This Memorial Day makes me think of a recently deceased patient of mine. We had known each other for years. He benefited from many of our modern EP procedures and implanted cardiac devices, and I benefited from knowing him and his devoted wife. It was as he entered the final innings of his life, that Mr S shared with me some of his war stories. In November of last year, I wrote,
I know him well. He lay in the ICU bed with a concerned look. I approach and he makes eye contact. I must have looked worried because he studied me intensely. I say, Mr S, “I am sorry to see you here.”
We talk, he tells me the story. I knew the story beforehand. His chart was all bad news. He is an octogenarian (medical speak for a person in their 80’s.) Although, my office patients await, I sit, pause and present the “y” in the road. Neither way is good.
Mr S pauses and I wait. He begins: “I was drafted at age 18 to fight in WWII. They sent me to Europe with an M1 rifle. Initially, I was scared, really scared. Soon, as my friends were killed, I became angry. Angry at the situation. This made me a better soldier, as I realized that I would be killed as well. Accepting the inevitable gave me peace. Once home, I stayed in the service and was subsequently sent to Korea for 2 years. It was rough. I wouldn’t trade these experiences, but if given the choice, I would not go through them again. You know, Doc, these experiences have prepared me well for the choices I have to make now.”
Pause, silence. I stand. I shake his hand and hold on longer than usual. “We can talk more tomorrow,-thank you” I say.
On a sunny and warm Spring morning, while our family enjoyed the annual Memorial Day “Mayor’s Ride,” I can’t help but to be grateful for those who serve our country and fight real wars, with real guns and real explosives.
In our busy lives, it is easy to take our freedom for granted. Not today though. I say a very loud thank you to all our soldiers, past and present.
PS: Will, Staci, and I enjoying the freedom of riding on closed city streets with thousands of other cyclists in Louisville, KY this Memorial Day.