I was already aware of him when he walked in. He was the man whose car pulled up to the door just ahead of us, and I had hopped out quickly to get ahead of him. Who knows how deep the line is inside that door.
I am on vacation in a strange town. I’ve just tested positive for Covid, my symptoms are worsening, and I want to get some meds, but it is Sunday night and all the walk-in clinics are closed. So I have come to the ER.
The woman behind the window asks why I’ve come in, and I tell her. The man who came in just behind me is now at the window to my left. He is about my age. Another receptionist asks him his name. It’s David. My receptionist asks for my preferred religion. Because I am at Baptist Hospital, I say, Episcopalian—but I was born a Baptist, if that will get me better treatment, I say with a hoarse laugh. To my left the woman asks David why he has come in. He stands with his head slightly bowed, his wife holds his arm. He says, I am coughing up blood.
Suddenly I don’t care about my Covid. My raging throat is as nothing, my body ache as a passing wince. The woman asks David his preferred religion. Catholic, he says.
I sit in the waiting room with Pam and look at the other David in this place. His wife is texting. I imagine she is telling their children, but I don’t know. A door opens and a voice calls, Anderson. I want to say, Take him first—feeling slightly guilty now that I had hustled ahead of him in line.
I am placed in a bed but no one comes. I lie there, hoping David has something like an ulcer, nothing worse. As a priest often called to emergencies, I have taken over the years to praying when an ambulance passes me, or when I see a car wreck, asking simply for grace and peace. I raise my hands and pray now for my brother, the prayer I have prayed a thousand times.
David, I lay my hands upon you in the strong name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, beseeching him to uphold you with his grace, and to fill you with his love, that you may know the healing power of the love of Christ, made known throughout your body, mind, and spirit. Amen.