This morning, I spent my time having a “redo” CT scan of my lungs and heart at Yale-New Haven Hospital, part of my now seemingly lengthy diagnostic process (where is Hugh Laurie when you need him, and why does the diagnostic process take longer than 42 minutes? Come on! House always got it done in a TV episode…but that’s another story). Over the last few weeks – eight to be exact – I’ve been looking for those moments of clarity, where reality collides with the Divine, where call and vocation collide with the last eight weeks, and today felt like that “aha” moment. Well…it felt like a cool moment, maybe not that Mountain Top moment that everyone speaks of, but certainly a great one, and here’s why.
Today’s mountain top moment came in the form of a horn-rimmed, sweater-vest wearing radiologist. Likely somewhere in her late 60’s-early 70s, she wore kind, road worn features and spoke with grace and kindness, despite also having just visited Albert Einstein’s hairdresser…I didn’t bother to ask for a referral! What was the joy, blessing, wow! moment for me, was her unexpected love of hymn-singing. As I was getting my things together after my scans were finished, Dr. horn-rimmed glasses and sweater-vest stayed behind, holding the door to the booth open with her shoulder. Her soft-spoken and gentle voice had a certain lilt to it, song-like, unexpected. She asked what I do to give me joy, for a living, never asking me “what I have, why I’m here, what’s wrong with me.” (though lets face it, she has access to my chart, so duh, she already knows…damn, so much for our sweet pastoral moment! But I digress…)
A moment went by as I debated sharing whether I was a Starbucks Barista, or an ordained minister and hospice chaplain (yes, this debate really did happen, and yes, I do this in real life…I’m 27. Its a fascinating sociological study to look at the responses I get as a) a young woman, b) an ordained minister, c) a chaplain, and d) wearing oxygen along with the best of octogenarians. Now you see why I tell people I’m a Starbucks Barista?), before I told her the truth. Immediately, her expression changed. Her face lit up, and her mouth broke into a huge smile, revealing gentle creases around her eyes beneath her horn-rimmed glasses.
“Do you like hymn singing?” She asked in her gentle lilt. Off we went on our favorites, from Come Thou Font, to How Great Thou Art, to Holiday and Funeral Favorites. I was about to begin a rave on John Wesley, when she began to sing, “God be with You ’Til We Meet Again.” The deep memories of this hymn came flooding back as tears began to pour from my eyes as a complete stranger wearing an argyle sweater vest and beautiful horn-rimmed glasses sang one of my favorite hymns from my childhood, a hymn I sang in my church choir played over and over by my choir director who is now seated at the right hand of God the Father after her own health struggles.
A phrase that comes to mind is “God winks.” Those glimmers and glimpses of the Divine we get, when God tries to get our attention, to remind us of Divine grace, providence and reassurance in those deepest of wilderness periods and in the good moments too. Today, God winked, and shrugged, whispered and yelled too, in the form of a Yale-New Haven radiologist with a deep love for argyle sweaters and hymn singing. What happened was an exchanging of burdens, and a lifting of spirits. In that moment, God winked, and the communion of saints came together – despite the fact that I was patient and she was physician, our faiths brought us together, and we could sing together a prayer of gratitude to the God who guides, protects, loves and enfolds. And in a way, that radiologist’s song was a prayer – for me, for my journey, my work as a hospice chaplain, and I hope, for herself and everyone whom she meets after me.
“God be with you till we meet again,” dear one, and thank you God for reminding me of your grace, for that God wink and nod today. Most unexpected, and certainly most needed. May God bless that incredible Saint, may God bless her hands, guide her and protect her, and most importantly, make her day filled with song and joy.