WHAT REALLY COUNTS

There are wooden chairs and some lime green sofas around the glass tables. On the walls motives by Chagall, Monet and maybe a van Gogh, I’m not sure. The light is soft. There is a piano with a chandelier and some flowers on it in the back of the room. It doesn’t feel right to play the tunes I know. Or maybe it is?
We are all taking breaks from being on the other side of the doors facing the room, where our loved ones lies with hours or maybe a day or two left on their journey. No, our journey. A father, a mother, a spouse, a sibling, a child. Why a child?
A woman gets up from a chair and asks if anyone would like some coffee or tea. We say ’no thanks’ with soft smiles of appreciation. When she comes back I can see that she is worried and I ask her how she is. ”Oh, I’m ok, but it’s so typical, my mother has only like a day left, pancreas cancer you know, she’s only 68, and my computer with the music she loves just crashed.” Without involving my mind I say, ”take my iPad, there is an app with streaming music on it, so you can play anything she likes.” ”Thank you so much but I could never accept your kind offer”, she says with eyes that so much want to give her mother beautiful memories. ”Maybe never, but you can now”, I say with a little smile and hand over my iPad, ”just leave it with the nurses when you don’t need it any more, my Dad is probably going before your Mom but I can come in after the weekend and pick it up. She takes it, shakes her head and smiles to express her surprise and gratitude. Some minutes later I can hear Frank Sinatra sitting by her mothers bed.
A couple of nurses walks gently through the doors, they have “Angel” written all over their white coats and faces.
Before I head back to my fathers hand that will stay warm for some hours more I think about how close real life is to death. That death has the power to make us more living. Humane. Generous. Caring. Forgiving. What the heck, when the game is over all the ”stuff” we accumulated goes back in the box anyway.
Sitting there I am thinking about what Yanel, a friend from Mexico, told me, about when she some years ago passed a cemetery with her young daughter; “Mom, that´s the place where they plant people.” Somehow this is so wonderfully beautiful and comforting. We really don’t know what happens when our bodies are worn out in this life.
Being close to death becomes a reminder that the best I can do with my life is to live it as it was a mix of the first and the last day of it. Curious, humble, loving and with the courage to be guided by the tender and authentic part in me that aspires to reach out to myself and everyone and the world with love and compassion, without needing anything back.
He is breathing faster now. His hand holds mine tighter.
“Dad, thanks for your precious gifts to me. My life and your love. You can let go now, you’ve struggled long enough, we will all be fine and so will you. The cherry trees are in full bloom outside, they are beautiful”, are the last words I will ever say to him.
Jan Gunnarsson is an international author and speaker who inspires people to cultivate a caring, inclusive and welcoming mindset and behavior. He has written 8 books and done over 1,700 presentations on Hostmanship – The Art of Making People Feel Welcome. Jan has 25+ years of experience from the Hospitality industry, working as CEO and Director for a host of companies.

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