Arif was brought up to the third floor by the back way. We were instructed to go to the ICU waiting room until they got him settled in his room. It was time to settle into what would become our new home.
Visiting hours were posted at the entrance to the waiting room - 9 AM, 1, 5, and 8 PM for an hour each time. The doors to the ICU wing were closed and locked the rest of the day. Hospital personnel came and went, punching in a code on a keypad on the wall next to the waiting room door. A phone without buttons hung next to the keypad.
The ICU waiting room was bright, but stark. The floor looked to be a shiny oak laminate. Wooden chairs with blue padded seats lined the beige walls. A dozen chairs sat in three neat lines to the left as we entered. A small, dark table lay between the two rows which faced each other. People of all descriptions slumped sleepily, read magazines, or fidgeted nervously in the chairs. An empty table stood in front of the only window in the far right corner. The television hung in the upper left corner, droning the current soap opera. A pay phone adorned the center of the wall to the right. Next to the phone hung a sign and a white board. The sign asked people to respect others’ needs and limit calls to fifteen minutes. On the other side of the phone, the white board had blanks for names, and columns to mark whether they were ‘in’ or ‘out.’ On the table under that phone perched an off-white hospital phone with half a dozen buttons.
The three of us wandered into the room and found seats together near the window, with a lovely view of the parking lot.
We sat down, feeling dazed. No words came to express what each was thinking and feeling.
We waited outside of time. Was it a few minutes, or several hours? There was no counting of time as we were accustomed to its passing.
A man entered, inquiring for the Marshalls. Was he bringing news of Arif? He was not dressed like a doctor, but wore a dark suit.
“We are here.” Joe responded, standing up.
“I am Ed Hahn, hospital chaplain.” He extended his hand.
“Like Scott Hahn?” Joe responded. “He is one of our favorite speakers. Are you related?”
“No, not as far as I know. ... I was told you were here. I just wanted to introduce myself and let you know I am available if you want to talk to someone. My office is on the second floor if you need me. But I am not there very much. Here is my card. Call my office and someone can page me if you need to get in touch with me.”
Then he was gone.
The phone on the table rang. Someone picked it up.
“Is there anyone named Marshall here? ... It’s for you.” She handed the phone to Joe.
It was one of Arif’s friends from Crowder College. News had spread quickly about Arif’s accident. By eleven o’clock, it seemed everyone on campus knew about it and was praying for him. There was a somber air on campus. A blood drive was scheduled on Friday. People were planning to give blood on Arif’s behalf.
Joe told her: “We really don’t know much, yet. His leg is broken and he looks pretty beat up. They say he is critical and that there is no brain activity.”
We were assured of many prayers. Could they come up to see Arif?
Joe told them of visiting hours, but that we did not know, yet if people could see him. But they were welcome to come and visit, even if it was just with us.
A friend, another Mary, came in. She rushed over and threw big hugs around each of us.
“My daughter called and told me she was called for the home school group prayer chain. She said Arif was in an accident.”
“We really don’t know much, yet. His leg is broken and he looks pretty beat up. They say he is critical and that there is no brain activity.” Joe responded. He became our spokesman a good bit of the time.
Mary continued: “I go to eleven o’clock Mass here, so I thought I would bring you something to eat. I know you like to eat healthy, so I got these from Panera. They have a lovely chapel here. You should go on down there sometime.”
“Thank you. What a wonderful surprise. We had not even thought that we might be hungry. The chapel will be one of our next activities, once we find out what is up with Arif.” It was my turn to speak.
After she left, we munched on sandwiches. They were satisfying and we were touched by Mary’s thoughtfulness.
The phone rang again. Someone else from the home school group wanted to know what news there might be.
“We really don’t know much, yet. His leg is broken and he looks pretty beat up. They say he is critical and that there is no brain activity.” Joe found that he had a script. “We are waiting to talk with the doctor.”
As the day wore on, amidst the calls of concern, we slowly pieced together the story. What happened after Arif left home that Thursday morning.