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Love & Affection challenge: Visiting Hours

There can be untold and surprising depths of affection from random encounters between strangers

Visiting Hours

Some thirty years ago, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and was in hospital for treatment of it.

She was closest to the door in a double room on the gastro-intestinal ward of a large teaching hospital. Her chamber mate was about sixteen or seventeen, getting treatment for a painful, chronic auto-immune disease. The only thing separating the two beds was a privacy curtain that could be opened or closed. My mother was a shy woman, but sociable, and would talk to just about anyone, so it was no surprise that she was soon fully informed about her room-mate: the details of her life, family, friends and of course, her health. 

At that time, I was living in the same city as my parents, and would go to the hospital to see my mother as often as possible, when my work schedule permitted. She told me about her room-mate, and when I asked how they got along, shrugged. They got along just fine, but the young girl was far more interested in her boyfriend and the visits he paid than she was in passing the time talking to my mother. When the young fellow was there the privacy curtain was always drawn, but there was little enough privacy to be had with a mere length of cloth between the two beds. She ignored what she heard as much as she could, having her own issues to deal with and her own visitors to tend to.

One day when I arrived to see my mother, there was a small, red, heart shaped box on her bedside table. As it was just after Valentine's Day  I asked her who had come to see her, bringing chocolates. Although the curtain was drawn, she beckoned me close and in a low voice, explained. 

Two days previously, the boyfriend of her room-mate was visiting once school was done for the day. The two of them were talking, the visit went on. While trying to ignore them, my mother's ears sharpened when the tone of the conversation changed. 

He was dragging his heels about leaving, and the young woman was insisting he had to. His mother, suffering from cancer, was in a different hospital, one that was forty minutes away by public transportation. He was supposed to go and see her before the close of visiting hours. It had been a few days since he had been, and that visit had been distressing. She had had a very bad day and was drifting in and out of sleep. The longer he put off leaving, the greater the risk of not getting to the other hospital during visiting hours. 

When he finally headed to the door, my mother called him over to her. She told him she knew it was difficult for him seeing his mother so unwell, but she also knew he would be able to do it and that it would be okay. And with that, he left. 

The following day, when the young fellow arrived for his daily visit, he stopped by my mother's bedside to speak with her. When he had entered his mother's hospital room the previous day, she was sitting up in bed doing a crossword puzzle, and mother and son had a good visit. My mother's encouraging words and kindness toward him had helped him greatly, and in thanks, gave her that small heart shaped box of chocolates.

Of all the gifts my mother received from family and friends in the few months she had left to live, that is the only one I remember, a gift of thanks straight from the heart of a young man whose name I do not know. 






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