TRUE STORY: The girl in the hospital bed– Mark Roberts

What if we manifested God’s love in a way that people could experience as colourful notes of music?

As the scent of sickness and death passed through the passageways of the government hospital, I made my way to Ward 3. Instinctively, I covered my nose, to avoid the germs that so keenly sought out willing and naive carriers. Overcrowded beds lined the passageways and family members shed tears for those waiting to be met by the Grim Reaper.

As I turned the corner, I scanned the beds for her familiar face, and in a brief second, our eyes met. There she sat on a chair, next to the dirty bed, emaciated, bones protruding from her slender frame. I felt my heart sink as she looked away in shame. I bent over to kiss her forehead; she simultaneously moved her head away and whispered with shame: “You shouldn’t be here. This is not a place people should come to.”

I had known Liezel for many years. I had met her when she was a heroin addict and had the privilege of seeing her turn her life around. What a beautiful and vibrant woman she turned out to be. Top of her class, she fell in with the wrong crowd and endeavoured on a downward spiral for years, until the day she landed on my doorstep. She was a brilliant pharmacist, intelligent, but shy; a woman of the world, and yet a lady few could emulate. As I sat on the bed in the hospital, I caught the pungent smell of faeces, blood and urine, and I understood her shame and embarrassment. Still, she refused to make eye contact. The sheets were covered in dry blood, and it was clear that no one had changed her bedding, clothes or nappy in the preceding days. I wondered how many people died in this hospital from infections, due to the apparent lack of hygiene. I tried desperately to hide my disgust and rage at the environment we found ourselves in.

As a result of severe ulcers, Liezel had nearly died. With half her stomach sewn up, I was flabbergasted that she was still alive. “Is there anything I can get you?” I asked. I scanned the bedside table, noting that she had no juice or water. How long had it been since she had felt the cool sensation of water relieving her parched throat? “A Bible would be nice,” she responded gently, “I just so badly want to read the Bible.” I felt soft tears sting my eyes, and with the best smile I could muster, I whispered: “I think I can manage that for you.” After an hour or so of talking, I kissed her cheek and left, promising to return the following day. Had no one visited her? Where was her church? Where were the followers of Jesus? Was this what Christianity looked like? I wondered; would the heart of God be satisfied with this display of Christian fruits?

The following day after work, I headed home to fetch my wife, Tracy, who wanted to accompany me on my visit to Liezel. To my surprise, she carried bags to the car. The bags were filled with pyjamas, blankets, shampoo and so many other necessities a girl like Liezel was so desperately in need of. With a lump in my throat, I watched as Tracy loaded the essentials into the car, leaned over, kissed me and whispered: “I thought she could do with a few things; you know us women.” Giggling, she shifted her seat belt and we made our way to the hospital across town.

When Liezel spotted us in the overcrowded ward, I noted the familiar look of shame and embarrassment, but as Tracy hugged and kissed her, I saw a glimpse of the girl I knew; shy, yet proud. Despite Liezel’s objections, Tracy shampooed and brushed the tangled mass of hair that hadn’t seen the teeth of a comb in weeks. It was a downright matted mess, but as the seconds of the clock turned to minutes, the long, beautiful hair hung past her waist. I was certain that even Rapunzel gasped at its sheer natural beauty. Next came the wet wipes and the change of pyjamas. By the time we left, Liezel had resembled a human being sporting a little dignity and pride. She’d had two bottles of juice; some yoghurt and water and she had a bit of colour in her cheeks. As we left the hospital, Tracy ran to the nearest tree and vomited. She stood there until her stomach was empty, just heaving, tears in her eyes. “All I could smell in that ward was death!” she cried, as she put her arms around me and sobbed.

For a moment, a picture of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting flashed before my eyes, and I considered its relevance to the situation. Several years ago, an Italian composer claimed that he had found hidden musical notes in the painting. He claimed that it was a musical piece of approximately 40 seconds and that the notes were hidden in the hands of Jesus and the bread in the hands of His disciples. As I stood looking at Tracy, I considered the following: Maybe as Christians there should be some sort of music to our actions. Surely as we walk about this world sharing the Love Story of God, there should be something special about it; something almost musical that will capture the heart and minds of people in this world. If Jesus is the Bread of Life, the One from whom all goodness flows, then, surely, as that life flows through us, it should be playing some sort of melody. It should be playing the greatest melody in the universe, and that music should be expressed through our hands. That day, despite being sick to her stomach, I heard music in Tracy’s hands. She has a childlike faith. I never hear her shout: “Praise Jesus!”, but her hands always talk about Jesus. That day I got a glimpse of what Jesus must look like. I think that Tracy somewhere along the way got to see a part of Jesus I didn’t really know. You see, despite the stench of death and faeces and as churned as His stomach may feel, Jesus willingly heads down that long overcrowded hall and He notices Liezel. He combs her hair, changes her clothes and kisses her gently on her brow. Death may lurk behind the curtains, but Liezel needn’t be afraid. In His hands is the Bread of Life. As He passes that life to her, she can close her eyes as the secret hidden melody sings her to sleep, and this He does through the hands of humans.

Interestingly enough, there is a very rare neurological condition in which two or more senses may intertwine, called synaesthesia. The Russian composer, Alexander Scriabin, had this condition where he would hear music as colours. Imagine that, hearing music in colour! He eventually tried to recreate the experience for those who attended his concerts by inventing a piano-like instrument that could project coloured lights into the hall as the music was played.

I believe that this is the reason Jesus came to this earth: to introduce us to God, so we could see Him in a new and breath-taking dimension, almost like hearing music in colours. You can’t really describe or explain it, nor do you have to, because it speaks for itself. When we come to know God, we should see and hear things differently. When we visit those in hospital, they should be able to see the notes of God’s love projected in so many fabulous colours across the walls of the hallways as we pass by. Like Tracy, we really should let our hands do the talking about God, and when necessary, we can even use words just to colour in the notes.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing this