Saturday, March 31, 2012

the story

Have you ever gone to a funeral of a person you knew and learned large parts of their life 
that you NEVER knew?  

  I have - and over and over during the service I'd think,
" I didn't know she did that."  "Why didn't I know that?"  
Over and over.  
Why hadn't I taken the time to listen for the story?

Why hadn't they shared their story?
When I was Discharge Planning at our small rural hospital and as a nurse, 
it was my opportunity to visit with every patient.  
I found  if I sat down on the patient's level and just asked them about themselves,  I could hear their stories.  

One day I heard the horrific story about our patient struggling in the hills of Italy during WWII where most of his buddies died.  
I heard several stories from the South Pacific and Europe during WWII.   Or about the effects of Agent Orange during Vietnam and how no one would listen to their symptoms.  

I've listen to woman after woman tell me about their child - the one(s) who died, who left them so early.  
Every woman wanted to tell me about their child, that child's specific traits, their special laugh, - just wanted me to know that they had lived.

I happen to know that in their hearts they were really 
saying 'don't forget'.  
I know!
I also have the fear that everyone will forget my child
But I can't forget all those good and happy stories about raising children,  enjoying grandchildren,   

I've heard so many stories that I wish I'd written them down. 
Everyone has a story. 
We all have a story. 
We help people to heal by listening
Just listening. 

This cab driver in the story below allowed this dear lady to remember her story - her life. 
I hope that I've learned to slow down enough to listen.
To hear the stories that have changed and shaped lives. 

I pray that this story will touch your heart like it did mine.
May we all learn to just sit down
May we all learn to stay quiet and listen.
May we all learn to give 'moments of joy'

Janet Macy

the Last Cab Ride
 by Kent Nerbum (adapted from "Make Me an instrument of Your Peace")

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. 
After waiting a few minutes I honked again.
Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. 'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice.
I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had
lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.
There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils
on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said.
I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.
She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.
She kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her.. 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.'  
'Oh, you're such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave
me an address and then asked, 'Could you drive through downtown?'
'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly..
'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice.
I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have any family left,' she continued in a soft  voice..'
The doctor says I don't have very long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me
the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.
We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were
newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that
had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she'd ask me to slow  in front of a particular building or corner and
would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was
creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired. Let's go now'.
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building,
like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.
Two orderlies came out to
the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were
solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to
the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
'How much do I owe you?' She asked, reaching into her purse.
'Nothing,' I said
'You have to make a living,' she answered.
'There are other passengers,' I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said. 'Thank you.'
I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning
light.. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life..
I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift.
I drove aimlessly lost in thought.
For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk.
What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.
But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully
wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

"There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation."       James Nathan Miller

"If speaking is silver, then listening is gold."                 Turkish Proverb