Sunday, December 6, 2009

Strangers in the Hospital

Kind friend Dale Lincoln returns to the Skillin's Garden Log with a true story about family that will give us advice about our own lives:

Members of “The Greatest Generation,” as described by Tom Brokaw, were those American men and women who came of age in the Great Depression, served at home and abroad during World War II, and then built the nation we have today. Edgar Ward , of Pembroke, Maine, born in 1919, was a member of that group. Before and during the Great Depression he worked on the family farm and was known as one of the smart kids in the Pembroke schools.

To my wife (and children) he was always “Uncle Edgar.” For me it took a few years for him to become family. I first met Edgar as a customer in my parents store a few years after World War II ended. In my pre-teen years I didn’t understand his condition any more than I recognized the condition of the customer that said very few words and stared as he leaned on the candy showcase. Both men were seriously injured during the war. Their health would make improvements but they would never return to the good health they enjoyed before the war.

After the war Edgar Ward helped build America by cutting pulp wood. During the years my family lived in Perry he lived four miles from our home. “Uncle” Edgar and I shared many memories. Edgar loved to tell sea stories and they centered around happy experiences when he served aboard the battleship USS WYOMING. It was after his death, four years ago, when I learned he served aboard other Navy vessels during World War II. While he was a crew member, those ships engaged in battles. Edgar and his shipmates encountered bad experiences, but he could not, or did not mention them.

The following story helps describe Edgar’s condition near the time the war ended, and may encourage us to visit people that are hospitalized:
Parents and siblings lost communications with Edgar for a long period of time. They thought they would never see him again, but one day a man from Pembroke, Maine was in the Washington, D. C. area. He went to a nearby Veterans Hospital to see a friend. At the hospital a nurse was escorting the visitor to his friend’s room. As they passed an open door a young man was sitting on the bed. The nurse said: “Nobody knows who that man is.” The visitor quickly replied; I know him. That’s Edgar Ward. I went to school with him in Pembroke, Maine.” Edgar and family members were soon reunited.

In all wars, there have been deaths and at the end of each war many people find their health is not as good as it was before the war began. Many of those people spend the rest of their lives in hospitals and seldom have visitors. Our routines are too busy and those people are forgotten. We have to make special arrangements just to see our closest friends.

During our path of life we seldom acknowledge that we are constantly affecting the lives of other people. During the Christmas season we have to watch Jimmy Stewart in the movie: ”It’s a Wonderful Life,” to remind us of those important facts.

As this article is written, veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus countless other people, are continuously entering hospitals and nursing homes. Although we seldom make a trip to visit a stranger in a hospital, visiting family members and other friends is the right thing to do. It is not unusual for us to arrive at the hospital, as a visitor, feeling tired, sad, and weary. To our surprise we have found that the patient, or the “stranger “ sharing the same room, cheers us up.

More than six decades ago the man from Pembroke that went to the Veterans Hospital to see his friend was doing something good. At that time he may have been feeling tired, weary and sad. If “the stranger in the hospital” didn’t cheer him up, he certainly brightened the day for Edgar Ward and his family. It all happened with one caring person’s visit to a hospital. Today is the day to visit our friend in the hospital. If we’re “too busy,” we can at least send a card.

Dale C. Lincoln of Perry ME
currently in Zephyrhills FL
for the Skillin's Garden Log
December 6, 2009

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