The sadness in the air was as heavy as the humidity in the Women’s cancer hospital in Managua, Nicaragua.
It felt as though the weariness of long illness was contagious and epidemic throughout the patients who barely had the energy to smile. Laying on beds with loved ones nearby, their mouths formed a welcome that didn’t quite reach their eyes. As we entered the room and began friendly rounds of greeting, one woman sank into a rocking chair, buried her face into a cloth and began silently sobbing. Later we found out that she has both six children and cancer. That day was her first away from family for an indeterminate amount of time while she received treatment.
We brought songs and smiles and art supplies to cheer them. I can’t imagine feeling so sick and enduring this heat too someone whispered to me. It felt as though we rested in a balmy bowl of rising dough, the yeast of illness all around.
Five of us slipped out the door with two translators to visit the terminal patients who rested in a cooler part of the hospital. We entered room after room, laid hands on tumorous bellies and prayed. If a translator was available, we prayed with one, but if not, we prayed anyway. The common language of the Spirit and smiles and even tears. Not one of us had dry eyes before we were done.
As I approached one bed, the person upon it was so sick it was impossible even to discern that she was a woman. I prayed for her and held her hand, but my eyes were drawn to the young girl beside her bed. She looked to be 15 or 16 years old, alone, with hopeless, glazed eyes. I knelt beside her with a translator by my side.
Sometimes when you are taking care of someone very sick, people forget to ask how you are doing. How are you doing?
Her eyes blinked, teared, and she turned away from the kindness. I’m sad, she said shortly, holding onto a thin frame of reluctance to receiving help from strangers.
Mamas usually take care of their babies, but you must take care of your mama. That’s very difficult, so you need to make sure you also take care of yourself. With those words, the frame shuddered and gave way; she bent over and wept. I put my arms around her and cried, too.
Let the tears come, I told her. Don’t hold them back because they will wash the feelings out of your heart so you can feel better. These tears mean you have a big heart.
As I prayed for her, I prayed that every day she would find some small token of encouragement and hope and know that God sees her sacrifice, her courage, her pain. This is what we all need. And the faith to believe it’s Him.