30: The Other Side of the Curtain

30: The Other Side of the Curtain

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Tough Times

The Other Side of the Curtain

By Jennifer McDonald

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

~Galatians 6:2

I lay in the hospital bed that first night after surgery, my thoughts clouded by medication and intense pain. I could hear the patient on the other side of the curtain moaning, and worse . . . retching. She was obviously as miserable as I was. It was an unlucky period in my life. This was my third surgery in four months’ time. Added to that, we were a military family, stationed far from our home state, though blessed to have a caring church and community.

Earlier in the day, after my roommate and I had each been wheeled in from the recovery room, our respective families had visited. Her visitors had been loud, to my irritation. Her two young children had screamed as their grandmother prodded them to say their goodbyes and head home. I gathered from the inadvertently overheard conversation that the woman on the other side of the curtain was going through a divorce. Still, I doubt that compassion was my first response as I lay wracked with pain, attempting to rest in spite of the discomfort and nausea.

She got sick again. Domino effect — I got sick again. I pushed the call bell for the nurse, hoping for some relief. Nurses came in to both of us, quietly soothed and administered medications, and then left us to rest. The curtain stayed drawn between us; we had not seen each other once. Yet, as I lay there, miserable, I became aware that another human being lay feet away from me. She was suffering, too. . . but suffering more than physically. Compassion overwhelmed me, and I felt God prodding me to look beyond myself for a moment. Somehow, in the dark, with nothing to lose, boldness came over me.

“I don’t know what your beliefs are. . . but I just want you to know. . . I’m praying for you right now,” I whispered.

Silence. Then. . . quiet crying, and a quavering whisper back. “Thank you.”

“What is your name?”

“Julie.”

And that was all.

We never exchanged more words, but as I awoke through the night, I was no longer as conscious of my own pain as I was of hers. And each time I awoke, I lifted a heartfelt prayer for Julie’s recovery and for the situation she would be facing when she went home.

She was discharged the next day with very few words between us. It was several more days before I was released. Still, years later, whenever I remember Julie, I say a prayer for her.

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