Sunday, March 11, 2007


As an act of hope, David wrote a story to post on the door of his father’s hospital room.  The story began like this.


My family wants you to know a little bit about me.  Since I can’t tell you it myself, they are writing this for you to read.


In general he was not a man who wrote stories.  But when you can see that things are wrong, and you have taken the logical steps to fix them, and you are seized by an overwhelming sense of helplessness, you do things you might not do at other times. 


He hoped that the staff would think of his father as a person, so he began with language his father might have used. 


I celebrated my 89 birthday on January 6.  Over my 89 years, I have provided loyal service to my God, my country, my family and my community.


He hoped the staff would pay more attention to a man with an interesting life than they were paying to this paralyzed man who could not speak to them. 


I was raised in Manitoba and in the Peace River area of Northern Alberta.  I was one of the few boys of my generation who completed high school.  I homesteaded at age 16.  In 1960 at age 43, we moved to Edmonton so that I could follow my life long dream of going to university.  I completed a 4-year Bachelor of Education degree in 3 years.  I was an instructor in Business Education at NAIT for 19 years.  During that time I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Computing Science and my Master in Education.  I loved to study and read.  After I retired, Iris and I traveled the world.


He hoped that a little humour would get their attention and so he wrote: 


I am a veteran of World War II – and one of the benefits of the war is that I met and married my wonderful wife of 61 years, Iris.  She is Welsh, and people even thought I had a Welsh accent. 


He hoped to shed a little light on some of the things that might be irritating the staff, so he wrote. 


Five years ago I had a serious stroke, which meant that I couldn’t speak or walk.  But I could still communicate, play cards, and enjoy life at home.  Last December, my body grew weaker and I was admitted to the hospital.  I moved to Long Term Care in February, but got a chicken pox virus which brought me to this room. I am here by fate.  I never drank, smoked, or swore.  One of the tricks that my body has played on me, is that I say swear words now when I want to be able to tell you my needs. 


Finally, he hoped they would realize what a gracious man his father intended to be, so he wrote:


If I could, I would thank you for taking care of me!   


It was not a perfect story, for it was written in a hurry.  But it seemed important, urgent really, that something be done.  So he printed the little story, jumped into the car, went straight to the hospital and read it to his father. 


At another time, his father might have withheld his praise, quibbled over the details, requested time for a thorough review.  But things were not as they had been, and he gave enthusiastic assent on the first reading.  David posted the story in the hallway at the entrance to his father’s room. 


I wish I could report that, from this moment forward, the staff flocked to the room, wanting to be with him, jostling each other for opportunities to stand by his bed, the way they might if Wayne Gretzky was admitted to their unit.  .  That story will have to be written as fiction.  What I can report is that some staff read the story, and some of them commented on it when they visited his room. 


As an act of hope, the story was a smashing success.  For it transformed helplessness into action.  Today that story is still around, a comforting reminder that his loved-ones made many efforts to speak up on his behalf when he was no longer able to speak up for himself. 

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