Looking at the rare plants my other patients had given me, Mrs. KR asked if I liked cross-stitch. Years of clinical practice have taught me that this is one way patients ask their doctors what kind of gifts they like to receive. Those experiences have also taught me to accept their presents gladly, because giving is therapeutic for them. It also gives them a sense of control over their lives. So I told her, "Yes, I love them. My mother likes them. We have many framed cross-stitch designs at home."
She admitted that she does cross-stitch to pass the time. "I can't keep still. My hands need to be working, or I'll go crazy." She enjoys it.
I asked if she has considered selling her works online. There might be a huge market for it.
"There aren't any buyers any more. Cross-stitch isn't popular these days," she said. She couldn't let go of her works; they're too precious to her. Her husband complains that they don't have room for them in the house, but she keeps them anyway.
She promised she'd give me one of her pieces on her next visit. I said I looked forward to it.
In that particular encounter, I remember a line in Mary Oliver's poem, Franz Marc's Blue Horses.
Maybe the desire to make something beautifulis the piece of God that is inside each of us.
Makoto Fujimura's ideas in Art + Faith: A Theology of Making also resonates with the encounter. He argues that when artists create, they participate in God's creative process. I take that to mean that when people do something creative, they reflect the image of God in them.
When consults turn into afternoon chit-chats, I learn something new about the persons seated across me. It is refreshing to know about their personalities and hobbies, over and beyond the biochemical state of their tumors. I relish such moments of levity. Those intermittent episodes of grace, often shared with family and friends, rekindle in me a sense of purpose and love for what I do. In a profession where burnout is common but not readily acknowledged, those moments are a gift.