An ICU hospital waiting room is an interesting place. I venture to say that it is like no other place I have ever been to, let alone spent days at a time. This weekend, I spent hours in a nondescript, faded box of a room, with a door on each of the four walls. The elevator on one side, the restroom directly across, the sliding glass patio door, and the entrance to the hospital rooms. Every time one of the three doors opened, for the patio door remained locked, people's heads would turn in the direction of that subtle sound. It was uncanny.
I read my book, by myself, but not alone. I didn't really talk to anyone else, but I smiled and nodded in camaraderie, or I would nod in grim acceptance, my lips set in an immobile line. I mostly kept to myself, trying to make sense of all of the emotions gaining momentum in that small room. It was like a battle, an ongoing, impossible battle, between fear and hope, joy and sorrow. I remained, passive and sometimes impassive, a bystander with open eyes, ears, and heart. I know the giant family in the corner probably didn't notice me, or thought that I was so wrapped up in my novel as to notice them, but I have never been so hyper aware of the clawing, brawling emotions concentrated in one tight area. And the balance was constantly changing. It was like this: just when I thought that fear was triumphing, a man, a son, would race out of the key door and yell, “He opened is eyes! He just opened his eyes!” and the family, that overbearing, ever present group of ten, all stood in unison. Just like that, fear defeated, hope victorious, the room looked brighter, and somehow bigger. And the bystanders, other families, persons, and me, we practically stood up with them, too. We couldn't help it, really, because we were unwittingly linked. Also, I think we were hoping for some of that lucky fate, some of that relief, to wear off on us. Mostly we just were blessed to see backslapping, happy hugs, instead of prolonged, heavy embraces. The connections in the room were unforeseen, and inevitable.
I hope it is a long time before I have to return to an ICU waiting room. I will keep praying for the families that I met, and I will keep rooting for hope and joy.