I've seen death for what it really is. I've seen the road to death. Yet what impresses me more than anything is when a person who is closing in on the pearly gates is okay by it. I was reminded of this the other day as I entered the room of a 100-year-old man and he smiled.
He was among the most pleasant patients I've ever had. His smile was bright and cheery as my 2-year-olds. His vision of death perhaps the same. He's obviously seen much, and most of those he has spent his time with are now gone.
Yet here he is sitting in this recliner, most of his teeth dark, his skin cracked and wrinkled, his hair white and barely visible along the sides of his head, yet in the moment he is happy he is here. He has been humbled like no other man in the hospital. He has seen more misery. He has seen more happiness. He has seen more than the 22-year-old man in the room next to him who was crying and agitated because he had to spend "one more night in this dump."
He spoke little. He closed his eyes when you weren't speaking to him, and when you spoke he opened his eyes and listened. I was most impressed by this, considering his old ears could still hear, and his eyes could still see, so long as he had his glasses on.
What more did he have to say. Most people try to accomplish their goals in life, and to share their stories, by the time the predict they will die (some think they will live forever). I notice COPD patients are often quite willing to talk and to share their life stories. I've decided they've come to terms that they will die some day, that they will not escape the grim reaper's grip.
Yet when one is 100 years old, they have accomplished any goals they have set for their life, perhaps several years earlier. They have shared all their stories. I've rarely met an 80 year old who believes he has nothing else to offer in this world, yet I believe most of us don't expect to be around at 100. Few of us will be on the journey this long. It's a rare feet.
Yet he was happy in the moment. He was happy he was here. It sort of reminded me of the story that Matthew told in the Bible about how Peter, James and John see Jesus transfigured, his face white as the sun, as he is talking with Moses and Elijah. They saw Jesus transfigured on Mount Tabor in all his glory, as he truly is.
So Peter says, "It's good that we are here." He says this about the moment. He knows he's going to have many trials and trivializations the rest of his life. He does, as the Bible tells, reject Jesus three times before Jesus dies. Yet he is happy in the moment. He, in essence, has stopped to smell the roses.
Seeing the 100 year old man made me want to stop and re-evaluate my life. Am I truly happy where I am at? Or am I like the majority of people who spend their entire lives trying to obtain some goal, perhaps something trivial for material gain, and who fails to enjoy what life offers in every moment?
I do think of this often, and perhaps it's a gift because I have asthma and have been close to death's door a time or two as a kid. I think often that my 12-year-old will only be living with us five more years, and my parents won't life forever. And that, perhaps, is why I make sure to go to Florida every winter to visit my parents and go to Disney, even though I'm otherwise frugal with my money.
So in the moment I am happy. I think of this even as I worked my ass off at work the past two days, perhaps doing the work of two or three RTs, and yet when I arrived at work on Tuesday my boss lectured me about how I need to start picking up after myself, and stop leaving my coffee and water cups lying around. I believe he is not happy he is here.
And after a miserable day at work like that, I go home and hug my kids and roll around the floor with them. I am happy in the moment. I am happy I am here.
Do you ever have a moment where you think to yourself, "It's good that we are here?"