Friday mornings we have staff meetings at NHC. Today was the first since Ebola disrupted our lives so severely. The acting In-Charge and I decided it was long overdue, to sit together and begin to move forward into the rest of life. He asked me to start, so I prayed and then read from James chapter 1. The Bible does not gloss over sorrow, it assumes that trials and suffering form the fabric of our normal lives. We lament and we grieve, but we do not despair, and we cling to the hope that this suffering is producing perseverance. Yet when I tried to talk, the grief which I have kept at bay for weeks stealthily crept up on me. Friday mornings, squeezed onto simple backless benches, with the 20-some staff with whom I have spent much of the last decade, was all very familiar. But today, without Dr. Jonah, the former center of these meetings. His absence brought tears, and this being a culture where people don’t talk much of the dead or cry for them after the funeral, most of the staff were a bit uncomfortable as I took a few minutes to recover.
But the meeting did not end there. Once I opened the door, several other people spoke. It was good to acknowledge the passing of an era, the change in our lives. One thanked us (WHM) for remaining in the struggle with them, and actually said to me “we are of one blood”, which I took as a high compliment to someone like me who so clearly does not look like anyone’s relative there. A small redemption, the kind of subtle good that God waters from the seeds of death.
And then we turned to welcoming a new nurse who just joined us this week, and introducing all the staff to her. Instead of dry introductions, I asked each person after giving their name to share one good thing that happened in their lives in the last year. That turned out to be a blast. Everyone loosened up, laughed, clapped for each other. People gave thanks for degrees completed, children with good exam scores, weddings, babies, houses built. The biggest explosion of happiness came when one of the porters (janitor) stood up and said that he bought his first phone today! In a season of grief, in acknowledging our loss, it was therapeutic to remind each other of the good things that have happened, too. And to witness that sharing both grief and joy binds us together in community. And that is part of what produces perseverance.