I used to volunteer at a local hospital. I started out in the pediatrics floor and gradually moved up to the third floor in continuing care. Seeing young and old men and women suffer in their illnesses often reminded me how fragile life is.
Over the four-and-a-half years that I worked at the hospital, I spent three of those years in continuing care, and I got to know the patients there very well.
There was Robert, who fell and broke his hip at seventy years old and had to move to the hospital because his family couldn’t care for him fulltime. The first thing Robert always said when he saw us was, “I’ll be going home next week.” He was with us six months before he passed away.
There was Sophie, who met with a car accident in her early thirties and was paralyzed from the waist down. Her room was filled with pictures of her family and she had a knack for remembering everybody’s birthdays—all the nurses, the doctors, even us; the candy stripers. Sophie’s still there; she’s been there twelve years and counting.
I was assigned to Clara. She was a quiet lady who didn’t speak much, but whose eyes always told me she appreciated that I was there. Her pride and joy was her grandson, who became the mayor of the next town when he was twenty-five years old. His was the only picture that ever graced her room.
Clara died two months before I graduated high school. I haven’t visited the hospital since then, and periodically, I think about the patients we all left behind after our volunteer days were over. The one thing that struck me about the patients on the third floor was how hopeless they often seemed—not being able to get well enough to go home and to be with their families.
Those who become very sick often fall into one of two emotional conditions. They either become hopeful of getting better, or become defeated that they have reached the beginning of the end. If you look into their eyes, you can either see a light or feel emptiness. Most days, I only saw emptiness.
It didn’t occur to me until later that the hopelessness in their eyes was more than just a longing for their family. It was hopelessness of life. There was nothing more to live for, and nothing beyond the hospital.
I wonder if any of them ever thought about God.
Sometimes, life can be as suffocating as being confined to the four walls of a hospital room. We spend all of our lives building “walls”. We chase our dreams and we pursue success in the world. But at the end, sometimes the walls we think we build to protect us end up being the same walls that will imprison us to hopelessness.
What is the value of hope? Have you ever thought about what is beyond the walls of this world?
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of [separation]. (Eph 2:14)
Out of His amazing love, God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to the crucifixion of the cross so that, through His death, He might break down the middle wall of separation between us and God Himself.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)
If we put our hope and our faith in His promise of a better world beyond the one we are living right now, we will find a peace in our hearts that neither fear death nor the suffering of this life.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:35, 38-39)
Knowing that the length of our days on earth is seventy or eighty years, why are some able to embrace it so confidently? They do so because they have a hope of something better; knowing that the end of this road is the beginning of a new one—where we can have a fresh start to a new day with the One who loves us the most.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Rev 21:4)
I think Robert had the right idea—he hoped for something better; to go home.