2011-08-04 / Community News


(Life Lessons from Hospice Patients)

“I’m Scared”

Robert was a strong, determined man from a rough background of abuse. He joined the Marines and became a highly-decorated Vietnam veteran. He suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, complete with nightmares and flashbacks stemming from a long episode of hand-to-hand combat when the enemy overran his unit. Only Robert and one other Marine survived. After Vietnam, he invested his life in assisting low-income families.

Then cancer overtook him. He was staring at death again.

Robert was a man of very strong faith, often saying, “I’m ready to go.” He was also a fighter. “I’m not going anywhere until God says so!” he would say.

One day, sitting silently together on Robert’s front porch, I could tell he was thinking deeply. Finally, he said, “Gary, I’m scared. In fact, I’m terrified.” I had never heard anything like, “I’m scared,” from Robert before, and it surprised me.

Of course, none of us is immune. I get scared all too often. Sometimes fear keeps me from really living. What I am afraid of is often ridiculous. But I’m human. I get scared.

I do, however, have a choice how I’m going to respond when it comes. I can let it overtake and derail me. Or I can see it for what it really is – an opportunity to trust and to grow.

Thanks Robert, for being honest. I get scared too.

Gary Roe is the Chaplain of Southern Care Hospice and is interim Minister at First Baptist Church in Lexington

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