The Comfort of Strangers

Do you believe in angels? I don’t believe in the ones with the flowing robes and feathered wings but I do believe they walk the earth, they’re just disguised as ordinary people. I’ve come across them on numerous occasions over the years, the people you don’t know who miraculously appear and help when you need it most. One of those times was when I was in A & E with my youngest daughter who had taken an overdose. I refused to leave the room when they were working on her, injecting adrenaline directly into her heart. I was told it was probably better not see this but she’s my daughter – how could I not be there? It wasn’t nice to watch, nor was her reaction to me having called the ambulance, but at least she was alive.

 I kept it together and went to grab a coffee while she was being seen by the psychiatrist but on the way to the canteen I lost it. Terrified people would see me I stood by a window with my back to everyone passing along the corridor and let the tears stream. Suddenly a young woman was at my side asking if I was okay. She was poorly dressed, had a toddler with her in a buggy and was probably only just out of her teens. I shook my head and she held me, allowing me to sob all the fears and anger and guilt away, then she took me to the rest room to get tidied up before I went back on the ward. I never knew her name, what she was doing there, where she lived or anything about her, but her compassionate act of reaching out to me when she could so easily have passed me by, gave me a connection to her and ultimately to something bigger than me that was to sustain me in the difficult times ahead.

 On another occasion I was in hospital waiting for an operation to remove my thymus gland. It had a large tumour and x-rays were inconlusive as to whether it had spread, so I had to sign a form giving my permission for the surgeons to remove my breasts, should they find it had. I was nervous and all I could think of was how I wished if this was my last night having my breasts how much I’d rather spend it making love to someone. I felt very lonely. My relationship of sixteen years had ended two years previously, the children had all left home and my dreams of living and working abroad had come to an abrupt end with this illness.

 I was in a six-bed ward and the rest of the beds were occupied by elderly women who were either recovering from heart bypass operations or were waiting for one. Only one of the women was awake and as I removed my make-up ready to settle down to sleep she waved and attracted my attention. She was very frail-looking and had difficulty raising herself up but she told me in a voice filled with conviction that everything was going to be all right. Her kindness made me cry. The following morning I was first to go for surgery and she waved me off, telling me not to worry, that it really would be all right. I never saw her again and don’t know what happened to her but she was right; I woke up and still had my breasts and the tumour had been removed in time before it invaded any lymph nodes.

 These two strangers who reached out to me with compassion when I needed it most were, in my mind, angels. When I was very young I used to believe that angels were perfect, pristine beings with halos round their heads and were accompanied by harp music and rays of sunshine. Now I believe differently. I have a poster about Angels with lots of quotes on it. This is my favourite:

 “Angels are with you every step of the way and help you soar with amazing grace. After all, we are angels in training; all we have to do is spread our wings and fly.”

4 thoughts on “The Comfort of Strangers

  1. Very moving,Kriss. We’ve both travelled some difficult routes since young and healthy coffee morning days but we’re still hanging in there!

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