I’m lucky to meet a lot of interesting people at work. Not only is there a rich history working in a century old building, but the people who have passed through these doors come with amazing stories and have led remarkable lives. I am blessed to even know a little bit about a few of them.
There are many men and women who have studied and lived within the walls of this institution that have made huge contributions to society. One such person was actually a huge asset to the city that I call home in his career. He’s a household name to many of another generation but I had to Google him when what he did prior to retirement was casually mentioned in conversation. Now he sits on so many committees, involves himself in so many associations and is enrolled in so many lifelong learning courses, book clubs and lecture series that at more than half of his age, I get tired just watching him!
But I look forward to each and every time he stops by my office. I write down the books he talks about with glee and barely wait until he’s out of the door before putting a hold on them at the public library. And I sit with my face in my hands with rapt attention each time he launches into a story. Especially the ones about his wife, a woman he calls his best friend.
Recently she became quite sick and we weren’t sure why. Suddenly, he changed too. He didn’t darken my doorway long enough to tell any stories, he didn’t come to our meetings anymore and he was always at her bedside instead.
Last week he lost her. His world forever changed.
Today we gathered in her honour and all of his stories are replaying in my head. I can hear his nervous little laugh as he told me about their first date, a story that he told me when I asked him about something entirely unrelated, and I can see his wide eyes as he told me about being reunited with her after a long sailing trip and not being able to recognize her for several minutes.
I watched a different man today, a fragile man but one who remained strong despite such a great loss. I wanted to hug him so tightly today when I greeted him and watched him silently appreciate the kind words, prayers and poems offered by friends and family in honour of his beloved. He never wavered, staying strong for his loved ones.
And my respect and admiration for a man who was one of the greatest caregivers of health for my fair city grew even larger as I watched him from the front pew of that tiny chapel, his hand clenching that of one of his son’s. I’ve only been here a year, but he has shared with me some of the greatest knowledge and wisdom, and now he has shown me an example of true strength and love in the face of great loss.
For this, I am forever grateful.
Times get tough and we can get overwhelmed by the little things in life, but there are greater things in life that people are dealing with and they overcome them with grace, dignity and strength.
Step outside of yourself for a brief moment and appreciate that and take the time to appreciate your loved ones.