I sat there to give comfort to her husband during the process. I sat there so he wouldn't be alone while his life faded with hers.
As I sat there I saw the power of commitment, of love. I saw what as so common place for our parents and so scarce for us and our children.
This man who stayed with his wife for 38 years was illiterate. While she took care of those things that required reading, writing, and numbers; he took care of her physically. She was very ill, requiring a caretaker, a role that he accepted with devotion. He now will face a life alone, with no family and scared at his age how he will be able to survive without her loving help. I sat and cried with him while we watched the heart monitor blip slower and slower until the line was flat. We measured our breaths with hers. And at times, it felt as though I was holding my breath as hers became shallow. The quiet dignity of the room was only broken by the occasional heavy sigh or the sound of a Kleenex being pulled out of the box. As I put my hand on his shoulder, he held her hand for that last time, and then let her go.
In this world of entitlement, this man never asked for a thing. As I spoke with him he told me that he worked all of his life by the "strength of his back", never asking for help. He earned what he had and if he couldn't afford it, he didn't need it. And even at this time, he didn't ask me for a thing, although he confided in me that he didn't know how he was going to bury her, but he would try to find a way.
The care and commitment of our generation to our family members has diminished over time. Our commitment to those we marry lasts as long as we are having fun, or getting our way. For better, for worse, richer or poorer, does not apply anymore. Till death us do part is now translated to mean "Until I get bored."
He did not ask me to get the county to pay for his wife's cremation. Although I have had families come to me asking for that service saying they have no money while wearing diamond rings and carrying designer purses. Folks demanding that I find money to pay for their asthma medication all the while knowing that their shortness of breath was proceeded by the use of methamphetamine and cigarettes.
A new poll has come out to say that with the new president in office, more people are feeling optimistic about their future. I truly hope that this new optimism extends to our families and community. I hope that we, individually, and as a society, stop looking at ourselves as entitled to goods and services; never thinking about what we need to give back. I hope that we can transform and remember that the greatest gift in life is not what we are given, but what we give back to others.