This past Rosh Hashana, I spent a few hours in the Emergency Room with my mother. It was the second day of Yom Tov, Friday, and my mother had an irritation in her eye. Since everyone was in shul and we couldn't contact a doctor (and it couldn't wait until after Shabbos), we walked together to the hospital. On our way, we passed lots of people walking to shul, holding their machzorim...who would guess where we were going on this day?!
We got to the ER (which b"h wasn't too full) and saw another frum older couple with their teenage son (who must have come along to be there with them), talking to a frum woman who was helping them out and knew the ins out outs of the hospital. We overheard her trying to help them get in touch with a doctor so the husband could get dialysis treatment...it was so sad to watch and made me realize how lucky we are to be healthy! Do we realize what it means to have to live with such a thing on a daily basis? This man has to go in three times a week to have his treatments...and now one little thing went wrong, something that had never happened before, and here they were, sitting in the emergency room on Rosh Hashana, trying to get a doctor who would help him!
We were very lucky to be in a hospital that understands how Jewish people work. Since we weren't able to write, they had a rep who did it for us, signed us in and made all the phone calls we needed to get us in as soon as possible.
The woman helping out the couple who came in with kidney problems also told us that someone would be coming to blow shofar for us. It was a very emotional shofar blowing - even though it was really short (only 30 blasts), just to think about all the people who are in the hospital for big things, who need refuos and are counting on this day for their tefillos to be answered. It didn't take much to cry a little bit for these sick people and for all of us to have a year filled with health and happiness...
While we were waiting to see a doctor, two chassidish men passed by with big shopping bags and asked us if we wanted any food. Even though we answered that we were fine and weren't hungry (my mother insisted that I make kiddush before we begin our "journey"!), they gave us two pre-wrapped packages of cookies/rugelach and cakes. They were from a bikkur cholim organization and I thought it was so special of them to go around and give out food to so many people! Mi K'amcha Yisroel!
Sitting next to us was a teenage guy (probably Mexican) who had walked in limping, wearing jeans and a bright yellow short-sleeved t-shirt and flip flops. His foot was swollen and he didn't look very comfortable. My mother offered the cake to him which he took gratefully and ate so quickly, I was wondering when the last time he had eaten a normal meal was.
I tried to imagine the thoughts that must have gone through his head, wishing he were a Jew (just for that moment!) and noticing how Jews really care about one another, even if they don't know each other personally. I felt bad for him, he had to come to the Emergency Room all alone, with no family, who cared for him? Who was worried that he hurt himself and needed help? He must have looked at us enviously when those two strangers offered us food without even knowing us. We are so lucky to be part of such a nation, a nation that will do anything for anyone!!
We got to see a doctor and got a prescription for the right medicine but it was a whole process to get that prescription filled since we could not call the pharmacy and didn't have my mother's insurance cards with us. But the hospital was extremely helpful and did everything they could (and more) to get it for us. I spent some time waiting, davening and thinking about how lucky I am to come for something so little and be able to get out of there relatively quickly. Baruch Hashem we did not have to be admitted, stay at the hospital for a long time and have to deal with so much pain.
I also visited my grandfather who is really sick - it was very scary to see how frail he became and how much older he got. It was such a strong reminder for me, on Rosh Hashana, to see an old person aging...and knowing that one day I too will be old and my body is just flesh and bones and doesn't last forever. Of course, I gave him a bracha that moshiach should come and everyone will be healed and he wont have to be in pain anymore. But it's such a scary reminder, when you see someone so old, their body is a shadow of what they used to be...and you seriously see flesh and bones...and know that one day each person will return to the ground.
Of course, the nurse in the room asked me questions like, "Is today just New Years for you or is it also a holiday?" (It's a holiday where we decide on ways we want to change...) and "What's up with that horn you blow?" (There are many reasons but one of them is that the sound of the horn is supposed to wake us up and get us to look deep inside ourselves and think about how we can change and become better people...) and "When's the day that you atone for your sins?" (That's next Saturday, Yom Kippur, we don't eat anything, we remember our sins and ask g-d to forgive us.) and "What comes next?!" (That's called succos, where we go outside and eat in huts...) "Oh yeah, I remember that! Why do you do that?" (Well, the four walls our like a hug from g-d because now that we achieved atonement, we are confident that g-d will give us a good year and so we sit in His embrace. R' Shimshon Pincus zt"l says that) "That's really beautiful!"
It was fun to answer all her questions!
After that, I went to visit a friend who gave birth before yom tov-it was a nice way to end my hospital visits. I got to see someone who is getting to the end of his life...and someone who just brought another life into this world. It's scary how things move and how we must utilize our time to work on ourselves and accomplish as much as we can while we are here.
Baruch Hashem, I was lucky to only have to go to the ER for something small - but the lessons I took from that day were big and powerful!