Just be there
Most, if not all, of us have friends, relatives and acquaintances who forward stories and jokes to us via e-mail. I confess that I don’t read all of them; some are summarily deleted. I suspect you might also do that. It’s rare, but once in a while I am glad that I choose to read an unsolicited story rather than deleting it.
I received such a story today and wish to share it with you. My guess is that the story is apocryphal, but that takes nothing away from it. Here’s the story:
The nurse noticed that the young Marine seemed tired as she led him to the bedside of an old man, who lay silently hooked up to an oxygen supply and IV units. She leaned over and spoke to the old man. “Your son is here.” She had to repeat the words three or four times before the patient’s eyes opened briefly.
The nurse moved aside and the tall, strong Marine stepped to the bed and took the old man’s limp fingers in his hand, gently squeezing a message of love and encouragement. The nurse placed a chair next to the bed so the Marine could sit at the bedside. He sat there throughout the night, holding the old man’s hand and occasionally offering words of love and strength. The nurse suggested that he move away and rest a while, but the Marine refused.
The nurse came and went several times as she performed her duties. The whole time the Marine seemed unaware of her or the night noises of the hospital, the laughter and chatter of staff members in the hallway, and the moans of other patients in the ward. The nurse heard the Marine speak gentle words at times, but the dying man said nothing while clinging to the young man’s hand.
As dawn neared, the old man died. The Marine released his hand and went to tell the nurse. He stood by as doctors and nurses did what they had to do. Then, the nurse started to offer her sympathy to the young man.
But, he interrupted her and asked, “Who was that man?”
Stunned, the nurse replied, “Your father.”
“No,” the Marine said. “I never saw him before in my life.”
The surprised nurse asked why the Marine had not said anything when she took him to the old man.
“I knew right away there had been a mistake,” he said. “But I also knew he needed his son and his son wasn’t here. I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son. I could tell how much he needed me, so I stayed.”
After a brief pause, the nurse asked, “Why then were you here?”
“I came tonight to find a Mr. William Grey,” the Marine said. “His son was killed in Iraq today, and I was sent to inform him. By the way, what was this gentleman’s name?”
Tears rolled from the nurse’s eyes as she answered, “Grey. William Grey.”
What a lesson for all of us. When we realize someone needs us, be there. Stay. It may be someone we know and love, or it may be someone we don’t know. Doesn’t matter. If the situation calls for words of encouragement, let’s offer them. Maybe all the person needs is a strong hand to hold. We can provide that hand.