by Pamala Vincent
It became necessary to end our eleven year friendship. For six months, I had struggled to keep her weight up, until the day our vet explained to me that her kidneys were failing. Our time was limited, and her body would soon shut down.
Anyone who has had to say good-bye to a beloved pet understands the anguish you go through deciding when the ‘right’ time is to say your final good-byes. The heartbreaking struggle lies somewhere between not wanting to let go, and not wanting them to suffer. And so I stood there, in limbo, in tears, contemplating a decision I wanted only God to make rather than myself.
As God often does, during this painful time, I learned an important lesson. It was the vet-tech’s job to assess the situation: to draw blood, to take her temperature and to listen to us explain why we were there in the office. She could have done just the essentials, but she didn’t. She moved slow, talked with us, and really listened. When she had to assess Ali, she talked with her in a gentle tone, substantially easing the situation.
The technician sensed in her own way that this was a difficult visit and she was not mechanical, or hurried with us. She kept assuring me that the things she was doing would not hurt my precious companion while stroking and comforting Ali. And she did one thing more that helped us to accept and do the right thing; when the blood test results returned and the realization that the end was nearer than we’d hoped, she wept with us. Her courage to be transparent, loving and kind felt like balm on my wounded heart.
“kindess.”- John 13:34-35]
Our vet’s office has always done an outstanding job, that’s why we go there, but this was human-compassion and understanding far above and beyond the call of duty. As far as I am concerned, our vet-tech has exceeded the call of job excellence.
In my grief, I started talking to others and heard countless stories of people doing their jobs in ways that superseded their job descriptions. These workers took the time to connect with a human touch and others were the better for it. A friend of mine is a funeral director, and he goes to great lengths to ease the remaining family’s pain. He once said to me, “I have to be better than my best when I first meet the family because I’m meeting them on the worst day of their lives.” I admire his heart.
I remember years ago requiring major surgery and being unprepared for the level of pain I experienced. The nursing staff took excellent care of me physically, performing their jobs with an expertise I was thankful for. Even a hospital pastor whisked into my room, asked to pray for me and disappeared quickly down the hall to tend to others. No one did anything wrong and yet I remember feeling all alone to manage the pain.
While lying there looking out the window, a hospital janitor entered and cleaned my bathroom, changed the garbage, and wiped down the sink. When she turned to leave, she noticed the tears quietly running down my cheeks. She removed her gloves and touched my hand. “Is there anything I can do for you? Are you ok?” she said making sincere eye contact.
“Thank you,” I choked back, “I’ll be ok.”
“I can stay if you just need someone to talk to,” she smiled.
Somehow her kindness seemed to cut the pain to almost nothing. I don’t know her name. We never spoke again. She wasn’t the most powerful person in the hospital; she was simply doing her job, but took a moment to gently connect with me. That incident was over 23 years ago and I remember her kindness to this day.
I expect everyone may have a story to tell similar to these; and in a world that moves at Mach II with our hair on fire, we need these human touches and connections more than ever before. I wonder—if we all slowed down, took a moment more to complete our jobs with a bit more compassion, looked people in the eyes when they talked, and when we can, touch a hand or pat a shoulder—what our town would look like? Or better yet, what our hearts would feel like?