THE RIGHT WORDS


After my brother’s massive heart attack, he lay in a coma in the hospital’s coronary intensive care unit. Tubes and wires hooked him tip to machines that kept him alive. A scope showed the wiggly lines of a faltering heartbeat. The only sound in his room was the rhythmical whoosh of the pump forcing air into his lungs. My sister-in-law stood by, helpless.


As a minister I had often been with families in similar situations. I had searched for the right words, the perfect scriptural passage, a phrase of hope, trying to thus comfort them. But this was a new experience.


During these difficult days, my sister-in-law and I were torn between hope and resignation. We appreciated every visitor. We were grateful for their stories of people who had snapped out of comas and returned to normal. We listened when they talked knowledgeably about the stages of grief. We knew they cared.


But many visitors came through the door talking, and kept talking. Was that how I had dealt with my nervousness when I didn’t know what to say?


Then a casual friend came to visit. He stood with us around the bed, looking at my brother’s body. There was a long silence. Suddenly overcome with emotion, he said, “I’m sorry.” There was another long pause.


Finally, he hugged my sister-in-law and then turned to shake my hand.


He held it a second longer than necessary and squeezed a little harder than usual. As he looked at me, tears came to his eyes. And then he left. One week later, my brother died.


Years have passed and I still remember that visitor.


I do not recall his name, but I’ll never forget how he shared our grief, quietly and sincerely and without awkwardness. His few words spoke volumes.

--------Robert J. McMullen Jr.

Submitted by: Dave Potter



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