Not even a block away from the hospital stood the hotel where I slept.
The one I decided I needed to go to after nights of trying to sleep upright in that rock hard, noncompliant recliner that sat in the corner of my son’s hospital room.
This hotel is one of those extended stay types. Just beyond The Hilton.
Not quite the four star resort.
I’m not too sure how I made reservations. I can’t remember now. I think my husband made them after he drove those many miles with my youngest. They followed soon after I flew out there. We’ve known all these years that it is better to have our own car while in Texas. And after all, we had no idea how long we’d be there. After some time passed, my husband and son drove back home to Georgia to do all the normal things that needed to be done. There was no sense in them staying for an undetermined amount of time. They would come back to me as soon as I needed them.
I was by myself then.
So on one of those nights when I thought I would drop from total exhaustion, I stuffed everything into my one small, over packed suitcase, force zipped it closed, pulled up the lever, and drug it out to a borrowed car. Drove that not even a block away to my extended stay.
I remember now that I had planned on walking. Crossing over a busy, busy street and down that dimly lit road with unfinished construction on either side of it was deemed unsafe by family members, so they loaned me a car. It seemed silly at first, but later I’d be grateful because many times when I drove that not even a block, it was pitch dark.
And in the middle of June Texas gets pretty hot. Steamy hot. I believe I would have melted into the pavement and evaporated into the air before I even reached the cross walk.
That exhausting night I drove to the hotel, unloaded my way too heavy and over packed suitcase, pulled it slapping hard against the concrete stairs, and went through the sliding door. I was hit immediately with a blast of cool, clean air from the air conditioning. I don’t know why I remember that so clearly. I guess I really needed it then. I had not left the hospital, I realized, and this would now be my respite. I stood there a bit looking around. Checking out my new environment.
I remember I wanted to cry. I mean, sit right down in that lobby entrance and have a good blubbering meltdown. I really wanted to turn around and run back to my son. What I felt most was guilt. And a wave of homesickness for the hospital. I was overwhelmed the idea that this had no foretold end. I wondered just how extended my stay would actually be.
About then I was greeted with an enthusiastic, over zealous “Hello”.
Yes, of course. Isn’t that how it normally goes?
I walked to the counter to meet a girl probably in her late twenties. Such a beautiful girl. I thought immediately that she reminded me of the singer/actress Jennifer Hudson. A sweet girl with a smile that lit her entire being. In fact, she glowed.
I told her who I was…and that I was there for a while. I needed a key.
She responded as if she knew me. Yes, she said…they had been waiting for me.
The room had been reserved until the end of the weekend. It dawned on me that I might need more time. I wondered just then if I might be put out into the street if there was no room. I sighed at this thought…yes, well, I always had a sitting reservation with that rock hard recliner in the corner of my son’s room.
I half explained my situation…told her that my son was in Scott and White across the street.
At that, she immediately told me not to worry. There were plenty of rooms. She would find one if need be. Just let her know. She would accommodate me the very best she could.
She then went over a few things…there is the laundry room, over there is the workout area, and there…the coffee station. The coffee is free all day long. And…if you get here in time, we bake cookies around such a time and they are wonderful. If you are lucky, they will be warm for you.
Yes, thank you. That’s sweet.
I looked for a name tag but found none. I then asked her for her name.
And I want to tell you that as I type that name tears spring to my eyes. China, yes.
Like in China Doll.
Because over the days it seemed like China was scheduled to work almost every single day. She was always there. When I left in the morning…and when I came in at night. I remember wondering if she ever took a day off. I remember thinking how long her hours were.
Every few days I would go to her and tell her.
China, I need to extend my stay. Can I extend it another few days? I cannot tell you for sure how many times I will do this…I cannot give you a time frame.
So many times…China, just one more day. One more day.
And she would always accommodate. With a warm and loving smile. That smile that permeated her being.
Every night when I returned to that extended stay…I would get out of the car and walk up the concrete stairs whispering a prayer.
Lord, please let China be behind the desk. Please let it be China.
And for that first week of days staying there she was. Greeting me the same. Asking how I was. Asking about my son.
She would tell me she was praying for us. Praying for a miracle.
She was believing for a miracle.
Over the days and in these months since, I’ve thought about her. Remembering how she hugged me when I walked in that day my son died. Gathering all of the employees together and creating a loving card for me and printing it out on the office printer. Her writing scripture on her particular page and signing it with Love.
How now that simple printed card is one of my greatest treasures.
As I look back on it, she was part of my circle during that time. A sacred circle created to embrace and envelope me. Surround me with a love and support I would so desperately need.
Perfect strangers who would quickly become family.
That Band of Brothers Michael always told me about. The Brotherhood.
I want to tell you…I want you to see…
I was surrounded. Shielded. Guarded.
I mean every where I went (even though it was not even more than a block away).
I was never alone.
Sometimes I think that if I would go back looking for these people…would they be there? Were they actual human beings?
Or were they Angels?
They were certainly Earth Angels at least. With the most beautiful wings.
From day one I was surrounded.
With an Infinite Wall of Protection.
And Giant Warring Angels.