Do you remember where you were when you heard the news broadcast of the assassination of J.F. Kennedy or of the World Trade Center disaster? I was a newly graduated nurse just returning back to the hospital after a week’s vacation with family and was standing in Boston’s South Station when the announcement of Kennedy’s assassination came over the loudspeaker. Perhaps like Ron, you were in the shower when you heard someone else gasp or scream as they viewed the sight of an airplane flying right into the second skyscraper in New York, and a giant fireball erupting from the building as debris spewed everywhere. Both of these events were defining moments in our lives – disasters too awful, too unthinkable to have actually occurred, but they did! The atrocities of war, a devastating diagnosis of incurable cancer, the inhumanity of man to man have all become too commonplace to believe, and yet they occur. Life has become all too unpredictable – too uncertain.
For over twenty years I worked as a registered nurse. I cared for young and old whose lives were hanging in the balance. Some recovered and left the hospital. Others found the end of their road in a hospital bed. As I cared for and loved my patients, I came to realize that in an age when so much is uncertain, when life is tenuous at best, that accomplishments, possessions, and position really do not matter very much.
Never have I seen a patient ask that their diplomas or recognitions be hung in their room. Never have they asked to have even a picture displayed of that newly acquired Jaguar or BMW. Never have they asked for their bank statements to be placed in their bedside tables so that they could be reviewed in those quiet and lonely hours. Only one thing seemed important – their relationships!
For a while I worked for Hospice as a nurse and a counselor. My job was to reunite families that had been fractured through the years. It was to help patients and their loved ones let go of resentments, hard feelings, anger and years of torturing silence. Couples who had lived as married singles were, in most cases, able to admit their fault and enjoy their last days together. Parents and children, severed by rebellion harsh treatment or pure stubbornness were able to resolve differences and display love toward one another.
What a shame that human beings are all too often so invested in being right that they sacrifice the relationships that mean the most and the one person who could bring them comfort in their dying moments. To be sure, our relationship with God is of utmost importance, but the warm hand, the loving embrace and the gentle kiss of a spouse, parent, child or friend can provide the human touch that makes us feel we’re not alone.
Is there someone from whom you have distanced? You might consider what you could do to turn the tide and bridge the gap between you before it’s too late.