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Grace happens

Today Honey's roommate in room 364 at Maine Medical Center was discharged. Some other day I'll tell you about why Honey is in the hospital again, but this story is about the roommate because it's way more interesting. Let's call him Elton, because all I really know about him is he plays guitar in an Elton John tribute band and he's originally from the very northern part of England, bordering Scotland. (Or as Honey described it, "that place in England where the Roman Empire decided, nope, those Celts are crazy, and put up a wall.")

Elton was in room 364 before Honey arrived, and what struck me immediately, besides his delightful accent and soothing Liam-Neeson-esque voice, was his gentle, good-natured manner. He was going through heck from a botched surgery and compartment syndrome - pain and gore and fear of losing the use of his dominant hand - yet he spoke kindly and softly to every person who came into his room. Every time a nurse walked in, Elton greeted her with "Why, hullo, love, how's it going?" and he chatted with and said thank you to the woman who cleaned the room each day. He cheered on Honey with every small improvement ("Yeah, mate, that jello looks delicious!") and boosted him at each setback ("well, at least it's warm in here - look how cold outside!").

The entire wing seemed excited today for Elton to be finally going home after his ordeal. It's kind of a big deal to be leaving a hospital after a week-long stay; you've stared in the face of really scary things, laid awake in a sterile room listening to strangers snore or scream in the night, you've longed for food that didn't taste like wet paper towels. We felt his victory.

We also felt his anger when the finance officer came in to talk to him about his bill. What was supposed to be a 3-hour procedure turned into an 8-day hospital stay with multiple surgeries. He's looking at losing his full-time job as well as his part-time passion income from playing guitar. And the hospital wanted to know, as he's putting on his coat, how he plans to pay the $45,000 bill.

But it got worse: Elton lives 80 miles from the hospital, and his wife doesn't drive. He asked if they could arrange a cab for him, and they said yes...for an additional $200.

Suddenly this lovely, gentle man came unglued. He yelled at the finance woman to get out of the room, he called his wife and hollered about the inhumanity of the US hospital system, and then he cried about the botched surgery, his sadness over letting his wife down with such a huge bill and so little savings, and his fear of never playing the guitar again. Honey and I sat on the opposite side of the curtain feeling sad and helpless, even crying along with him. He's so right. It's a fucking mess of a system, and life changes so dramatically so fast. He deserved at least a damn cab ride home!

But here's the part I really want to tell you about. (I'll save the true rant about the health care system for another day.) While Elton pulled himself together, I overheard one of the nurses - let's call him Joe - in the hallway on his walkie. He was talking to the finance woman: "Just call him the cab, please, and let me pay for it. I'll pick up an extra shift this week. Yes, it's fine, he's been an excellent patient, I want to help. Here's my badge number."

Honey heard it too, but I don't think Elton did. We sat holding hands and smiling as Joe walked back in the room and said, "Hey, Elton, great news! They've waived the cab fee and there's going to be a car here in 10 minutes. Let's get you put together." And like that, Elton squared his shoulders, breathed deep, shook our hands and wished Honey luck, and walked out of the hospital with his head high and on his own power.

I thought it important to tell you this story for a couple reasons. First, I watched a man struggle with terrible, scary, painful things all week, but always with a brave smile on his face and kindness for everyone who came into his presence. That's grace. And then, second, when he was at the end of his stores of hopefulness, holding on to his dignity by a thread, I saw another man step in and quietly help. No need for recognition, with human kindness and care. That's grace.

Grace happens when we're least expecting it, right? In the lowest places, at the most unlikely times. But it's there, and I'm so grateful I got to witness it today.

I hope Elton got home safely to his wife, and I hope they snuggled on the couch eating ice cream and watching Mozart in the Jungle together. (Oh, wait, that's what I plan to do with Honey as soon as he comes home!) I also hope in a couple months we can take the kids to see an Elton John tribute band with our English friend playing the guitar, totally healed and with this bad week fully behind him...behind us.


  1. That is a grace-filled story for sure! Sending thoughts for healing your way.

    1. Thank you! I’m so happy that all four of us are sleeping under one roof tonight.

  2. Wow, what a moment! You told it so beautifully, Tori. I felt like I was sitting there with you, hoping for a happy ending for Elton. Thank God for Joe. We need more of him in this world.

    1. Honey has had Nurse “Joe” before and he is remarkable. Joe sat with me and chatted the first day of this stay - I could tell he just has a sixth sense for proples’ needs. A generous heart. He also said he’d been hospitalized before; it makes a difference in how he does his job, I’m sure.

  3. Is there any way we can send along a donation to "Joe"? That act of kindness made my whole day, but it breaks my heart he has to pick up another shift. Seriously, let me know! Sending healing thoughts Honey's way and peace/strength your way!

    1. I have been thinking about that too, Paula. We offered to help, but he refused. Let’s definitely try to pay it forward, though - not necessarily monetarily but with random generosity and acts of kindness.

  4. Love this blog post Tori! Thanks for sharing!! And Glad the Fab Four are back under one roof again :)


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