For the first time all day I was alone. Not really alone, nurses bustled about down the hall and the whole hospital building buzzed with the hushed vibrating energy that was still new and uneasy to me. My sister had just left and I knew her leaving came with both relief and worry for her. This hospital was hard for her, but she had been my rock for hours.
For the last time in a week I was all alone. The pain hadn’t become tear-wrenchingly unbearable yet. The nurses’ faces still shined with optimism and hope. But as I was left alone, alone for the first time all day, alone for the last time for a week, I cried. I was on the edge of a chasm though I couldn’t see it at the time. All I knew was I was alone, ill and scared.
I found myself searching my mind and heart for something to comfort me. A fragment of a story, a glimpse of a melody. Where had I heard it before? I don’t even know. But I found what I was looking for on YouTube (G(!)d(dess) bless the internet!) and listened to it all night.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all I need,
She makes me lie down in green meadows,
Beside the still waters, She will lead.
She restores my soul, She rights my wrongs,
She leads me in a path of good things,
And fills my heart with songs.
Even though I walk, through a dark and dreary land,
There is nothing that can shake me,
She has said She won’t forsake me,
I’m in her hand.
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The song is “The 23rd Psalm (dedicated to my mother),” written by Bobby McFerrin and performed by the choral group Cantus. I’ve never been much of a Bible reader and the imagery of God as a shepherd has never resonated with me. A tall, thin, bearded god with a white robe and a shepherd’s crook reeks of watered down Bible stories for children and patriarchy.
C.S. Lewis reminds us, though, that we don’t have to understand how something works to know that it does, whether that thing is a good meal or god’s sweet comfort. I don’t know how these words—words that may or may not describe how I view the Divine—came to make themselves known to me that night. I certainly do not know how they soothed my very being in that dark and dreary land of the OHSU emergency room, but I do know that they did.
The song/video that comforted Alyss can be seen at this link: