I love the movie Love, Actually. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a British film made in 2003 that ties together about a dozen love stories. Some of the stories are sad, some fantastical, some funny. They all braid together with chance encounters, great music, and fabulous actors.
The beginning and end of the movie takes place in Heathrow airport. We watch people greeting one another in the arrivals hall. It’s touching enough to get you weeping before the actual story has even started—so many lovers and parents and friends embracing one another after an absence. The love is palpable.
Recently, I’ve noticed another place where love is palpable—the hospital. In the past six or seven months, I’ve spent entirely too much time in hospital waiting rooms, while my husband has been treated for a kidney infection, severe back pain, and bladder cancer (he’s doing much better now). And I’ve felt a lot of empathy with the other people waiting for news of their loves ones.
While they wait, family members talk softly together. Individuals scroll and tap their phones. Some people read. Almost no one watches the TV that’s on in all too many of these places. But the moments when you see the love is every time the door opens and a doctor comes in. Everyone in the room looks up, wondering—Is this for me? Is this about the one I love? Oh my god, what will be the news for us?
In an airport, you see people joyful in the moment of reconnecting with love. In the hospital waiting room, people are standing on the brink between a future of health and easy companionship with the one they love or sickness and perhaps onerous care-taking. In an airport, what you await impatiently is the moment of joy. In a hospital, what you await impatiently is a message that could bring either great joy or great grief.
In the hospital, too, as they say in the movie, “Love, actually, really is all around.”