Footsteps in Faith: Death may be the greatest teacher of all by helping us appreciate life

| December 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

Chaplain (Maj.) Alan T. Savage
Chaplains Office, U.S. Army-Pacific



The nurse escorted me down a long hallway that opened into a dark lab room.

Through the shadows, I saw an old woman sitting next to a gurney.

The nurse nodded in the woman’s direction and then closed the door behind her as she left.

With hesitation leaking out of my voice, I introduced myself as the duty chaplain for the local Army post and offered my condolences. After what seemed like hours, the woman looked up with tear-stained eyes and softly replied, “Thank you for coming.”

Feeling a bit awkward and searching my mind for something appropriate to say, I wisely resigned myself to silence and pulled up a chair and sat quietly by her side.

She lovingly stroked his forehead and then leaned forward and kissed his now blue lips. “It’s going to be alright my love. You rest now,” she whispered.

I found out later that Rose and her husband had been married for nearly 45 years, and they had settled in the area after his retirement from the Army.

Hot tears fell from her chin onto to the cold skin of her husband’s face as she continued to gently run her fingers through his hair.

Realizing that I was witnessing a sacred experience, I excused myself and pulled my chair to the back wall, several feet away.

For the next 20 minutes or so, I sat silently and watched Rose speak softly to her husband, telling him how much she loved and missed him. All the while, she gently stroked his head, kissed his face and quietly wept over his body. Tears rolled down my face as I took in this deeply provocative example of relational intimacy.

By watching Rose suffer through the issue of death, she taught me a great lesson on the value of life. It reminded me of the sage advice of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow when he wrote, “Take this sorrow to thy heart and make it a part of thee, and it will nourish thee until thou art strong again.”

The thorns of life allowed Rose to grow and actually helped her to bloom.


Category: Footsteps in Faith, News, Standing Columns

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