We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.
1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.
Moments of raw human connection are rare, precious and in the end the only thing that matters.
I am sitting on my sister’s hospital bed before a serious surgery. She is terrified and hyperventilating. Our relationship has been plagued by distance, miscommunication and mutual recrimination. On that night, there was only tenderness. I held her hand. We breathed together. She looked into my eyes and her breathing slowed. What flowed between our breath and our eyes was love.
It is barely a week since my sister passed away. I have come to take my parents to see my sister’s apartment and go through some of her personal items. I worry my mother will fall apart when she sees the remnants of a life cut short. We sit together and I help her think about what she hopes for from this visit. I help her articulate her fears. She starts to plan what steps she will take to move her toward her hopes and away from her fears. She is ready.
I walk into my grandmother’s room with my husband. She has had a stroke but she remembers. The last time she saw us, she was being courted by a gentleman who visited her at her brother’s house. She starts to tell the story. Her daughters think she is hallucinating. We maintain eye contact and smile. She smiles. It was a happy memory. We know. It is enough.
A woman tells me her life story. She is addicted to pain killers. She needs help. She needs money. She is a sweet soul who has just helped me buy my train ticket and guided me to my platform. I urge her to get help. I tell her about my own sister. I tell her life is too precious to waste away on an addiction. We take each others hands. She thanks me for listening and treating her with dignity. She ushers me onto my train. I sit down and cry like a baby.
I want to look you in the eye. I want to smile. I want to hold your hand. We are connected. This is the story.