Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, p. 134, BCP

At the language school in Cuernavaca, where I will hopefully be heading only a couple days after you read this, we finish each day with compline. I love the service as much, if not more, in Spanish as in English. The prayer from which the opening line quoted above comes means even more to me now than in the past, thanks to the first night I’ve ever spent in a hospital, three nights ago. Early on I was in so much pain (pray you never get a kidney stone!) I was completely at the mercy of the people working around me. Desperate for relief, I was acutely aware of how carefully they carried out the steps necessary to both ease my pain and identify the problem. All the while I was comforted in a way that goes far deeper than words by my brother’s presence. He managed, as he has done so many times over the years, to lower my anxiety, in this case by flitting from one topic to another, whether or not I was able to meaningfully respond, always with a look on his face that told me how hard watching can be, when he so clearly wanted to be able to DO something to ease my pain.

Later, after he, I, and the doctor agreed it would be best for me to spend the night at the hospital Kenny went home. I in turn drifted in and out of consciousness, having finally responded to the pain medication, amazed at how incredibly peaceful everything seemed. I could hear the nurses passing back and forth on the other side of the curtain, occasionally speaking to each other, but more often in silence. When I needed help someone was there at the push of a button. (I’d always heard that expression but now I understand it.) Around 2 AM I was moved to a short stay room where a different night nurse was unfailingly kind until I was wheeled to surgery at 6 AM.

I’ve never had a night job, never had the responsibility of being “on” in those quiet hours after midnight when most of the world is fast asleep. How fortunate the rest of us are that there are people willing and able to take on that responsibility. Every night there are people working, watching, and yes, weeping, while we sleep. Maybe we have been one of them at some point in time. Maybe we know one or more of them. What I know is how profoundly grateful I am to have been loved and cared for by people willing to be there for me when I really needed them. Collectively they took a miserable experience and wrapped it in the Love that is God.