He Sees the Sparrow

A face among many blurred faces that I remember

There's always someone. Someone I notice. Someone in a crowd of blurred faces, too many to take in, faces in airports, train stations, markets, hospital corridors. That someone sticks. Sticks in my memory. And I wonder, what is her story? What is his life like?

This past summer on an integrated stroke unit in an Ontario hospital where my dad was being cared for after suffering a stroke, there was someone, a face among many blurred faces that I remember, can’t forget.

There she was, standing by the door to my dad’s room beside another man and woman. The three of them were strangers to me. I assumed they had come together to visit my dad, to console, to love, to pray in dire circumstances.

I went to the door to introduce myself and to welcome them in. The man and woman, a couple, introduced themselves as my dad’s friends. I shook their hands and thanked them for coming. Then I put out my hand to shake the other stranger’s hand.

“I know you,” she said.

“I don’t think we’ve met before,” I answered.

“Oh, yes, we have!” This little-bird-of-a lady would brook no argument. Her dark, beady eyes drilled into mine.

For a moment, she almost convinced me. Did she remember me from when I was a child? That could hardly be. I wasn’t that much younger than her. Was she confusing me with someone else?

It was then I noticed the hospital band around her delicate wrist, the neat flannel pajamas draped over her bony frame, the cozy slippers on her tiny feet. Oh! It dawned on me. She’s a patient. She’s had a stroke, too.

I thanked her for dropping by, then steered her away, down the hall. There was too much to deal with, too much stress, too many unknowns. I didn’t have time or energy to deal with this stranger.

Later, as we spent some days at the hospital, I learned the name of the sparrow-lady as the nurses led her out of other rooms – “Lois, shall we go over here instead?” – and away from other places she didn’t belong. I began to notice that Lois had no civility filters, no ability – now stroke-robbed – to know what was socially acceptable and what wasn’t. Each time the nurses retrieved her from another socially unacceptable situation, they treated her with dignity, love and utmost care. A fallen sparrow receiving grace.

Known by God
A few days later, my husband Rinke and I were sitting with my dad in the small lunchroom used by patients on the unit. Lois came in and walked over to us. She wrapped her arm around my dad’s shoulder and drew closer and closer to him, talking sweetly.

I became uncomfortable. Lois was getting too familiar with my dad for my liking.

So I gently led her away from our table. I talked to her about how I’d noticed how kind she was, always trying to cheer others up. To my surprise, she burst into tears. She cried, “I try! I try!”

I was so startled at her outburst and her inner turmoil. Who was this lady? What was her story? What did her inner landscape look like? I put my arm around her and she leaned into me for comfort. 

Now, months later, I remember you, Lois. More important, God remembers you. He sees the sparrow fall. 

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