Mathew was an experienced surgeon. But despite his rank and all supporting diplomas, he could not hold back his tears. Few life events bring to clarity our priorities like the death of a loved one.
Before his father died, Matt stepped out of his busy schedule to ask the old man if there was anything he needed. "I will do whatever you wish," begged Matt.
"Don't go home tonight,” coughed his father. “Make a bed on the floor; I want to sleep next to you."
Perplexed, Matt fulfilled his promise. He obliged his father and slept on the ground. His father curled up next to him, kissed his forehead; put one arm on his chest and the other on his son’s head. Then, he closed his eyes and whispered, "I remember when you were two years old." The room filled with only the sound of their breaths. They slipped into a sleep of surrender, the kind you get with general anesthesia.
The next morning, the father kissed his son, as if sending him off to school again.
"I now know I’ve lived a purposeful life. Go on with yours, and make it full of love and pride. I know I will live through you. We are all travelers, our luggage partially packed. Parts of us remain, other pieces evaporate. When will our time be up? This ground which supports my feet will remain, even after I’m gone. And others will walk on it and not remember me. For now, I light your heart with my embrace. But tomorrow, I am destined elsewhere and hope you tell others of our bond.”
“I wish I could make you understand how short and precious life is. The time between when you were two and now is no longer than last night. I wish I could show you how brilliant you are, that you have all the answers inside you. If you possess nothing but are grateful, you are far richer than if you had everything but felt bitter about a single tile missing on this floor. Your task should not only be to find beauty in corners of difficulty, but to magnify that beauty for others to see also."
"Your world is full of wonder. You have been given gifts, use them. Don't take, but give! To live is a privilege not a right. Believe with your heart and live as a spirit. Every morning, unwrap life like a gift with excitement and find it anew.”
Mathew tells the story to a group of doctors as his acceptance speech for the coveted “Outstanding Teacher of the Year” award. "I don't want to lecture you on how to live. This is not a sermon. But I want to remind you that each of us is someone's reason to live. That is a responsibility we should not take lightly."
Everyone in the room heard Matt’s father through him, a magical and pure voice.
When I arrived home late that night, my two year old was awake waiting for me to sleep next to him. I curled up next to him and we fell asleep reciting the Shema.