The reflection in the dirty, lead-stained mirror is a me I’m glad only strangers will see tonight. Leaning my forehead against the mirror, I let the steaming water wash over my hands. We’ve been here for hours. Tears roll down my face. Choking back a sob, I turn and look at my twelve-year-old son in the hospital bed.
“Mom, it’s going to be okay,” he says. “It’s just a little detour.”
I force a smile and sit down on his bed. “I know, Matt. I just don’t know what to do next. We should be at the lake by now. Instead, we’re stuck in this grimy hospital in the middle of this huge city.”
“It’s my fault, Mom. I must not have dosed right for dinner. My numbers are still climbing, I can feel it. I hate diabetes so much.”
The man on the other side of the curtain calls out for the hundredth time, “Nurse! Nurse! There’s something in my room! Ahhhh, it’s purple. I looove purple.”
Matt and I burst into exhausted giggles.
Sighing, I pat the bed and stand up. “Well, my phone won’t work here in Canada. I’m going to go see if they’ll let me make a collect call to Grandpa. He must be worried sick knowing we didn’t make our connecting flight.”
The ER is crowded with lost souls. Beds line the hallway, their occupants in various stages of derelict decline. Homelessness, drug addiction, and mental illness appear to be the prevalent causes. I make my way to the registration desk and shakily explain our situation, asking to use a phone.
Pointing to a long curly cord attached to dingy white wall phone, the nurse looks me over with pity. “This is no place for you,” she says. “I’m working on getting your son a private room.”
Thanking her, I reach for the phone. A man behind me moans, retches, and releases bodily fluids into both the bucket in his hands and the one he is sitting on. I gag as the stench hits me. Can this nightmare get any worse?
The phone rings. My dad’s familiar voice breaks me, and I sob into the germ-encrusted receiver. “Dad! We’re in an ER somewhere in Toronto. Matt’s had a diabetic incident. They’re trying to admit us. My phone’s not working. I’m on a hospital phone. I can’t talk long. I have to get back to Matt.”
We talk and I feel strengthened by my father’s prayer and encouraging words. I promise to call him once we’re checked in.
Picking my way through the maze of beds, I find Matt’s curtained room and sit down next to him. His flushed cheeks, bright eyes, and pale face make my heart squish with concern. He looks past me and gapes at something coming through the ER doors.
I hear the woman cursing and yelling before I turn around. Four burly armed guards wearing black pants and bright yellow shirts are dragging an insane-looking creature through the doors. She’s wearing a straitjacket. Her wild eyes and hair remind me of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. The guards place her on a bed in the middle of the ER. The things she hollers make Matt’s eyes as big as saucers.
“Mom, I think we should pray,” Matt says.
“I think we should sing,” I respond. Matt nods. We quietly sing a childhood bedtime song,
“The birdies in the treetops
Sing their songs,
The angels chant their chorus
All day long;
The flowers in the garden
Blend their hue,
So why shouldn’t I,
Why shouldn’t you
Praise God too?”
The retching man stops retching and the man seeing purple falls silent for the first time in hours. The Shrew mumbles curses from a fetal position.
“I think it’s working, Mom; keep singing,” whispers Matt.
I sing a Gaither song,
“Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion He understood;
All I had to offer Him
Was brokenness and pride,
But He made something beautiful
Out of my life.”
A hush falls over the ER. The Shrew sleeps. A nurse holding a clip board stands by the open curtain. Is that fear or awe on her face?
“Um, Mrs. Steel. We have a private room for Matthew.”
I walk beside Matt’s bed as we weave our way through the now-silent ER. A muscled guard sits by the Shrew’s bed with his arms crossed. He nods at me, winks, and gives me a sly thumbs up.
The presence of the Lord is so thick that the ceiling lights shining down on the white hospital beds look like rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds after a storm.
A surprising thought passes through my mind. “This detour to the ER is not about Matthew and me. This is about the souls who needed to know the presence of God.”
Thanksgiving and praise well up in my heart. Wow! God just used us to quietly sing for Him in the darkness.
As we settle into a very quiet, private room, I am full of joy and peace. The nurse checks on Matt and tells me his glucose numbers are returning to normal. He should be safe to travel by morning.
Well-known verses flood my mind, such as Psalm 139:7-11:
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there, If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there your hand will lead me, and your right hand will lay hold o fame. If I say “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me. And the light around me will be night. Even the darkness is not dark to You. And the night is as bright as the day.”
Praise God for detours.
Do you want to meet Matt? He’s over at www.campingstickkids.org. His story of 5 days at camp will help your child learn Bible verses they can carry with them into any situation. Why not take a little detour and come on over.
Joleen Steel is the curriculum specialist for Camping Stick Kids. She has a B.A. in elementary education. She taught public school for ten years before deciding to open her own music studio and homeschool her boys. Joleen is a pastor’s wife and grew up as a pastor’s kid. Her love for the good news of Jesus Christ flows out of her and into the camping stick kids curriculum. Her easy style and creative approach to teaching will encourage your student to learn the Gospel story and be able to share the good news with their friends and family. Joleen would love to have you visit the camping stick kids website and blog. Come say hi at campingstickkids.org and www.readingwritingtea.com.