by Sr. Brenda Rose Szegedy
It’s hard to imagine how many walks we take in a lifetime. There have been short walks and long walks; leisurely walks as well as hurried ones. Walks where we have been totally focused on our surroundings, and walks where we have been preoccupied and oblivious to everything around us. Perhaps any one of us can recall a particular walk that became a life-changing experience. I would like to share with you one such experience in my own life… what I now call “a walk to remember.”
A number of years ago I found myself in a hospital operating room awaiting with some trepidation the removal of my gall bladder. Two dear friends drove me to outpatient surgery that day, stayed throughout the time of my operation, and afterwards received the doctor’s encouraging words that the surgery was successful. As a precaution the surgeon had me stay overnight to assure there would be no complications in the aftermath of the surgery. After thanking the doctor and my two friends for their presence and prayerful support, I then looked forward to a restful night’s sleep. I soon found out that the night would be far from restful! A severe pain lodged in my left shoulder and wouldn’t leave. When the nurse came to my room, I told her that it felt like I had shoulder surgery and that the excruciating pain was keeping me from sleeping. I could tell from her facial expression, that this was quite a common occurrence for patients recovering from laparoscopy surgery. She then said, “Oh, just about every patient who’s had this procedure complains about shoulder pain. It’s simply gas that was used during the surgery that has made its way to your shoulder and sits there. The best remedy to relieve the pain is to walk the floor.” She then helped me up and positioned my IV since I had to drag the apparatus with me on my walk.
As I took my first steps down the hall that night, I was pretty much wrapped up in my own world, my own pain. However, I soon became aware of my surroundings as I began to hear moans and groans coming from some of the rooms I passed. Suddenly I realized that many of those patients didn’t have the ability to even get out of bed! This dawning awareness stopped me from thinking about my own pain which didn’t seem all that important anymore. In that grace-filled moment, my heart entered into solidarity with the suffering body of Christ around me. My walk down the hospital hall that evening truly has become for me “a walk to remember.” My every step became a prayer of compassion. I walked many steps since that graced time of recognition, and each step continues to put me in touch with humanity’s inner groaning, the cries and sighs of our suffering brothers and sisters throughout the world… the sick, victims of violence, prisoners, the mentally challenged, the lonely, unemployed, hungry, and forgotten.
As Sisters of St. Francis we make a daily choice to live the Gospel mission “by committing ourselves to works that reverence human dignity, embrace the poor and marginalized, and respect the gift of all creation.” It is the Spirit of Jesus who empowers us to be present to the hurting world around us. May the steps we take along life’s journey become for each of us “a walk to remember” as we place ourselves in solidarity with the suffering body of Christ on earth.