“I believe God lets us stumble along, slowly finding our way, and giving us chances to pick each other up.” – Anna White
Today my oldest son had appointments with his oncologist and neurologist — not our favorite family activity. I’d handled myself fairly well in the days leading up to the appointments, not quite as anxious as usual. But when we arrived at the waiting area for his labs, my calmness went out the window. I managed to hold on until he was called back for his blood draw, but my fears took over and I let the tears silently roll as soon as the doors closed behind him.
“He’s going to be okay,” said a soft voice next to me.
I looked over at the large woman seated next to us I’d briefly noticed when we arrived. She was hard to miss. She had a colorful silk scarf fashionably wrapped around her head to hide her hairless scalp, heavy makeup and tattooed eyebrows. She also had a large bandage covering her port entry above the neckline of her bright pink shirt.
“I’ve been fighting for eleven years now,” she continued. “If I can do it, he can do it. He’ll be fine.” I asked her what she was fighting. Cancer, she replied. A type of cancer stemming from AIDS. She went on to explain that she’d been raped twelve years ago and tested positive for AIDS a year later. Her candor startled me.
And as I looked at her more closely, I noticed that her features were…a bit unusual. Masculine. Suddenly it dawned on me that she might actually be a he. As I processed this, she asked if I was there with my son. When I said yes, she said, “You did great job waiting to cry until he went back. That’s good for him.”
She couldn’t have said anything more perfect. She’d noticed – and understood – what I had done and why. And she assured me I was right in doing so. I was grateful, relieved and moved. Here was a person – a cancer and AIDS patient, no less, who was fighting for her life – a life that clearly hasn’t been easy, and she was taking the time and energy to comfort me, extend me kindness. Amazing.
As my son returned to the waiting room and we prepared to head to his next appointment, I asked her name so I could include her in my prayers. David. His, not her, name was David.
I had prayed this morning for comfort and support from a loving God. Today the face of God was a cross-dressing cancer patient with AIDS and a cruel history.
What a perfect face it was.
This is the God I know and love. The God who can always, always use us for good, no matter how broken our bodies or how difficult our past. We don’t have to be perfect or pious. We just have to be present and love one another.
Photos are details from installations around the hospital.