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Questioning Life With Deathly Issues

Recently our oldest daughter had a double balloon valvuloplasty on her ventricular heart valve. She was born with this heart defect, where two of the three leaflets in her heart valve were fused together; this procedure inserts a tiny balloon catheter into her artery in her leg, runs it up to her heart, and very gently blows it up to help ease the two leaflets apart.

With all the technical mumbo-jumbo aside, let me get to the real issue here. Leading up to the surgery, my main worries were ones of allergic reactions, recovery time…the fact that my baby was going under the “knife” even though she had no open heart surgery. Something like this makes you reach deep inside yourself, to your deepest beliefs and values to find the strength to overcome what is worrying you.

A chapel was offered to us in the event we wanted to go pray; when I walked in, I was disappointed but not surprised to find that it catered to the three major religions, Christianity, Judaism and Muslim. It was a rather pleasant room, awash in a soothing color, with beautiful backlit stained glass window of a peaceful scene, instead of religious symbols. There were three small storage tables, each with their own religious paraphernalia, one with a rug for praying. But many of the more spiritual religions like Buddhism, Paganism, and Hinduism….they were not present in the room in any such way.

For some reason, my ire was up with this, feeling that my spiritual preference was not as important as those three. I walked back to the admittance desk for the Children’s Ward and asked for the paperwork I had filled out earlier. On it was a spot for marking your religious preference and I had marked “other” because it only listed the three major and then other. When I got the paperwork back I wrote next to it “pagan”.

I felt rather relieved and liberated by writing that one little word, but I wanted to do more. On one of the latter pages, it left room for giving your opinion about the service and experience of your stay. Oh boy, I opened my pen up and let ‘er rip! I mentioned how the lesser recognized religions were grossly under-recognized and that some would like to feel welcome when they come in for a time of spiritual need and fulfillment.

I had no space in her room to set up a brief altar or space, but that brief sojourn into the sanctuary provided left me with a fleeting feeling of calm. I wanted more, I wanted to be in a place where I could feel fulfilled and complete and serene.

The Children’s Garden was magical in itself, with flowers and creatures of varying mystique scattered around the small space. The Tin Man carrying Dorothy’s ruby slippers, a giant dragonfly swooping near a tree, two colorful and mischievous turtles as well as a colorful and playful cow were my clergy while I regrouped my scattered emotions and inner turmoil.

A few days after we left the hospital, I received a call from the hospital wanting to know how our daughter was doing and what our stay was like. I told her about how she was doing and that things were returning to normal with our daily life. She mentioned my little side-note about making other spiritual believers feel welcome, and that they were going to make the chapel a more non-specific setting, with relaxing music, candles, and books of inspirational quotes compiled by various sources. Beautiful artwork would line the walls, creating a place out of time for gathering one’s senses. Then she did something not many people do when I mention my religion….she thanked me.

Needless to say, this left my heart feeling light and bright with the fact that one person taking one step made a difference.