A million things have happened to you today. You make small talk while waiting in line. You smile as you open a door for a girl walking four dogs. You sit quietly at the café as you people watch.
Come tomorrow, you’ll remember almost none of them until you realize it’s value.
Many years ago, I took an elderly gentleman home to be with his family as he was preparing to say good-bye to this life. It was a long drive and I had assumed, at the age of 99, my patient would have slept for the 14+ hour drive. Fortunately for me, he did not sleep but instead wanted to chat. I sat there listening to him relive many parts of his life, some happy and some sad. At times we laughed, and his eyes were bright, and his voice was strong. We discovered we both loved animals, kids and Dr. Seuss. At times, we cried, and his eyes became sad and his voice quivered. We both shared the pain of losing someone we loved and regretted our spoken words we could never take back.
Occasionally, he would become quiet as he rested his voice and reach out for my hand. He never let go and held my hand as if it was his lifeline; I suppose in some small way it was. As I gazed upon him, I realized just how amazing this human was and that in sharing his life’s story, I was experiencing a special kind of intimacy. One of sharing a slow walk down his well-worn pathway of memories. For me it was the first time down this road but for my patient it was perhaps the last memory walk he would be able to share.
Before I knew it, this 14+ hour drive was over, and I found myself not wanting it to end. He had so much more to share and so much more I wanted to hear. There were tears in my eyes as he asked for a hug and reached out to me. We embraced and he whispered every so softly in my ear. As we parted, he smiled, and his eyes shone brightly with both a glint of mischief and a bit of sadness.
I think of that day often and how strong a place this stranger has secured a place in my heart. So, each time I wave at my son as he drives away or read his random silly text messages, I remember those softly spoken words from a man I knew for just 14 hours. Those words were a quote from our shared loss, love of kids, and Dr. Seuss:
”Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
Contributor: L’Easa Blaylock Paramedic, MSEMS