Cristina: Mer, why do you care what I think?
Meredith: Because you’re my person!
~ “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC
In early April, after several months of pain from metastatic cancer, my father-in-law Herb Mielke had made peace with God, and now he wanted his people by his side.
Oldest son Cary, driving in rain and hail in Kentucky — on a college visit with his son, a high school senior — turned on a dime upon hearing the news and drove all night to get back to Minnesota. Middle daughter Rachel, living in Madison, had been making the four-hour drive every weekend to support her father in his time of need, and now she sat by his side. Younger son Greg jumped in his beater truck, placed his well-worn Bible next to him, and headed down from Duluth to pray with Dad. Grandson Kyle sat on the carpet next to Grandpa’s feet, holding the hands of a man who shared unconditional love with him for all of his 23 years of life.
And wife, Sherry, who has been his source of love and comfort for 55 years of marriage, touched his outstretched fingers with hers, holding back the tears.
Herb passed away peacefully, leaving his people to mourn their loss and to celebrate his life. He was so fortunate to be surrounded by the ones he loved, to be able to say his farewell to each one of them.
Some don’t have people by their sides. Many die alone, fearful, forgotten.
“Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen
On Easter weekend I drove down to Northeast Nebraska where my people were gathering to celebrate the arrival of Hope, the 2-week-old daughter of my niece, Lindsey. Swaddled tightly, the newborn lay quietly and looked upward at the many faces who appeared over her, each one making goo-goo sounds and an unnaturally big smile.
My mom, now a great-grandmother for the second time, held Hope with the care of someone who had done this before. She didn’t need to say a word. Her eyes, and those of the babe in her lap, connected and shared timeless truths that passed effortlessly in the light between them.
I couldn’t help but think of the juxtaposition of this scene — moms and aunts and great-uncles and family of all variety laughing with joy in the presence of this new child on the planet — with the living room where I had just been, a hushed vigil honoring the accomplishments of 79 years of life fully lived, a testament to the commitment and dedication of a passing generation.
Two different moods entirely, but the players remained the same: people connecting with a shared love for each other.
“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others…for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.” ~ Albert Einstein
This is a new age. We have seen the passing of a time in which someone would select a favorite pen and sit down to write a message of love to his or her person, taking all the time needed to share deep sentiments. Now, messages are tweeted in seconds; most are misspelled, and many are not understood.
The urgency we feel in our bones, to get everything done as quickly as possible — thoroughness be damned — has altered the connection with our people. Long letters are now reduced to 140 characters. Overnight visits are now quick chats on the cell in between commercials. How well do we know our people, and how well do they know us? No wonder we all feel alone.
Each of us has a choice to connect with each other. Let us not wait to tell our people how we feel about them. Choose to step outside of the urgency and into the timeless present moment. Connect with your people. And share deeply from the heart.