At Last, No Hearing Aid Needed.
The son of the hospice patient I was visiting sat in the corner at the bedside of his dying mother. Even sitting, he looked tall and well-dressed. Definitely a professional, perhaps a lawyer or an accountant. How he leaned forward gently holding his mother’s hands, seemed at odds with his appearance.
I sat across from him silently praying for his mother. We had finished talking about his mother’s life, the way she loved and cared for her family after her husband’s untimely death due to an accident. We just sat there in what I would describe as a calming peace of acceptance.
Her Son Didn’t Expect a Response, But…
His mother hadn’t responded in any way. She hadn’t squeezed his hand holding hers. She hadn’t spoken or acknowledged his presence in any way, despite his ongoing talk, comforting her, and I’m sure, himself.
He sat up, looked at me, and said he had to go. I walked around the bed and shook his hand, promising to stay at his mother’s bedside for a bit longer.
We both looked at his mother. He leaned forward and whispered, “I love you mom, in her right ear.”
His mother’s lips moved gently as she said, “I love you son.”
He smiled. I smiled. We shook hands. He left with tears in his eyes.
Returning to my bedside chair, I recalled how hearing is widely thought to be the last sense to go in the dying process, even when the person seems unresponsive. There’s even some research suggesting touch is also one of the last senses to be lost.
I sat there reflecting on how it’s never too late to say, “I love you.”
I’ve retold this story dozens of times over the years, reassuring families that as they sit at the bedside of their unresponsive loved ones, they can---and should--- talk and touch, not hesitating to share memories and stories.
When they do this, their loved one can share their loved one’s presence internally, in their mind, heart, and soul. The family can begin to heal.
I recall a time when I entered a patient’s room and found two people sitting in the corner in the opposite end from the patient’s bed. After identifying themselves as neighbors, they told me they “just didn’t know what to say.”
After I told them the story I shared above, they immediately, with a tear drop or two beginning to appear in their eyes, pulled their chairs to their neighbor’s bedside, reaching out for her hand. They began talking to her.
A bit later, I passed by the room and saw them laughing, apparently recalling fond memories and sharing them with their neighbor. Perhaps she was laughing inside.
In God’s Words
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12)
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
In the Words of Others
“Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.
“Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.” Washington Irving
“My goodness, there's nothing that feels better than to meditate, than to get quiet, and then to be at peace, and to tell someone you love them.” Wayne Dyer