Hope in Waiting at Evenings at the Hospital
Rick Durance, Spiritual Care Intern
As an evening shift chaplain, I see a lot of waiting. By the time I end up walking the floors, the day is almost over. Our day-time staff are busily finishing those last visits or last emails before they leave. Many of our families are packing up to return home. Even our cafeterias begin to empty out. And that leaves those of us who remain, patients who are here for the night and those who work these strange hours.
It can be disquieting or anxiety producing, this sitting amidst the unknown. And so, I see restlessness in folks trying to find something to watch, or frustration trying to settle into their beds. In such moments, just a night’s sleep can be a challenge or uncomfortable.
Yet also I hear people’s hopes. I hear hopes for test results (maybe a cancer screening, something from a blood test taken earlier that day, or another opinion from a different doctor). I hear hopes for new medications (something that works quicker or maybe just has fewer side effects). Sometimes, it’s just hope that tomorrow is when something changes or even brings the possibility to go home.
And so, we wait together. It is one of the joys of my job, to be able to wait with people and witness to the fact that we are not alone, even in these moments. For we are always surrounded and supported by whether by our healing bodies, our busy doctors or nurses, and even just by our God.
Hence, I believe that this waiting, hoping, and just holding on amid all that we are going through is enough. It is holy and blessed, even as it feels infinitely long and indescribably difficult. For as I hear from St. Paul in my Christian faith: I am convinced that nothing present or anything that may come separates us from God or each other. For God, creation, and all of those around us are here with us in this expectation and longing. It is heartening to not be alone.
It is why Lutherans pray: “God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us. Amen”
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Evening Prayer: A Simplified Form (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2006)].
It is not an easy calling to be the ones who have to wait and hope. But God is with us, leading us and supporting us. We are not alone, no matter what may come in these evenings or even in the days to come. There is hope in waiting.