Posted October 10, 2011:
Heaven in the Hospital?

by Fr. Anonymous.

Over the years, I’ve known many people who come to a point in their lives when they seem to "hit the wall" and need someone or something to help them move forward to become the person they are meant to be by God.

In fact, in our modern Western world, it seems that it is the rare person who can journey from birth to death without some special help at some time.

A few months ago, "the wall" hit me! After many years as a priest, I was at the point where grief and sadness were overcoming my whole life. In fact, my mind, soul, and body were paralyzed.

Some loving brothers and sisters came to my rescue and drove me to a "mental health facility." (That’s the current politically correct term for a psychiatric hospital.)

I was there for ten days, and, amazingly, it was a blessed time for body, mind, and soul.

There were about fifteen of us on the unit and almost all were middle class folk struggling with depression or some other form of emotional or mental distress. They were so transparent about what was happening to them and about their struggles to be free.

And the doctors and nursing staff were so compassionate and caring. In fact, their compassion and caring were a part of the healing.

There was an angelic quality about all these people, so much so that I began to wonder if they were really angels in disguise.

About six days into my stay, a woman who appeared to be in her late 40s, was admitted. She was not like the others.

She looked like she had been handicapped from birth. Perhaps she had lived with elderly parents or a sibling all her life, and the time had come when there wasn’t anyone to take care of her.

She was dressed in a clean tan knitted outfit and held a blue plastic rosary in her left hand. She mumbled in what seemed like a foreign tongue. We will call her Marina.

The first time I met her, she sat in the chair next to me. The orderly who followed her everywhere said, "Now Marina, don’t bother anybody."

She began to stroke my left hand which was on the arm of the sofa, and again the orderly said, "Marina, don’t bother the man."

"It’s okay," I said. "I don’t mind."

A couple minutes later, she bent over my hand and kissed it. There were about six people in the room, and I looked at the others and said, "Perhaps she is Slavic. Slavic people kiss the hand of a priest when they meet one." The others knew I was a priest even though I wasn’t wearing clerics.

Everyone looked a bit puzzled.

The next time she came to the sitting room, she sat next to me on the sofa and put her head on my shoulder. I asked the orderly if she did this with everyone. "No," he said, "she doesn’t let men touch her."

Whenever Marina came into the sitting area, she would make a bee-line for me. And each time I saw her, she surprised me with another angelic gesture.

In our next encounter, she came into the room with her hands cupped, one over the other and presented me with a half-eaten bunch of grapes. I took them and told her I would go and put them in the refrigerator. "Yes," she said, "the fridge."

There were other such encounters with Marina that spoke not only to me but to all of us on the wing. We knew that she was an innocent, one of God’s little ones, and her presence taught us something about our own brokenness and healing.

Was Marina an angel sent to us from God? She seemed to be—even more than the others.

Now that I am home, I have new eyes for my brothers and sisters in personal crisis. You never know the pain another is carrying.

I learned something else, too. Sometimes, perhaps, someone who seems a bit different from most people might really be an angel in disguise—someone sent by God to give us a word.


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