Monday, May 30, 2005
"No man is an island, entire of itself"
Loss, grief and the need for compassion
I was nearing the end of my run, a few blocks from my place when I heard the man say "My dad died". I had seen him before, sitting on the stoop smoking, on some days with a can of beer in his hand. But we never spoke to each other. He watched me running past and I saw him from the corner of my eyes.
The words "My dad died" made me stop. He came off the stoop and said "My dad died today". He named the hospital a few miles away. I asked him how old was his father and he said "He was old. 81." I said the usual things. That I was sorry and hoped that the end was peaceful. The man said that his father was suffering for a long time; it was time for him to go. He wiped his tears. I took his hands, stood there for a few minutes, said "take care" and resumed my run.
After coming home I thought of the man who lost his father and felt the need to talk to a stranger. I was glad that I stopped and wondered whether it helped him in a small way to be able to share his grief. I hoped that it did.
These days when I run past the house he waves at me and says "Hi". Still don't know his name but we have a connection.....sort of.
"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
--- John Donne(1573-1631), "Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions"