Beatrice

Hook Rehab Center was certainly a busy place. Doctors, nurses and transportation orderlies bustled about, chatter filling the hallways. Amidst all the movement, perhaps fifty patients lay on their beds, most of them silent, many unmoving. This was a center dedicated to the rehabilitation of those severely injured by strokes and traumatic brain injuries.

I had been there for only a few months. It was really my first job since I left the world of drugs and petty theft. Before the Center, I had given out towels at the local YMCA, buzzing members into locker rooms. I hadn’t done so well with that, and was fired after thirty days.

I suppose Hook Rehab wasn’t really a pleasant place to live. Patients called to me from time to time, as I passed by their rooms. Strapped into chairs, they sometimes cried out for water or simply moaned as they slipped past their restrains and hung askew in their chairs, unable to right themselves. I did the best I could, helping them as I was able, but always mindful of the fact that someone was waiting for transportation to physical therapy. That was my job. I transported patients to the physical therapy center, three floors below.

After work, however, I would return to the Center and visit with the patients I had transported during the day. Beatrice was one of those patients. A slight woman, with brilliant green eyes, she was completely paralyzed on her left side, having suffered a stroke. Beatrice had lived at the Center for many months, undergoing therapy, but there had been no change in her condition. Coupled with the fact that she was well into her seventies, it was not likely that she would ever walk again. I never saw anyone visit her, and I never found out if she had any family in the area. But every day, I would enter her small, dimly lit room; without even a single photograph on the dresser, to read to her from the book of Psalms.

Physical therapy orderlies were required to have a uniform appearance. Black pants, black shoes and socks; a white T and white dress shirt.  If drugs had done anything to me, they had made it hard to focus on any one thing for more than a few minutes. The result was, I never could get the dress code right. One morning I would show up with black socks, shoes and pants, a white dress shirt and a navy blue T shirt. The next day, it would be a white T, white dress shirt, black pants and shoes, but i would wear a pair of white socks. It seemed like I could never get it right. Not only that, I was a bit unbalanced. I had a tendency to bounce into the hallway walls as I walked. I’m not quite sure what my father thought about his ex-hippie son with long hair working alongside him. He was the chief neurosurgeon at Community Hospital and many of his patients were recovering at Hook Rehab.

In the darkened room, Beatrice waited to recover, As the days passed by, and nothing happened, she began to grow despondent and depressed. But, just as it appeared that this season of infirmity would be the final winter season of her life, I began to sense something struggling to break through the frozen ground and spring to life. As the weeks went by, I was sure of it. I was convinced she would walk again, and began to pray.

I, however, had my own problems. Not only couldn’t I walk straight, I couldn’t remember when to get off the elevator with my patients. I would wheel my patient into the elevator, but by the time we arrived, for instance, at the second floor, I would be lost in thought. When the door then opened on the third floor, I would either wheel the patient out and stare awkwardly at the floor sign, or sheepishly wait while others departed and I repressed the second floor button. Unfortunately, I often came to my senses again only after returning to the first floor. Or worse, the door would open in the basement, to the smirks and giggles of my coworkers at physical therapy.

One thing I knew, however, was that Beatrice had to recover. She would grow stronger soon and, before long, walk out of the hospital. But day after day passed and, although I prayed and faithfully read the book of Psalms to her, Beatrice lay in her bed, weak and sorrowful; her left arm lying uselessly by her side.

One afternoon, I stopped by Beatrice’s room for a quick visit.  Nothing had changed; the sterile room was dimly lit and the pastel floral watercolor hung over the bed. Except that Beatrice was gone. The bed was empty. She had been shipped off to a nursing home. It seems that this season of her life would be her final season.  Alone, immobile and sick, Beatrice would doubtless spend her final days waiting for death, which would certainly find her before long.

It was also the end of a major season in my own life. After six months, my boss sat me down, explained that he was  proud of how far I had come since I stopped using drugs, but that I still had a long way to go. Then he fired me. I went on to work at another hospital.

Years passed, and though Beatrice slipped into the past, I thought of her many times. I began to hold ever more responsible jobs and, after a few detours, began to work with inner city, at-risk youth. I also facilitated a drug intervention group for a multi-service center. I could walk in a straight line, and keep my attention focused on matters at hand. Life had certainly changed. My waist-long hair had been cut short and I even used elevators effortlessly. My ability to dress appropriately, however, still left something to be desired.

It was then that I met Tony. Tall, gaunt and troubled, he lived on the near North side, and had been suffering from Tuberculosis. I often met with him, discussing the trials and tribulations of life. One day, our conversation turned to healing.

“My landlady’s amazing,” Tony began. “She’s in her eighties and rides around the neighborhood on her bicycle.”

I definitely thought that was cool.

“She had a stroke, man, and spent months in the hospital. She used to be paralyzed,” he went on. “They sent her to a nursing home to die, but God healed her. Now she’s great: rides around like nothing ever happened, and she’s almost eighty-five.”

I looked at Tony and asked the question. “I used to work at a hospital. Which one was she at?”

“Hook Rehab at Community.”

“That’s where I worked.” Then I asked softly, “What’s her name?”

Beatrice was all he said.

When I had first learned that Beatrice was in a nursing home, something full of hope and promise had turned as empty as her small sterile room. Whatever God had done with my prayers didn’t seem to matter. I had told her that God would heal, that he cared what happened to her. Little did I know, He had never quit working, that He had gone with her into that nursing home and remained with her as she left. His spirit had found His way into the depths of her body and, as that same Spirit had raised Christ from the dead, He had raised her from paralysis and death. He had done abundantly more than I asked for or imagined, through the power of His Spirit, who worked through me. Beatrice and Karl, two children of God, received each other and were healed.