Are you a good waiter? No, I’m not addressing those of you who work in restaurants, cafes or bars. I’m thinking rather of a “waiter” as “someone who waits”. So, how would you answer my question, “are you a good waiter?”
If practice really does make perfect, then you might be a better waiter now than you were before lockdown began, for queues of people waiting have become a commonplace sight, the act of waiting a commonplace activity.
Outside supermarkets from the start and now, with lockdown restrictions easing, also outside hair salons and barbers, pubs and coffee shops, fashion retailers and drive-through fast food outlets alike.
You may have been waiting for the day when once again you could visit your aunt in her care home, or hug your grandsons, or get in a “bubble” with your sister across on the other side of the city. Joyful reunions!
But I’ve been thinking about a different sort of waiting over the last day or two: the kind that happens in a hospital when the life of a loved one hangs in the balance, and all you can do is wait. You’re not hungry, you don’t want another cup of tea, you don’t care what you look like, and you certainly don’t want to go home for a shower or a change of clothes or a rest. How could you possibly sleep when someone you love with all your heart might be about to re-enter, as it were, the land of the living or else slip through the veil to the eternal kingdom?
So you wait. Friends may come and go, well-meaning of course but arguably a distraction. Nurses and doctors bustle about, doing their important and life-saving work. Cleaners clean, porters wheel patients in chairs, visitors appear and disappear according to the visiting schedule. There are secretaries carrying files, maintenance staff with ladders, physiotherapists carrying zimmers, cafeteria workers with trays. Never before had you thought about how many different categories of people were employed to keep the wheels of a medical establishment running smoothly.
Everyone but you seems to have a place to go and a job to do. For all you want to do, all you feel able to do is wait.
Briefly you are granted permission to enter the ward. A nurse kindly leads you to a basin to wash your hands and then helps you don apron, gloves and mask. At last you’re ready to see the one you love. There isn’t much to see, what with the conglomeration of tubes, bags and other medical paraphernalia you can’t name. But you’re here, and that’s what matters. You open your mouth to say all those important things that you’ve been rehearsing out in the relatives’ room – I love you so much, you’ve made me so happy, I’m here for you every step of the way, you’re strong, together we’ll make it through. But your eyes fill up with tears and your mouth can’t get the words out.
No matter. He knows what you want to say. Because he knows you better than you know yourself. He is your soulmate, you are his.
You’re afraid of losing him, but all you can do is wait, and watch, and pray. You are together, and you are not alone, for the prayers of your friends surround you both like an aura, and the Saviour of the world promised that he would be with you always, even to the end of the age.