Monday, March 12, 2007

Never a Dull Moment

I feel blessed to be in a career I love, one that I find exciting, rewarding and fulfilling. There is enough drama and excitement in my job to keep me from getting bored; there are days when I fly to remote areas by helicopter to retrieve injured or ill patients, and there are days when we go from one call to another, from highway trauma, medical, and psychological calls, to the more mundane inter hospital transfers. It is on these ordinary transfers that the extraordinary often takes place.

It is the old people who have been left alone that I love the best. On the lengthy inter hospital transfers, I get to know them and hear their life stories. They are not complainers, and often they just want someone to listen to them. I wonder sometimes where their families are, and why they are so alone. A human touch, and a willing ear seem to be good medicine for these people. Their life stories are full of touching moments that are dear to them, and their recollections of their lives are always fascinating stories to hear.

They tell their stories with very little prompting, and seem eager to relive the most precious moments in their lives. Sometimes, their memories fail them and they seem to be grasping for the details that were once so clearly etched in their minds. Other times, their facial expressions betray them and it is easy to tell that they have slipped back in time and are living the treasured moments that time can never erase.

I hear stories of how things were way back when, and I hear love stories of how they met their spouses, along with their early lives of financial struggle. It often crosses my mind that it should be one of their grandchildren sitting in my place, listening to this most cherished family history that will vanish untold to them. Oh, and what they are missing! It saddens me to realize that we are often too far removed or busy with our lives to take the time to visit our elderly relatives and make them an important part of our own lives.

The simple act of listening is what these people need, and is the best medicine I can provide for them. They need it just as much as the medical treatment they will be receiving when we reach our destination. They don't know it, but I always pray for them. For their recovery, for their health, and for their eternal salvation.

I am forever thankful to God to be in a job I love.


Adoro te Devote said...

What a beautiful post, and an observation we should all take to heart.

My last grandparent passed away almost a year ago, and she lived in another state so I hadn't seen her in years.

But as I'm getting older I'm recognizing more and more the wisdom of the elderly and both their need to tell their stories and our need to listen to them.

I'm on vacation this week (unlike you, I'm in a job I hate but can't seem to get out of), and so I went to spend time with Jesus. When I left the chapel, something told me to sit down on one of the benches in the "gathering space" (how I hate that term but it's a huge huge area, too big to be called a "foyer"). While I sat reading the bulletin, a man came in and as he walked by me, he said, "Hello, Father!"

I looked up in surprise and of course the man was joking. He called me "Father" because I was there and because, as he claimed he never saw any priests praying in the chapel. Thankfully I was able to defent the prayerful integrity of our priests and a conversation ensued. The man told me that he is a poet, and during World War II, while they sailed the seas he wrote poetry. He fought on battlefields in Europe and in his mind, he composed poems in order to deal with what he was witnessing, somehow never forgetting even in the midst of those horrors the beauty of the world and of the human soul.

I felt so blessed to be there, listening to this WWII vet quote his own poetry to me, composed so many years ago.

I wish everyone would take a moment to just sit and listen and to just be available to whoever walks by. There are lessons in such things.

paramedicgirl said...

Adore, it's so important to listen to the elderly. They have so much hidden in their hearts, and often have no one to share it with. Your story reminds me of an 81 year old patient I once had. He crashed the car that he had "borrowed" from his rooming manager, and even though he was injured, and I was concerned about his stability, he recited poetry to me for the 45 minute trip to the hospital. He was a character! I'll never forget him, I'm sure.

Shirley said...

I find that as Dad ages, with very little encouragement he speaks of the past, telling stories I've never heard before- I have found out more family history in the last 2 years than ever. I wish I lived closer to him.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that post. I found this page through the CAF.

My dad has been in failing health and I consider it an honor to be able to take care of him one day a week. Some of his stories just come out of nowhere. I brought him holy water from Lourdes and he said he had always wanted to go there and went into a story. He was on an aircraft carrier 1950-1954 and he did go to Fatima when they went to Portugal and many sailors saved up loads of money to go to Lourdes when they got to France. So they got to France and many catholic sailors who were ready to go to Lourdes could not due to a rail strike. You had to take a long train journey from where they were. So, you can almost guess what comes next. All these sailors with their saved up cash..and then some sailor pulls out a deck of cards and, you guessed it, big poker game with many, including my dad losing all their cash!

I said I never heard this story before and he said, I never told anybody before.


Anonymous said...

What is sad is when these people push away their families for the sake of "independence" and then look around one day to find themselves all alone. Both my mother-in-law and my own mother have lived that way. My mother-in-law died in a nursing home because she adamantly refused to live with us. My mother is headed the same direction. They have bought the lies of modern society that they should live in little apartments alone and not ever be a "burden" on their families. I pray that those of us who witness such lives will remember when we are old to allow our children to care for us; to be the means by which others obtain grace by performing corporal works of mercy;to remember to work for humility by allowing others to do for us. There is so much to be gained in such a true relationship.