I have always believed with all my heart the most precious gift that we can give throughout our lives is just being there for family, friends, and others at those times when they need us the most.
During the over 30 years I have been lucky enough to be able to write this column, I have been so fortunate to have received some wonderful material from others, many containing a special message that I really enjoy passing on to our readers. Please take a deep breath, because this little story, author unknown, really got my attention, and hopefully reminds us all just how appreciated that a little tender care and compassion for others will always be.
The final visit
A nurse took the tired and anxious serviceman to a bedside of the hospital ward. “Your son is here,” she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes slowly opened. Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand, and the soldier wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man’s limp ones, gently squeezing out a message of love and encouragement.
The nurse brought a chair so the young Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the Marine sat there in the poorly lit ward, all the time holding the old man’s hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally the nurse suggested the Marine move away and rest for a while but he refused. Whenever she came onto the ward for her nightly checks, the young man remained totally oblivious of her presence, and of the night noises of the hospital, the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings at shift change, and the constant cries and moans of the other patients.
Now and then she paused and listened to him say a few gentle words, and although the dying man uttered nothing, he still held tightly to his son’s hand throughout the long night. Along toward dawn, the old man died, and it was only then that the Marine slowly released the now lifeless wrinkled hand he had been holding so long and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do he waited until she finally returned, offering kind words of sympathy, to which the young man politely interrupted her.
“Who was that man?” the young Marine asked.
The nurse was startled and replied, “He was your father.” “No he wasn’t.” The Marine replied, “I have never seen him before in my life.”
“Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?” the nurse quickly inquired.
Then the brave and sad young man quietly gave his reply. “I knew right away when I got here that there had been a mistake but I also realized right away that the old man needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here. “Then when I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son and knowing how much he needed me at the time, I stayed.
“I came here tonight to find a Mr. William Grey. His son was killed in Iraq today, and I was sent to inform him, and bring sincere condolences from the Armed Forces. What was the old gentleman’s name?’ the young Marine asked.
The nurse, with tears in her eyes answered, “His name was Mr. William Grey, an old man you didn’t even know until today, but you knew he needed you, so you stayed at his bedside until the end.”
On many occasions in our lives there will be people of all ages and all walks of life who will reach out to us for a little help and understanding. These requests can be as simple as a ride to the store or the game, a visit, some friendly advice, or a cup of coffee, but there will also be those times when we may receive sudden or urgent calls for assistance from members of our own family, from an old friend, or by someone in distress. We will of course respond as much as we can to these situations and we must always remember that there will also be others who will always be willing to help us assist a good cause or someone else in need.
Bottom line: We never really know how strong we are until being strong is the only choice we have; and the things you take for granted, someone else is always praying for. Along the road of life as we willingly reach out to lend a helping hand, the greatest reward will be the appreciation of those we have and will continue serve.
Have a great week, all of you!