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Lady in Waiting (Dedicated to Hattie Brown and All Those in the Hospital Waiting Room)

As I walk through the waiting room of the hospital where I have been a physician for many years, I often observe many elderly people who are waiting for someone or something. A few years ago, an elderly woman named Hattie Brown befriended me and engaged me in many stories about her life. She often visited me in my office, bringing me comfort food items that she wished to share. From observing Ms. Brown, it was evident that life had not been, as Langston Hughes would put it, “a crystal staircase.”
As time went on, Ms. Brown became very ill and was hospitalized on several occasions. Often, I would visit her, and she would tell me many facets of her life. A few months ago, Ms. Brown died. As I reflected on her life stories and how the waiting room in the hospital had become her home away from home, I thought I would dedicate a poem to all of those who may be using the hospital “waiting room” as a refuge temple.

Lady in Waiting

Ms. Brown is waiting
Waiting for more time
To tell anyone about her time
Of waiting for someone
To listen about her stories
Of what she thinks about life
While waiting
To wait on her thoughts
And memories
About the present, past and future
About what it means to age
And being lonely
To gather up information
That is not meaningful
To her survival

Ms. Brown is surviving
By telling others how she survives
By sitting and waiting
In a cold waiting room
Telling stories about
Her distant memories
She nods, she sleeps
In the waiting room
She sips water and coffee
And eats soft foods
In the waiting room

She feels comfortable
In the cold waiting room
Listening to others concerned voices
While waiting for eternity
In the waiting room
Which will never be the same
When Ms. Brown and others
Someday will be absent

Ms. Brown related to me how often her apartment had been broken into and her treasures stolen. She also bemoaned how some folks who didn’t understand her would scandalize her name. I recall an old traditional hymn that relates to Ms. Brown’s acquaintances who may have demeaned her:

Scandalize’ My Name

Well, I met my sister de other day
Give her my right han’
Jes’ as soon as ever my back was turned
She took’n scandalize’ my name.

Now do call that a sister?
No! No!
You call that a sister?
No! No!
Do you call that a sister?
No! No!
Scandalize’ my name.

Well, I met my brother de other day
Give him my right han’
Jes’ as soon as ever my back was turned
He took’n scandalized my name

Now do you call dat a brother?
No! No!
You call that a brother?
No! No!
You call dat a brother
No! No!
Scandalize’ my name

Well, I met my preacher de other day
Give him my right han’
Jes’ as soon as ever my back was turned
He too scandalize’ my name.

Do you call that a ‘li-gion?
No! No!
You call that a ‘li-gion?
No! No!
You call that a ‘li-ligion?
No! No!
Scandalize’ my name.

If you know anyone who is lonely, or just waiting for the Maker, I suggest that you go and uplift their spirits and life during this holiday season. Whatever you do, don’t scandalize their name. Christ loves us all.

Haitian Times

Haitian Times

The Haitian Times was founded in 1999 as a weekly English language newspaper based in Brooklyn, NY.The newspaper is widely regarded as the most authoritative voice for Haitian Diaspora.
Haitian Times
May. 05, 2012

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