Among all our weakness and humanity, love is the one thing we can all bring equally to our world. [more]
I found a letter my Dad sent me after he was retired from medical practice. It was sent in March of 1982, when I was 29, about the same age as my sons are now.
The ones who churn the clouds of life are the ones who fret and run scared.
You walk this earth just the same as others. Some walk on sidewalks, some on carpets, some on stones and some in brush and woods.
It takes a few years to get the eyes, the ears, the mind and the body to coordinate – onto the main line, into the right direction. Real life quietly stands to watch you go by.
I am seeing you with a great love. The world wants a piece of you. Love is not jealous, love is kind and quiet.
The task is to get oriented, develop a stable course; walk tall, easy and kindly with love emanating to give relief to those who watch and love you. They need you to be within sight to give them confidence in themselves. Self esteem is thin after one has been hurt.
Most people have been hurt and need to hear patience and praise – love.
As one goes along in life, one learns by experience – the best teacher. If you have been there you have the advantage of skill and capability. Stress is a disease of someone who is in deep water over their head.
As you go along, be constant, on track.
Now my Dad was a very complex guy. There was a side that was very tough. He had no fear and if he felt crossed he could be brutal.
But this note reminds me where his heart was. He felt dedicated to others and showed it in many ways.
To this day, I hear stories about Dr. McCarthy whistling down the hall of the hospital encouraging the nurses and patients in his wake. One of my favorite stories is that often he would write a really sick patient a prescription for M&Ms. “What’s this?” the nurse or they might say, to which he’d respond, “Let’s live it up while we can!”
Reading his letter now and sharing it with you makes me realize there is enduring advice in his words. They will stick with me because he lived those words.
“Be constant, on track”...... You could set your clock on Dad’s day. Oatmeal early, reading the newspaper, then off to daily Mass. He’d return for another coffee, maybe see the kids rushing around then he would head for the hospital to do his rounds and/or surgery. Then to his office for an afternoon of patient visits, then home for dinner at 5.30 pm with all of us. After dinner, he’d read the afternoon newspaper then be off to make house calls or go back to the hospital for more rounds.
“Love is not jealous, it is kind and quiet”...... Dad showed this one in the most interesting way – and my Mom did too. As adults, we’d apologize for not coming home to visit more often. He would always say, “You are right where you’re supposed to be – just come see us when you can.” They had an incredibly fierce love for us and yet they never competed for our attention. They had a kind, quiet, non-jealous love for us that Alice and I try to emulate with our kids.
“Most people have been hurt and need to hear patience and praise – love.” My Dad was just as wounded as you and me. He had personality flaws and he lost his first wife at only 32 years old. I doubt if he ever entirely recovered from that hurt. And yet he (and my Mom) raised ten children, served thousands of patients (many indigent) and volunteered and took leadership roles with a dozen professional and service organizations.
And I believe that was the key to my father’s soul. Late in his life, before he lost his mind to Alzheimer’s, he seemed to have a peace that was well-earned.
That is, that on balance, he felt he had lived a life of service. He’d followed his own advice to me to “walk tall, easy and kindly with love emanating to give relief to those who watch and love you.”
Said another way, appropriate to my generation, he’d lived and learned what the Beatles wrote as the last line of their last song together:
“And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love......you make”
May I, and we, practice that thought today.