I’ve think I’ve seen almost every emotion played out in the lobby of the Kimmel Cancer Center over the many years of walking through those doors. The lobby is a living, breathing playbook on cancer. Patients move through there identified by their bald heads, blue masks, oxygen tanks and chemo drips. Doctors in white coats have a cadence all their own; many times, the lobby is a passage way from the research labs to the recipients of all that research. It’s rarely anything but a full day in the out-patient center.
In the corner of the lobby the other day, I was standing in line waiting to get my parking ticket processed before heading down the elevator to my car. In front of me, clearly in a state of extreme sadness stood a young woman, her mom and her grandmother. They were a matched set of faces, just different generations. The little grandma stood and stared straight ahead, her eyes rubbed red from tears. The mom, in-charge and fumbling in her purse for the parking ticket, was trying so hard to hold it together. Her younger daughter just let the tears flow. Why is it when you just want to disappear from a lobby like this, processing a parking ticket seems to move in slow motion? The attendant did what he could but when machines are involved, emotions don’t matter.
My hand instinctively went to the daughter’s shoulder and I tried to console her. From her glance in my direction, I could tell she was surprised that anyone had noticed her crying. She was in her own space, a weeping wall separated her from anyone else in the room.
“It’s OK to cry” I said.
No words were exchanged that day between us. The mom simply nodded, the grandma just stared straight ahead but the young woman put her hand on mine and looked directly at me. So many tears lined up in those big brown eyes. Such sadness from a heart clearly hurting.
She couldn’t leave that lobby fast enough.