It was almost midnight on an idle Tuesday and the hospital hallways were unusually calm. I had just finished reading an old issue of Sports Illustrated from cover to cover. “Waiting sucks,” I thought to myself. “Why didn’t I bring a book?”
As I sat quietly with my eyes closed, I could vaguely hear the soft mumbles of a verbal plea going on in the hospital room beside me. “You’ve kept him waiting long enough! My grandson is here! Oh please, let him in.” More mumbling… “Please, please… nurse, bring him to me.”
A moment later the nurse stormed out of the room and looked startled to see me waiting in the hall. “Oh, you’re here!” he yelped. “I’m sorry. I’m a hospice nurse and I’ve only been watching over your grandmother for the last 24 hours. She insisted that you were coming to visit her last night too, so she had me scouring the hospital halls looking for you to no avail. When she told me you were coming again this evening, I assumed her dementia was getting the best of her.”
He interrupted me. “But I’m really glad you’re here. I think she’s been holding on just so she could say goodbye to you. It’s actually miraculous that she’s still able to speak, because her body is rapidly shutting down on her. The doctor gave her 24 hours to live about 24 hours ago.”
He interrupted again. “Sir, once more, I’m truly sorry. I had no idea you were out here waiting. Please follow me.”
I stood up and the nurse guided me into the room. “You’re grandson is here,” he announced from the doorway. The old woman’s eye’s lit up. “Oh grace… Oh joy!” She looked right at me and smiled with all the might she had left in her weak body. “I knew you’d come.”
I sat down at her bedside and placed my hand over hers, interlocking our fingers and squeezing ever so slightly in an attempt to show affection. She squeezed back and tried to speak again, but she was too exhausted. Instead, she stared directly into my eyes and held her smile for several minutes as we continued to hold hands. Finally, she closed her eyes and rested.
For nearly an hour I didn’t move. I sat there in silence as she maintained a soft grip on my hand. Then slowly, her grip loosened and her breathing slowed. For a moment I thought she was falling into a deeper sleep, but then her breathing stopped altogether.
I let go of her lifeless hand and used the emergency call button to summon the nurse. The nurse hustled in, covered the body with a white sheet, recorded a few notes on his clipboard, and then began to offer his condolences…
“I’m really sorry for your loss,” he said. “Have you made any funeral arrangements?”
“I don’t even know her name,” I replied.
“What do you mean?” he asked. “She’s your grandmother.”
“No, she’s not,” I assured him. “Prior to stepping foot in this room, I had never met her before in my life. I’m here at the hospital waiting for my roommate who needs a few stitches on his chin.”
He looked confused. “I don’t understand. If you don’t know her, then why didn’t you say so? And why did you sit beside her for the last hour?”
I smiled. “Well, I knew immediately that she wasn’t my grandmother. But when you informed me of her life expectancy, I also knew that her real grandson wasn’t going to make it in time. So curiosity got the best of me and I followed you into the room. Then when she saw me and smiled, I realized her vision was so bad that she actually thought I was her grandson. And knowing how desperate she was to see him, I decided to play the part and spend the hour with her.”
We Determine the Value of Every Hour
Our lives are measured by the value we provide to others. This value arises from the things we spend our time doing. And since time is quantified in hours, the value of our lives is equivalent to the sum of every hour we spend.
Opportunities to provide value are everywhere. Some of them are anticipated, while others blindside us at midnight on an idle Tuesday. Whether or not we choose acknowledge these opportunities is up to us.