It is December. For many, that means there is Christmas music everywhere with lyrics about angels singing and peace on earth, good will among mankind. Some people believe there are actual angels, God’s intermediaries with us (from the Greek angelos, messenger), other people like the idea of angels, and others, well, I don’t know what they think.
The person who taught me the most about angels was not a person, but my therapy dog Tucket. Once a week I took him into the hectic urban teaching hospital where the humans in our family had all been patients at least once. He got excited and began to whine when I picked up the canvas bag with our volunteer things in it. Even at age 11, the tail went furiously when I said it was time to “go visiting.”
One day in December, I rushed into the city with Tucket and was annoyed by all the traffic, all the shoppers, all the busyness around me. Yet, I was in a good mood by the time we met people in the garage and kids and adults said “Ooh, look at the dog” and people began to pet Tuck.
It took awhile to navigate through the lobby, decorated with tastefully winter-themed, but not too religious, ornaments and streamers. The hospital has over 1000 beds and numerous outpatient clinics and treatment areas, and it seemed a lot of people were working there, visiting, or had an appointment. I had to steer Tucket carefully among the crowds, a task made harder by people changing directions to come greet him.
We had been visiting for a number of months, and I had become accustomed to staff saying “hello, Tucket” when we got on an elevator or arrived at the nurses’ station on an inpatient floor. That day there were joyful visits, some tender visits, and a few with tears.
Tucket was gentle and attentive with everyone, and he seemed to know when to move from one person to another, whether it was from child to parent, from employee to employee, or person to person in one of the waiting areas.
The doctors, nurses, and other staff in the pediatric intensive care unit (ICU) loved him, and he them. He always turned right coming out of the elevator on that floor, waited for the automatic doors, and cruised straight to the center of the workstation, where staff greeted him, rubbed his ears, and told him how wonderful he was.
He was tired after the ICU, and the elevator that came first was nearly full. I said we would wait for the next when the group said “Oh no, there is room.”
So they made room for us, and while the elevator went down to the lobby people petted him and asked his name, and slowly pressed against the walls of the elevator and each other so he would have “enough room” to breathe.
I watched staff, well dressed visitors, and a few tired people who may have been there for treatment do the improbable: press against people they didn’t know in a crowded elevator in a city hospital at the beginning of flu season, and there were no complaints.
There were smiles everywhere, strangers smiling at one another, at my dog, at me.
And then I had my revelation. People need angels, messengers that make it easier to truly see each other, live with each other, draw together as human kindred. Sometimes we need them, but very often we can be them. Tucket died the spring after that Christmastide, but I will never come into December, or that hospital, without remembering him and being inspired by him.
Elizabeth Coolidge-Stolz, MD/ (c) Healing Woman