Just over twelve weeks ago everything changed for me. People told me it would happen, of course, but how could I possibly know what they meant? One night I was out running errands and doing laundry, sleeping soundly in a quiet house, and the next – well, let’s just say the world turned upside down and my heart cracked open.
The morning of my son, Henry’s birth, everything went exactly as planned. We arrived at the hospital on time and before we knew it, we were heading down the long hall to the operating room for my partner, Loretta’s, scheduled ceaserian section delivery. The doctors and nurses warned me that I’d need to wait outside for just a few minutes, and relieved that our midwife was in the operating room, I sat on the bench outside the door and began to wait.
I waited and waited. I tried meditating, but that didn’t work for long. Within minutes of closing my eyes and counting my breaths, the narrow corridor filled with doctors and nurses scrubbing in at the sink just a few feet away from me. They sure seemed at ease, but as the time of the surgery got closer and closer, my anxiety started to climb. So I began to pray. I prayed for the hands of the surgeon, for his quick mind and kind heart. I prayed for the nurses and the anesthesiologist, for their care and skill. I prayed for Henry and Loretta, for their health and comfort, and I prayed for myself, for the flexibility to cope and be present to all the moments ahead. As I prayed, I poured out my worries and my mind eased. And then something else happened. Something that I find harder to explain. The best I can do is to say that my heart simply cracked open that morning. In those moments sitting on the bench outside the operating room, I heard in my own prayers an echo – a ghost, you might say in this month of Halloween.
In that echo, I heard not only my voice praying for the health of my wife and son, for the doctors and nurses caring for them – but I heard the voices of families around the world – – from Iraq to Afghanistan to Norway to Australia to America – offering up those very same prayers in dozens of languages. I imagined families sitting outside of operating rooms, beside bomb sites, up late at night wondering where their children were – and I heard their prayers lifted up – their hopes, their dreams, their human longings. In those moments before the nurse called my name and led me into the operating room, I felt myself joined in this chorus of connection – praying for comfort, for hope, and for the ability to cope with whatever came next.
Through this experience, I came to know our essential and unwavering human connection in a new way. No matter who we are and where we come from, we share so many of the same hopes and dreams, most of them so basic – for health, for life, for care and hope. As we continue to live into this month of pumpkins and haunted houses and memories – I pray that the ghosts of our neighbors all around the world might call us back to our truest task – creating conditions of health and healing the whole world round.