It was a Sunday morning – a couple of days before Christmas- and, as usual, I had a half hour Service to conduct in the Infirmary (part of my role as Healthcare Chaplain).
These (poorly attended) times of Worship for patients were held in the day room in Ward 18; a ward for elderly patients, but open to all who were hospitalised throughout the building.
It wasn’t a cheerful time that year. Helen had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, had undergone a double mastectomy, and was being treated with sessions of chemotherapy.
I was feeling less than festive, and when I opened the door to the day room, it hadn’t been prepared for the Service. Chairs were randomly placed in the room, an empty coffee cup lay on the table where the Bible was usually placed.
Being just before Christmas, as many as possible able patients had been discharged; fewer nursing staff were on duty, and were struggling to cope. And our pianist had phoned in sick with flu.
Depressing and disheartening – yep.
After ten minutes of waiting, not a single patient had turned up.
I was just about to leave, when there was a knock on the door, and this wee ordinary looking wummin came in.
“I hope I’m not too late – I was told that it was a 10.30 Service, but it’s 10.00 isn’t it? I’m so sorry. Do you want me to go back to my ward?”
“No, no! Please stay. It’s only going to be thee and me, I’m afraid. And the pianist can’t make it today. We’ll have a bash at a couple of carols, but it’ll have to be unaccompanied- oh, and I can’t hold a tune. But, listen, let me read the Christmas Scripture first, then we’ll have a wee prayer”
“OK – that sounds good.”
So we did that. Then I asked her to tell me about herself, and we had a cosy chat.
“Thank you so much”, she said, getting up to leave.
“Do you want to try ‘Away in a Manger’ before you go?”
“Oh, please”, she replied. Then added “I can play the piano a wee bit”
“Oh, that’s great; there’s a music edition of CH3 (third edition of the C of S hymn book) in this cupboard”
So she started to play this old out of tune joanna – magnificently, delicately, sensitively, with the touch of a professional……. which, it turned out, she had been, having studied music at Drama and Music College many years before.
Hymn followed hymn. Music drifted down the ward; nurses joined us – some for a few minutes only because of busyness.
We stayed for an hour! All the traditional favourites. Played beautifully.
And that old untidy Day Room was transformed into what our Celtic forebears call “a thin place”
It was a magical, mystical, merry time of joy and celebration.
Oh, although I can’t recall the lady’s name………….
……….I found out later that she was Jewish!!!!!!!!!!!
“God works in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform”