As the holiday approaches the meetings are fewer. Decorations and gifts and well-wishes lead to smiles and random acts of kindness. I finished one of those meetings with five of our clinical leaders. We spoke of what is possible and ideas around an early ’17 project that will effect people for the better. I left the nicely furnished and comfortable conference room and offered Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday wishes to the incredible executive assistants that line our suite. It was to be one of my last meetings of the year. As the sliding doors from the hospital to the garage closed behind me I heard the unmistakeable sound of grief.
The sounds of prayer and weeping came from a family in a huddled embrace at the end of
the walkway. The gravity of sorrow brought two of them to their knees. It was clear they had just experienced a loss unimaginable and most likely unexpected. I approached and asked if I could offer them a place with some privacy. A woman turned and offered a muted smile through her tears and said, “Thank you, but we will stay here for a moment more.” I reached for her hand and she clutched mine as if we were old friends. We released and I slowly walked to the corner of the garage to make my turn for the line of cars waiting for those anxious to finish their rounds and their surgeries and their meetings and their small talk about plans and gifts and the little slice of joy that this time of year so often brings.
I glanced back at the family and offered a prayer for peace and comfort. As they so often do when I round and visit, my eyes welled up. I opened my car door and just stood. In just a few moments of uncharacteristic quiet, my mind raced through this last year. Its victories and tragedies. Its highs and lows and even the occasional uneventful.
My first thoughts were of those who were lost. Those whose lives ended so early and those who lived theirs out so well and just said, Farewell. No matter how expected or not, death takes away from the whole we know. The images of times we knew and experiences we had flood back in. There always seems to be a moment of doubt that they have actually “left”us.
My replay reminded me of how the depth of friendship can carry through the hardest times and complete the joy that comes with a milestone of good. I was awakened to the more shallow and fragile side of relationships when our flaws are exposed. I got to sing, and speak, and learn, and grow, and paddle, and pedal, and grow up how I hoped I would. I have loved well and have been loved so well. I realized how much I take for granted, especially with family and love, and I was ashamed. I became equally determined to change that; not in a New Years Eve kind of way, but in one of dialogue and awareness. I will battle cynicism and remain an idealist about this life.
To the family in their loss, I have thought of you every hour since walking through those doors yesterday. Peace be with you. And, in the most tragic of ironies, I am struck by how your loss—and tha
of so many others—gives me this grateful and grounded perspective.