I just returned from a four-day trip to the Tennessee/Virginia/Kentucky border and basically, it's a far piece from Little Rock... I was traveling with a friend and our first stop upon arrival was the hospital where her mother is very sick. The next two days were wearing on the family; not so much for me as I didn't go to the hospital as often as they did and I actually had time to walk around on their farmland, sit in their swing and read/pray, take pictures, etc. So in some ways, while it was very hard on the family, at times I felt like I was almost on a retreat.
A very productive retreat actually...
All I can think is that going into ICU to hold the hand of someone who is dying and then sitting in the adjacent waiting room while other families talk softly or sob openly about things like "cancer", "pneumonia", "staph infection" -maybe all of that is a good springboard for quiet times.
As I roamed through some beautiful countryside, I realized it's one thing to do life when everything is "normal". It's another to "do life" when you're looking around a sterile hospital room, wondering if angels are already gathering to escort the loved one into the presence of God.
To put it bluntly, no one looks good in a disease-ridden body but at the same time, no one really cares in ICU other than to "scan" their loved ones' features for some sign as to whether the meds are working or not. The things we normally process through our minds, like My hair's a mess or Um hmm, she's put on weight since I last saw her or Who in their right mind would ever wear a dress like that out in public? - those things seem asinine in the face of death.
Other things such as: is this person satisfied with the way they spent their life? Would they like to have do-overs? What will it be like for them to break free of this realm and enter into eternity? - those questions quickly morphed into: am I satisfied with the way I am spending my life? Are there things I need to do differently now while I still have time? What will it be like for me when I break free of this realm and stand before the Living God?
By the end of the weekend, I realized that a hospital situated in the middle of a beautiful pastoral scene is not a bad place to jumpstart a mini-retreat.