm a basic truth -- being human is not easy. We suffer physically because we are mortal, but we suffer more deeply because we love. It was these stories of love's suffering and giving and rising above fear that filled my brown stenographer's notebook every day when I visited the Terrace Café, drank my coffee and was warmed by my soup. Every visit brought new opportunities to consider what was really important in life and how I could do it all better.

Someday I may have the chance to create something meaningful with the notes I scribbled, but for now I'm just grateful for the lessons and the not so simple blessings of health for my family, good doctors, caring nurses and the unfailing support of my friends.

Above all I am grateful for the glimpses of God caught through the human stories encountered each day and the light of hope that shines through the indomitable human spirit.


Mary is the author of Angels in High Top Sneakers, a syndicated columnist and free-lance writer. She is a contributor for TrueQuest Publications, CareNotes by Abbey Press, and Momentum Mazazine.

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Diocese of Metuchen NJ, US
Mary Regina Morrell - Associate Director, Office of Religious Education, 732 562.1990



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