I spent yesterday at the hospital bedside of a very close friend who had a stroke that left him completely blind. We spent hours reminiscing about our many years together, and I learned a lesson which I am passing on to you.
My friend had just celebrated his 85th birthday. He was in the D-day invasion in World War II, wounded and later taken prisoner by the Germans. He has a wonderful wife and family.
As he lay there, staring sightlessly at the ceiling, he said, “So many things I’d planned that I’ll never get done.” Tears flowed as he talked (I had a few also but he couldn’t see them).
“I can never see my children and grandchildren and all the things they are doing. I can’t watch them become adults.”
“I have a million things I wanted to do and can’t do them now.”
“I won’t be able to work in my yard, plant seeds and watch things grow.”
“Sure, I can hear the birds but I can’t watch them at the bird feeder.”
“I have shelves of books I planned on reading. . .”
“No more golf,” he said, and the tears kept flowing.
“Most of all,” he continued, “I haven’t shown the ones I love as much as I should. And now I can’t see the expressions on their faces when I do. Will they still love me? Or will I be a burden on them? And what will happen to my friends I’ve known over the years? Will they stay away and be embarrassed in my presence?”
I had to remind him I was there and others would feel as I do and continue their friendship.
“Most of all, I can’t do things like repairs around the house, drive a car, meet friends for lunch, watch TV, read newspapers, walk in the neighborhood, even feed myself without help.”
Then he began sobbing and as I reached for his hand, I choked back my tears. Speaking softly but firmly, I said, “You have survived and have no paralysis. Your family and friends still love you and always will. Let’s talk about the good things that can keep you going.”
I reminded him, “Several places are available that work with the blind. I know a blind man who is a successful attorney. He was coached on how to use his special phone, as well as other daily activities he handles with little or no problems.”
Still holding his hand, I said, “You know your wife loves you. So do your children and grand-kids. They’ve shown that love already. They are anxious to help build your future and will work with you in making your life a thousand times better than you expect it to be.
“Now here’s advice from me, your long time friend. Work with your family. Thank them for every goal they helped you achieve. But most important–and I can’t emphasize it enough–take that recording equipment I know you have. Turn it on and start with your birth and tell about yourself. Talk into the microphone about all you remember as a little kid, your first school days, your childhood adventures, all of your later schooling.
After telling your college experiences, talk about your courtship with your wife, when your children were born, your first job and subsequent career until retirement. I know you’ve been successful; tell how you achieved that success. Pull out memories – good and bad – from your past. Share them all. Talk about your war ordeals and the years you spent as a prisoner of war. You have so many great memories to share.”
He seemed to brighten up at my suggestions and said, “That’s a good idea. I’ll do it.”
He is going home today from the hospital. One daughter and husband are moving into their large home with him and his wife. I am convinced he will have the best of care.
Why am I giving this story to you, my readers? My point is this: You, too, should get a tape recorder and dictate your life story. Or if you feel capable, write it; however, most of us can talk about our past rather than dictating it. Relive and cherish those memories.
I had a brother, now deceased, who joined the Marines in the mid-30’s. He was on Corregidor which the Japanese finally captured after six weeks. He survived the hell of the Death March plus 44 months as a POW. During his final years we convinced him to tell his experiences on his son’s recorder. We listen to his story and laugh and cry. All of us are thankful for those recorded unforgettable memories.
Let’s profit from my friend and my brother. My strong request is for you to record in some way your life experiences before it’s too late! It’s something both you and your loved ones will never regret.
We challenge you to do this this summer! You may look around you and see only the things which you are unable to do. But you have many of God’s teachings and revelations inside you from the suffering you have endured.
So record it. Tell it. Share it. Share about your life. Your favorite memories, of even the not-so-favorite ones that were still instrumental in creating the mosaic you are you today. Ideas? Suggestions? We’d love to hear them.
Denton Harris was in World War Two in the 86th Infantry Division. He attended college in Missouri and relocated to Atlanta, where he married a wonderful lady married in l948 (and is still married!). He has done investments, founded several businesses, including a bank where he was chairman. Currently, Denton us doing personal investments and writing. He has been the director of the largest Sunday School department in his church for over 35 years.