I received a page from a hospital room number I didn’t recognize. On my way to the room, I planned on giving my usual, “Hi, I’m one of the chaplains and this is just a routine visit,” spiel, hoping that my presence wouldn’t scare the family. Sometimes families hear “chaplain” and think, “Angel of Death is here! Better circle the wagons for Last Rites!”
However, when I arrived, I didn’t recognize the room but did recognize the patient and family. As I entered, the family was crying and the nurse informed me of the news they had just received. I immediately thought, “Really God?? Why them? Why couldn’t the test results be different? You have got to fix this!”
I went over to the patient’s mom and she folded into my arms.
I didn’t say anything.
She didn’t say anything.
The air in the room felt heavy like we might all suffocate in there together.
I handed out hospital tissues to everyone to pretend I was being remotely helpful. As I did, I wondered yet again why hospitals don’t splurge for real tissues. Who wants to wipe their face with sand paper in the middle of a crisis? For crying out loud, people need creature comforts like fuzzy blankets, mashed potatoes, and Puffs Plus.
During one of the moments when it didn’t feel like it would be irreverent to speak, one of the teenagers and I attempted to talk about typical teenage stuff like sports, prom, and learning how to parallel park.
But the patient’s mom asked the doctor questions that made everything a bit too real.
Fortunately, the nurse interrupted reality to have a very important popsicle versus applesauce debate with the patient. The patient requested a blue raspberry popsicle, but the nurse said the options were cherry, orange, and grape. Then he shared the fun fact that some hospitals don’t carry blue raspberry anymore because a few nurses were alarmed by the color of patients’ lips post popsicle and nearly called a Code Blue. Ergo, the beloved blue raspberry popsicle is an endangered, and likely soon to be extinct, species in the hospital setting.
The patient settled for cherry, and when the nurse left to get it, we were back to reality. We continued to discuss information and some began to cry again, so I distributed round two of sandpaper tissues.
The nurse returned and gave a popsicle to the patient. Then he put a pile of popsicles on a tray and said, “I think you all need a popsicle.” I happened to look up from staring at the floor in time to catch his eye. He handed me one and said, “You too. You need one, too.”
So there we were: A hospital room full of folks spanning 7 decades in age attempting to eat double-wide, two sticks popsicles. (I thought we left those in the 1980’s, but apparently they’re making a comeback.) Some broke the two popsicles apart and ate them separately; some tackled the whole thing at once. We laughed, and for a few minutes life was simple again. The only decision was how to eat a double-wide cherry popsicle.
Our faces were covered with salty tears, snot, and sticky artificial cherry flavoring.
But it didn’t matter.
Sticky never felt so simple or so sacred.
In that moment, God chose to be known through the frozen, make-you-think-of-a-happy-memory, artificial flavoring of a double-wide cherry Popsicle.
Taste and see that God is indeed good…And sometimes in your grocer’s freezer.
Also featured as a guest post today on Glimpsing God.