Hardly anyone knew I was nursing a broken heart that day. And every day for the past several weeks. It's just easier sometimes to hide a broken heart and shattered dreams and shameful disappointment.
But whenever I hide from the world during suffering, I find a gift and grace hiding there as well-- the ability to see people more clearly, more slowly, more beautifully.
And so it was that day.
I was her cardiac stress test nurse. She was my patient for four hours, a quiet little woman who seemed to be hiding from the world, too. In a fast-paced day, she was slow and calm and silent, a nursing home resident confined to a wheelchair and needing help even to stand up. Her mind was slow and her body slower. Neither of us spoke much during the test though I tried to be gentle with her, to take extra time explaining things, touch her hand reassuringly, cover her with an extra blanket.
I was transferring her to radiology for the next portion of her test. We were on a tight schedule, keeping rhythm with the clock, a small margin for delays. But she needed to use the restroom. So we stopped and I donned my gloves and ditched my pride and helped her...because we're all going to need help someday. Maybe it's the slow beating of a broken heart that gives us time to see but all of a sudden it felt like the most dignified job in the world. Assisting this needy woman in her vulnerability was a gift, a mission, an honor.
She slowly, meticulously washed her hands afterwards while I held her by the sink. She took the paper towel and slowly, meticulously dried around the sink, wiping the porcelain basin and the faucet. In a public medical restroom. I never do that and it struck me. Such a little thing but such a thoughtful thing. Why do I think I'm above that? That the hired cleaning help can do that? That I'm in too much of a hurry to make it a little cleaner for the next person? It wasn't even necessarily the action but rather the gentle and humble spirit that accompanied it. The hidden care and kindness.
I was realizing this slow, quiet little woman was teaching me.
But there was more to come.
As I lowered her back into the wheelchair and squeezed her hand gently, she looked up at me with the purest blue eyes meeting my own and said "Thank you." One of the few things she said all day but with incredible sincerity and meaning.
I saw Jesus.
Unmistakably. Undeniably. In those beautiful blue eyes that reflected a precious soul unseen by many.
We don't always see Him where we want or where we expect...or even where we look for Him. In the wake of my grieving, I realized by now in life I wanted to see Him reflected in the eyes of a baby of my own held in my embrace. But instead He was showing up in the eyes of this woman as I connected with her. As we both hid from a world too loud and fast and uncaring.
That was months ago. But I now gently and purposefully wipe my sink after washing the dishes or washing my hands and I remember her. The quiet little woman tucked away who showed me the eyes of Jesus...and His heart.