A Ray of Life Passed… and I Caught It before the Sun Went Down

An Inspirational Story of a Dying Man Who Gave a Lasting Gift of Hope and Optimism.

Once upon a time, I was a volunteer patient visitor in a hospital in the city of New York. I had three areas in my rotation, the serious disease unit, the terminally ill, and the orthopedic wing. And I would do my rounds in that order because the first two could be quite depressing and the orthopedic wing was usually sports injuries, so I would leave the hospital on a happier note.

My duty was to visit with patients, especially those who had few or no visitors. I would sit by their bedside to provide comfort and companionship. Sometimes that meant just being present, providing a loving smile and really looking into someone’s eyes when they were intubated or otherwise unable to communicate. This was typically the case I experienced with those with serious diseases and the terminally-ill.

I was quite surprised one day to meet a chatty, buoyant patient… a positive force in a melancholy setting. He was happy, smiling, and thrilled to share his life story with a total stranger. He told me how he loved America as he started out with nothing, worked very hard as a taxi-driver, and made something of himself and his life. “I’m not a wealthy man, but I am a successful one,” he said while beaming, “A man is as successful as the family he creates.” I could not agree with him more. He was so proud to have provided for his family and their education. He was a proud father and grandfather. I still remember how moved I was as he brought out pictures of his children, and grandchildren and told me their tales with a glint of happiness in his eyes. You would never have guessed that he was a dying man whose fate could not be altered.

I listened to his life story for a long while as the sun began to set and the natural light in the hospital room gave way to a florescent glow. “Here, I have something to show you,” he said while he attempted to lift his arm. On his arm was a tattoo… of numbers. This amazing, optimistic, positive man was a Holocaust survivor. He told me he survived because he worked hard… he had to pave a road from the ashes of people… friends, family, neighbors… humans. I admit, I was weeping on the inside as he shared this, and I did my best to stay strong for him and be positive as he told me heartbreaking stories of his life in the concentration camp and all of the family members that he had lost.

Here was a man who had experienced unspeakable horror, and transcended his experience to not only survive, but make a beautiful life full of love and goodness.

I left the hospital forever touched by his gift of hope and optimism. Make the most of this precious life that you have, here and now, no matter how adverse the conditions or impossible the challenges. Believe in yourself, work hard and never give up hope.

A ray of life passed, and I caught it before the sun went down.

Photo by C. Rosso
Cami Rosso

Copyright © 2016 Cami Rosso All rights reserved.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on July 14, 2016.

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