The pain on her face disrupts and unsettles me. I think about her expression all day long. She is the wife of a patient and she’s remained at his side.

She’s smelled the stink of his excrement until the scent of his insides is normal to her. She’s listened as medical team members file in and out of the room.

Each time a doctor rounds with students, the patient’s spouse is in that familiar seat, waiting and doing her best to love her husband. She is an image of how to love, and I keep her in mind.

At first, in the words of one of my students, she haunts me. And I think better of it. I think of her the way I suggested my student might see her patients: as friends.

My patient and his wife become friends to me. And they walk with me through the quiet halls of our hospital. They sit with me at my desk as I reflect upon my ministry today. They wait with me. They tell me how waiting is an expression of my pastoral care.

And I believe them. And I settle into myself. And I give thanks for them and for her and for the image she offered of how to love.

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