One Familiar Face

I met my father the other day. Not the real one–he’s at the beach–but a patient with a striking resemblance.

“I’m just an old fart,” he said. I laughed.

Like my father, he has a dry sense of humor; and he’s very sweet. As Daddy did year before last, this man has had a major surgery and come out the other side. It’s given him pause. He’s had other recent griefs that compound, I gather, his own sense of mortality. As we talked, a tear dropped from his right eye. I’m not sure one didn’t drop from mine.

The late great Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote often of the wounded healer–the idea that we all, as humans, can connect to one another through our mutual suffering. I have found that you don’t have to connect with words. In fact, my words sometimes get in the way. Sometimes patting a hand or offering a knowing smile, or even sitting in silence, communicates an understanding far deeper than speaking.

I thought I might meet Daddy one of these days. All those weeks of sitting by his bedside, passing the time, even reading books to him, gave me a vivid snapshot into the world of waiting, wondering loved ones. Will he make it or will he not? What will he be like, later?

I got a chance to comfort my father again. And catch the tears of a suffering man. What a gift that was.

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