By Heather Vallot
I saw Him today.
I was standing in the hallway with the other Heather. We could hear someone wailing, and it was a familiar sound, considering most days we wonder if they mistakenly labeled our unit “Nephrology” when it actually should have been “Psych.” We have our frequent flyers to the unit, and the wails today by this particular patient were unattended to for reasons that would cause a certain callousness to most hearts.
R was sideways on her bed, bleeding and stripped of her gown. I’d never seen such pain, and at once, I felt uncomfortable – that kind of uncomfortable that comes from not understanding, though you wished you did. Physical pain I’ve seen, but this was mingled with something that made her cry unbearably raw. The other Heather tried to calm her down, and we straightened her in the bed as she screamed that the bleeding wound on her back was killing her. It was loud in my early-morning ears, though after talking with her I think I would have moaned even louder. Heather left the room, and R begged me not to leave. I hesitantly crept to the side of the bed. All that seemed fitting was to sit down on the floor where I could see her eyes. They were dark brown, but I’m not sure if they were darker than her HIV-positive blood that was all over the bright-white tile floor.
“Why is He punishing me, Heather? Why is He punishing me? I keep trying to think back to what I done wrong, I keep trying to say I’m sorry for whatever I did. Heather, I love people. I am so sorry. Heather, why is He punishing me? I never felt no pain like I do right now. Tell Him to make it stop please”
I gripped her hand and wiped her nose and her hot tears as she told me of apologizing for the times she was raped and molested; how maybe that’s why she’s being punished. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t deserve anymore hope. She agreed with me that we live in a hurting world and people do awful things. I told her that I love her and He sent me to hold her hand. I reminded her (though somehow, I got the feeling that maybe she’d never been told) that she was beautiful as I stroked her hair, and as He spoke through me, I saw Christ in her eyes. Her breathing slowed, and she cried more easily. For a long time, I sat on that floor among her blood that’s the same color as mine, with blessed anmesia of what her diagnosis meant, and she let me join in a snippet of her life. R’s eyes filled slowly, and then more slowly. “I searched for love my whole life, Heather, and you know, I never felt more loved than I do now. Nobody ever held my hand like this. Thank you, God, for Heather. Thank you, God. I just want hopeI just wanna have hope.”
R thanked me over and over again for loving her, and I thanked her for being so honest and for holding my hand. I have absolutely no doubt she did more for me than I did for her.
And so, for the first time, I felt what it might have been like for Christ to touch the lepers that everyone was afraid of. I remembered what a guy said about the “greater things.” He spoke of what we would do in Christ’s absence we would maybe not necessarily be raising the dead or miraculously feeding thousands, but loving the very unlovely. For a moment He enabled me to look at R and not see the drug-addicted, HIV-positive, abused and beaten and bedraggled and bleeding woman who was neglected and feared, but rather, as the most beautiful woman I’ve ever had the privilege to cry with.
I have since continuously thanked Abba for loving the outcasts and for opening my eyes to the truth about His ridiculous, norm-breaking, offensive love. I pray more and more for the eyes to see Christ in the hurting. I know that He never saw me or R or anyone else as molested, beaten, abused, outcast children, but as adopted daughters and sons. I will cling to that hope so that I can believe it myself enough to give it to her during the times I am holding her hand (as I said, she is a frequent flyer). I am ever-increasingly thankful that I am loved as she is.
And I am thankful for R.
Heather Vallot is currently working as a nurse in Hattiesburg, MS. She is an aspiring gypsy and spends her time making faces with little children at church, being an advocate for Invisible Children , and will be in Rio de Janeiro this fall with an organization called Word Made Flesh where she will be working and living amongst the poor.