Here is one of my memories from hospital after surviving nearly bleeding out.
When you are recovering on a hospital ward any number of visitors can sidle up to your bed. There is security on the wards, but hospitals still allow various institutions housed within their walls to visit. Usually its just family, nurses and doctors, but some social workers come along, health care people, tea ladies and of course the chapel has a permanent fixture somewhere.
I had two visits from the church. The first was as interesting as a cup of tea in a seaside cafe; the second was as lovely as lunch at the Ritz in Paris.
On neither occasion was any refreshment served on my hospital ward.
The first church visitors delivered what has become known as “the hotel bible”. Two delegates from the hospital chapel came along un-invited and appeared mystified that despite the seriousness of my hospitalisation, I was fairly chipper in avoiding their attention, especially as it became apparent that they were not leaving unless they had left the book behind
They continued their endeavours to convince me of the merits of the publication, but I was still weak. I did not fancy the discussion, have the stomach, will power nor energy to enter into a theological debate. So I smiled. Took their book. Heard their congratulations on my survival and waved weakly, as they left.
The second visit was from an older man with a beautiful smile and a very youthful spring in his step, and was I man I recognised instantly. This vicar – “Ric the Vic” – had buried my mother and christened my son. He had been passing the ward, had recognised by siblings and popped in to say hello to me just by chance.
This second religious visit was much more than welcome, as he recognised my views and scepticism on many things, including my questions over following the bible, a book written thousands of years ago, as a way to conduct one’s life.
He never asked me about my drinking. Just how I was getting on. Like a friend.
I still have the hotel bible in my lockup. It’s in my discharge hospital bag remaining unopened, as is my heart and enthusiasm to investigate the stories within. It is surprising that the first visitors were permitted to attend at my bed-side, so clearly there were concerns about me, yet even now no one dictates to me on religion. I know a lot more than most, but we should all be allowed our own understanding of such matters.
A little guidance perhaps, but that’s it.