The Waiting Room

It looks just like you would expect a waiting room to look. Comfortable looking chairs in groups along the right wall encircling low tables. Perfect for family groups to spend time chatting with each other. Potted plants scattered throughout and tea and coffee making facilities off to the left hand side for those wishing to make their own rather than take the trip downstairs to the food court area.

Separating the waiting area from the ICU is the reception desk, meeting rooms and amenities.

The first time that I walked into this room, I wondered at the meeting rooms. Why would you need these in a hospital area? Sadly, before the week was up I knew exactly why.

Scanning the room on that first day, I saw sadness, joy and hope on the faces of those clustered in their little groups before spying my own group toward the back of the waiting area.

Etched on the faces of those I loved was concern. Concern for each other and concern for the person we had gathered to hold vigil over. None of us expected to be there and couldn’t fathom how quickly the human body can fail. It was only yesterday that I had been chatting with him on the phone. It was only yesterday he had told me how much he loved me and I had replied that I loved him too. He’d asked me not to tell our parents he was in hospital, telling me that it would only worry them. I broke his promise but I’m sure not even he knew just how bad things were going to get at that point. I’m glad I did. It meant that they too could have a conversation with him before he lapsed into a coma.

So now we wait. Looking around our family group, see concern on their faces although I could sense the laughter lurking just underneath. Strange isn’t it? How something as precious as a life hanging in the balance could elicit laughter in the vigil keepers. We are a strange bunch our family. Laughter is one of the many threads that bind us together. We knew that he wouldn’t mind. He had the keenest sense out of humour of all of us.

I examine the careworn faces of my mother and step-father. They are struggling. He is their baby and the only child they had together. They have already lost a son each and now another is laying in another room fighting for life. But they haven’t given up hope on him. He is strong. He’s come through Leukaemia and battled illness for the past ten years. He’s proved that he is a fighter. This virulent strain of ‘flu is not going to beat him.

My step-brother and his family join us. My brother is loud, obnoxious and has the worst dress sense. He is also hard working, hard drinking and has the largest heart I know. I love him dearly. My sister-in-law is not coping. My baby brother is her little brother also. He’s been a rock for her on so many occasions. Her tears streak her face.

Around us, life in the waiting room goes on as usual. Nurses pad noiselessly in and out. Other families greet each other or leave with solemn faces. Voices are muted and conversations are strained.

And then there is our group. We begin to see humour in the world and laugh out loud at it. My mother shushes us on many occasions, reminding us of just where we are. We haven’t forgotten. We wish we could. Laughter helps us.

At the end of the day, we have our first meeting in the meeting room with the doctor. They are doing all they can. They are trialling a particular medication. They are hopeful.

The days blur together as each morning we greet each other at the door to the waiting room. Faces of those we know and love join us on occasion. They stay for a while and then leave to continue their lives. We can’t. Our lives are suspended in time. It revolves around the waiting room… and the meeting room.

I begin to dread the meeting room. Each meeting leaves us with less and less hope until the last meeting when we are told to wait for the inevitable as my brother has given up his fight. His body is shutting down.

We leave the waiting room to visit him on occasion, usually singly or in pairs. They don’t want large groups in the ICU. We glove and gown up and go to stand at his bedside. But it’s not him. I don’t recognise this pale person looking like someone from a science fiction movie with tubes and wires everywhere. We talk to him. Tell him jokes. Implore him to wake up and stay with us.
Tears streak our faces as we spend time with him. The nurses never leave his side. They are as sombre as we are. They feel our pain.

Until the evening we are called in to say our last goodbyes. My parents are with him as he takes his final breath. We leave the waiting room for the last time and congregate in the hallway. Grief is easier to deal with in the hallway. The hallway is the next step after the waiting room.

23 thoughts on “The Waiting Room

  1. Oh my. I kind of hesitated to press “like”, but you have a wonderful way with words. I had tears streaming down my face. I am so sorry for your family’s loss. It took me to the time my husband’s family gathered while his mom was struggling. Her children were all with her at the end. Maybe the reason why I am having difficulty with my grief, I couldn’t get to my Dad fast enough–I was across the states. My mom and I found my brother dead. My sister passed in her sleep. I believe I always said everything I needed to say, but I wish I could have been with them, by their side.

    So—what comes after the hallway?


    1. Of all the losses of family members April, my little brother was the only one that I was with at the end.
      What comes after the hallway? That’s a great question. I believe we move from the hallway to the outside. Outside there is freedom and light and endless possibilities. Care to join me there?


      1. Yes! I have followed a couple of blogs where people are dealing with grief. I understand that everybody deals with grief differently, but some are soooo stuck in their grief, my heart hurts for them.

        My dad had a rough ending to his life story. He couldn’t speak, sit up on his own, feed himself, and if he knew who we were, he couldn’t communicate that. My dad was always telling little jokes and singing little songs. So, instead of continuous boo-hooing over our loss of him, we sat around after his funeral and remembered him with laughter, not tears. We celebrated how blessed we were to have him in our lives.

        I have had a bit more difficulty with my sister because she was my person. The one I turned to with gripes and challenges. She would listen, never judge, and encourage me to look at things differently. However, I choose to remember the good times I had with her, not what she had to suffer and my loss. I just have a big hole, because the shoulder I leaned on, is no longer there.

        …..and, I have seen two dead people in my life. My uncle, who was 2 years older than me (my mom and grandma were pregnant at the same time, how weird is that?).He died when I was young and I insisted on going to his funeral. They had an open casket, and to see a 12-year-old boy lying so still continues to haunt me. The other, was finding my brother lying on the floor. That is a vision I struggle very hard to erase, and remember how he used to be.

        So–grief, for me, has always been easier in the hallway. I’m ready to go outdoors and live my life with the bits and pieces I have in my heart, from the loved ones who have passed before me.


        1. Oh April. My heart breaks for you. Dealing with loss in any way is so extremely difficult. I have seen many dead people in my life unfortunately. My brothers, my grandmother, my step mother and an unknown man who perished in an accident near my home. My baby brother had an open casket prior to the service for anyone that wished to say goodbye to him. I sat with him for quite some time talking to him and kissed him goodbye. I still feel him around me on so many occasions. I even told him once that if he continues to hang around, I’ll start charging him rent. lol
          Outside in the sunshine is where we continue to grow. We never forget…. oh no, we never forget. But we move on and take the blessings we have been given by those who have gone and make a wonderful life 🙂
          Peace to you April 🙂


  2. I clicked like but I really did not like the content or the ending but life and the circle of life is such as this. I wish I had that last time to say goodbye to my daughter but again it is such as this. My heart goes out to you and I recogonize the pain. GodBless


    1. I am sorry that you did not like the content. I wrote this after a discussion I had with a work colleague who has just lost her father-in-law and spent a week in the waiting room. It reminded me of my week. The memories are still so very fresh although it has been a couple of years now.
      I’m sorry you didn’t get to say goodbye to your daughter. I never had the opportunity to say goodbye to my other brothers either so it was such a blessing to have the chance to tell my baby brother that I loved him.
      I recognise your pain also. Blessings to you.


  3. I know you must be heartbroken in your loss. My love to you and your family as you grieve and remember your brother.

    I appreciated your thoughts on humor in the waiting room. In the two months preceding my husband’s death, we had plenty of family laughter bouncing off various waiting room walls. There were so many tears as well, but oh the laughter was sweet and precious. Such beautiful memories in the midst of such difficult ones … I hope that if there is such a vigil at the end of my life, there is a lot of rich and hearty laughter.

    Love and healing to you all,



    1. Yes, the laughter was so important to us. We are a family that loves to laugh and even the austerity of the waiting room could not stop that.
      My little brother is always with me. I know he’s around and I know he is always in my heart.
      Thankyou for your healing words and love.


        1. There is nothing to forgive. I have lost many people in my life. This story was about my baby brother. Last week we lost a new grandchild. Life goes on hun. We go with it.
          I haven’t written about who I lost last week yet, just that I am grieving right now. When the time is right there is much I want to write about that perfect little girl.


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