I felt a morbid sensation as I walked into the chapel to pray. The morbid sensation one felt, overpowered the peace sought by coming here as the feeling of grief hung in the chapel like a smoke that left you breathless. It was a Children’s hospital chapel where all came to seek respite from the endless struggles their children were going through on the wards daily. While this was the primary reason for its existence, it had a secondary use.
It appeared that over the years, parents used it as a place to leave a mark of farewell for their children who had lost their individual battles with different ailments. It was not unusual to see an inscription, a card, a plaque and an endless array of soft toys in all shapes and sizes. I could only conclude that they looked and felt like a summarized version of the grief the parent or “leaver” felt in themselves about events that led to that day. Some looked cute, others looked “not-so-cute”.
One constant feature though where the plastic eyes stock on those toys. They left an impression on me that left me cold and a bit frightened to be honest as each eye seemed to tear into me when I prayed. I could not help feeling teddy eyes all over the chapel. So I made a habit of shutting my eyes very tight and picking corners away from the centre of the chapel where all the “eyes” seemed to converge.
Today, I just came into the chapel because I felt brave. I recall that on several occasions, I had walked out or rather escaped the chapel because I found it emotionally overwhelming to be there amidst all the symbols, marks and Items of grief in the place.
Infact, I came into the chapel because I felt brave enough to ignore the “eyes” and just try to find God and inner peace beneath the smoke of grief that permanently clung to it. As I arrived, I was shocked by the tranquil feeling that greeted me. Since my mind was heavy with anxiety, I was also distracted from the chapel itself and put my new found calmness down to it.
It was amidst the prayers that I looked up and meant to stare back at those piercing “eyes” all around me, only to notice for the first time that they were…. gone!
It seemed for a second like I had walked in with my eyes closed even while they were agape and an imaginary spec seemed to fall from my eyes. For the first time in the three years I had visited the chapel, I could behold its beauty. I could see the inscriptions on the wall, the paintings in the glass; the chandelier from which hung the brightest lamps I could remember. I was at peace….. At last.
I could come here now without the fear of being crushed by those ‘eyes’. It was now suddenly restored to its rightful place in this hospital as “the chapel” where I could find peace. Not a place of riotous emotions centred on grief, pain, loss and sadness. Now it could be a place of hope for the living who struggled, not a place that left one wondering if it was a matter of time before their child became a memory on the wall or better still replaced by a soft toy with a pair of “eyes”.
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