His disease ridden body struggled to reach out and offer his hand. George was losing this final stand in his seemingly life-long war with Hodgkin's Disease. He was down to his last weeks and days of life and he new it. In this, his final stand, the Hospice Team was asked to help with comfort and aid. My role as a volunteer was to simply be there, to listen, to laugh and to ultimately cry. Shaking George's outstretched hand tuned out to be the beginning of a connection that was far more than a simple greeting.
George was an intensely private man. A pharmacist by trade, George would have preferred to have been the food critic for the New York Times. He and his wife, Ann, loved the experience of dining out. Competing for a top spot in George's passion for life was baseball, or more to the point, the New York Yankees. Careers, statistics, seasons won or lost could be quoted easily and with pleasure (or pain). I learned these things about George because we would get lost in animated conversation that would last for hours at a time. "Baseball is a metaphor for life," George pronounced. Without understanding all the subtleties and nuances of the game (or his simile) it was clear what inning George was batting.
George touched me in a way I am just now beginning to understand. People who are facing imminent death struggle with issues of faith and understanding the rest of us only casually pay service to. If lucky, one might get an opportunity to share or observe another on their death journey. Although most of us fail to perceive our own tire marks on that road, George was not wrestling with all the issues in an intellectual sense. Wham - it was right in his face. George took his swings at the final pitches with his eyes wide open.
George died last Easter morning. His wife and mother face the reality of what they may have both dreaded and hoped for. George was my friend for only a few weeks. I grieve for the time I will no longer have with him. However, the connection that sprang from that first handshake comforts me.
You played well George. The box score says you won.
David R. Ward
You can send email to David R. at: email@example.com
anniversary date Easter 1998
date of post 04-13-98