Hospital Chapel

Sitting in a circle, a small group of people. Mostly women, two men. Mostly patients, the chaplain, two volunteers, and me. Twelve people in all. I sit beside my mother for this multi faith service. She's managed to walk, with the aid of her frame, to the lift, and down one floor to the chapel. We're there less than an hour. This is what I learn.

The man in the grey tee shirt and grey tracksuit trousers, the one who looks as if he's in his late thirties, or maybe early forties: he had a stroke. A stroke that stopped his life in a moment to land him here, facing into a slow recovery.

The woman in the wheelchair opposite me, with the purple trousers -  was in intensive care five weeks ago. She'd never a day of ill health in her life until then. She's had a tough week. She's felt like giving up. But she's got through it (with the help of the people who work there, the skeleton crew left behind after the cuts) and she knows she will walk again, she just has to keep trying.

Maureen, in the wheelchair to my left: I can barely understand what she's saying, but she want to speak, she has things to say. She's been here for months. She tells us she's going home on Tuesday, and lifts her thin arms together in front of her in a victory "yes"!. And my mother whispers that she has no home to go to, that her house has been sold. I'm not sure what's true, but the chaplain prays for her to be happy in her new home when she leaves, wherever that may be.

A couple of people just sit quietly, say nothing. The woman immediately to my left weeps silently at intervals. One woman has a deep indentation across her skull, almost like dough pushed down with a spoon. But she says that she'll come next week; and the chaplain pauses and says she'll have to check if there is a service next week - there may not be.

Between the hymns and the readings, the chaplain tells of her ten housebound years, trying to raise children when she could barely open a door, let alone dress them or cook for them. And of the small miracles that happened when she reached the point of lament: "what can I do? How can I care for these children?" Answers arrived. People arrived with real help.

We sing three hymns accompanied by the cd player, and a fourth by the accordion played by one of the volunteers. There are tears. There are voices sharing words.

Towards the end, the chaplain brings forward a bowl, a glass bowl, full of water, full of coloured pebbles. Each pebble has been placed into the water by someone, by a hurting person looking for solace. For themselves. For a loved one. People suffering, people in despair, people in anguish. People hurting. The water holds the pebbles, the bowl holds the water, the chaplain holds the bowl and we all hold the space around the bowl in our circle of twelve.

Everyone who is there as a patient just wants to go home. Just wants the simple, everyday luxury of sitting in their own chair, watching their own tv, boiling their own kettle. This is a room full of humanity, full of courage and despair. And suddenly, I'm glad to be in this room, glad to feel these tears arrive.

Tonight, when I've driven to the ferry, and crossed over the Irish Sea, and arrived home to my own house, where I can sleep in my own bed, I'll take a glass bowl. I'll fill it with water, and find a coloured pebble. I'll carefully place it into the water. And I'll open myself to a larger holding.


  1. I was very moved by this, Krystyna. I was once a hospital chaplain. I pray you will feel that larger holding...

  2. Thoughtful, understated and very moving.
    Thank you Krystyna,



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