Reminders of Mortality
I’ve been doing physical therapy for sixteen years. The first twelve were in outpatient, the last four in home care. In home care you work on some pretty sick folk. Folk close to the end. Every day is a reminder that we’re not here forever. Our lives must come to an end.
In the past four years, of the hundreds of patients I’ve worked with, and the multiple deaths I’ve been notified of, only two have really rattled me.
Don’t get me wrong, I take all of them to heart. I care about my patients. To me they’re not just a diagnosis or a visit on a schedule. They’re people. People with memories and families and reasons to live. People who have touched the lives of others and been touched themselves. The least I can do is give them my very best and take my work with them personally.
The two that rattled me were both older gentleman, soft-spoken, sincere. They’d lived a lot and accomplished much in their lives. They weren’t famous or rich or even particularly successful according to most people’s standards, but they were real, they were genuine, they were kind and giving and treated others with respect. I admired them.
I heard about both of their deaths via a phone call, after I had just seen them a couple days earlier. Both were relatively healthy, certainly not sitting on death’s doorstep. And both were hard to take.
Their deaths (and the deaths of so many others) serve to remind me of a few things:
- Life on this earth comes to an end. Sooner or later we all have to pay the piper.
- It’s up to us to leave fingerprints on the lives of others. To a significant degree, we determine the legacy we leave.
- Make every contact with every person count for something. For me, this means taking my job seriously and my contacts with patients personally. Never forget that they are people, not numbers or visits or diagnoses. It also means to take my writing seriously. It’s my way of touching folks I can’t meet personally.
Question: How can you more effectively impact the lives of others? Who do you come in contact with that you can touch in a personal way?