The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of a hospital is not a place you want to spend time in. I found myself there once to support a friend and her family.
When a child’s life hangs in the balance, people from all walks of life, of all faiths or no faith, search for peace, understanding, hope, answers, or a higher power to intervene. Whatever help they can find, however they can find it, they reach for it.
Over the course of several days I found myself in a beautifully designed, peaceful space we called the “chapel.” Stepping through the doors into the oval-shaped room, with its opaque stained glass trees and gently rounding edges, felt to me like passing into another world. Sounds muffled, voiced muted, lights diffused, peace hovered.
Lest you think it was simply my own personal reaction to the room let me offer the following incident.
Another friend and her husband came to visit and had brought their own young children as I told them I’d be happy to keep them entertained while the two sets of parents visited. We explored the child-friendly waiting areas with giant chess pieces, the floor that lit up when they stepped on the tiles, some really awesome larger than life toys, and gigantic Lego bricks. When the play area finally got boring I suggested we go upstairs to see what I told them was a beautiful tree room.
I had said nothing of the reason for the room, had not mentioned it was a chapel. I simply thought they would enjoy the colors in the stained glass and the unique shape of the room. When they walked into this room of glass and wood, of reflection and prayer, they immediately quieted their voices. They explored as children do, with fingers touching the different textures and colors of glass and gliding along smooth surfaces. A small wire and bronze tree sculpture garnered their attention with its tiny leaves and gracefully arching branches.
And then to my surprise, the seven-year-old boy said “hey guys, we can meditate here.” There was no fussing, or complaining, they all simply sat in a circle in the middle of the room, some in the lotus position, some with crossed legs, hands held just so resting on each knee. This tiny group of children, who five minutes ago were bouncing wildly through a play area, settled into a brief quiet meditation.
I felt suddenly out-of-place and far too noisy simply sitting on a chair watching these amazing children respond the to climate and spirit of a room.
I believe the prayers, and tears, hopes and pleading that happen in that room remain long after the visitors leave. Those private tears and supplications for miracles and healing become a part of the walls, the glass, the wood, the very air. The room becomes infused with hopes and wishes. The very echoes of heartstrings stretched taut to breaking create a sacred space, a haven, a respite, a connection to something more.
Is this something beyond medicine? Or is it the ultimate medicine?
Or is it something else altogether?
What makes a space sacred?
I know I certainly need more time spent in the sanctuaries of my life. The peace that comes as I take a solitary morning walk amid some of earth’s grand greenery is well compensated. Time spent contemplating life, or merely emptying my mind, brings a calmness that permeates my day. Other places I consider sacred can imbue meaning and hope in my life as I spend time and allow the atmosphere there to settle in and around me.
Life moves fast and can be fiercely painful at times. Going somewhere silent and sacred can lend balance and offer a balm like nothing else can.
Do you have a sacred space somewhere in your life? If not, do you need one?