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Sign the Beam Ceremony at the New UMC Health and Wellness Hospital

An American flag whips behind the steel frame of the future UMC Health & Wellness Hospital, where men in white, brown, and yellow hardhats weld metal to metal, and showers of sparks rain down through the humid air. There's a storm to the south, and rain pours in long gray-blue streaks against the horizon, threatening the event but promising all the new things that come with rain in an arid West Texas. No one seems to mind. As chairs fill beneath the simple white tent, others crowd around and listen as UMC Board Member Jolyn Wilkins moves behind the podium and shares how thankful she is for the Health and Wellness Hospital, for the hard work being done, and, of course, for the rain. Mark Funderburk speaks after her, highlighting how the new hospital is a way to expand UMC's many life-saving services and the beginning of a new chapter for the hospital system. He mentions unfathomable amounts of ran cable and poured concrete. Always gracious, he thanks those in attendance, leading the small audience in a round of applause for a semi-circle of construction workers just outside the tent's threshold. Though mostly a stoic bunch, many of them smile and nod their heads.

The rain falls calmly, and sunlight diffuses through the gray overcast clouds to the east, creating a halo that hovers over the new building’s frame. In the benediction, Larry Cothrin says, "May God bless every beam and bolt." His simple alliteration causes a ripple of smiles through the audience. We're all reminded, in some way, of the many details that go into the building of a new hospital and what they mean. We imagine the structure's standing walls and fluorescent lights for a moment. We imagine all of our new UMC family members that will soon be caring for others. We see a vision of the future in the building, a vision every employee at UMC is a part of.

A table filled with branded cookies reading "UMC Health & Wellness Hospital" and "Our Passion is You" is moved out of the rain and beneath the tent as attendees queue to sign a white, painted beam labeled with the hospital’s name. There’s a lightness as the crowd mingles closely, and each person conspires with others about what to write or whether to merely write their name on the beam. Mark signs first and writes, in careful black script, "God bless this place and all who come here." Within minutes, the white beam is covered in the black, red, and blue sharpied names of UMC employees and the construction workers intimately familiar with the building in its early state. Eventually, the beam is hoisted high atop the building’s frame, where it crowns darker steel beams. For the first time, the building is truly given its name: UMC Health and Wellness Hospital, and it proudly wears it like a badge. During the ceremony, the rain falls, droplets rippling in small pools collecting around the building and tent. The rain feels like a godsend, like Larry’s benediction answered, and the verses of American poet Jones Very come to mind when he writes,

How, like a blessing, falls the rain

On thirsty field, and parched hill,

And on the dry, and dusty plain,

Low swamp and pool the rain drips fill…

And man, with every living thing,

With grateful heart his voice doth lift

In praise to God; and thanks doth bring

For every good and perfect gift.

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