It is never too late to turn your life around. It is never too late to say: This is not how my story is going to end. We all make mistakes, we all fall down, no one is perfect. I could spend the next ten hours writing down every time I screwed up because of physical or emotional pain but I have come too far to look back. However, I have screwed up enough times and am old enough to know that it is never too late.
At my first job as a social worker I was working in a nursing home. I was the assistant social worker to someone who would later become my assistant. It was my first real job and was even more special to me because I never thought with chronic pain I would graduate college much less be a social worker helping other people instead of the one being helped. I had a patient who was in his eighties. He had dementia and from reading his medical records and talking endlessly to his family I learned that he had not been a great father. Of course there are always too sides to every story and I never judge anyone, especially a patient of mine with dementia. However I dug deep into his history as he was one of my first patients and I was fascinated by everything to do with social work and the medical field and people in general. I did my research and knew that he had abused his children and had a very difficult marriage. Per his children, money was always more important than anything else in his life. He and his children never made peace and his wife passed while he was in my nursing home. It was my duty to tell this man that his wife had passed, something I was petrified to do because the one thing he always did talk about was his wife. He never forgot her. It took every amount of courage I had to go into his room and explain of his wife’s passing. He started crying and said: “I no longer have a reason to live. If she is in heaven, then I will be too.”
Later that day two of his children came in to see him. They had just lost their mother and were completely distraught. The two children (adults) came to my office in tears screaming: “It should have been him!” I listened for a long time and finally asked them if they would be willing to forgive their father for the emotional abuse he put them through their entire lives. I told them that forgiveness did not have to be for his sake but for theirs. They were carrying around this anger and pain for far too long. After awhile they actually took my advice and went to their father’s room. I joined them as a mediator and because they asked me to. It turned out I did not have to mediate anything. My patient looked at his children (whom at times he remembered and at times he did not) and told them: “I lost my wife and my children.” At that moment every person in the room was crying, including me. Both children said to their father: “We forgive you.” My patient then said to the room: “I am going to go be with your mother now.”
This patient had no major health concerns aside from dementia. I left work that day feeling very good about myself. My patient’s children thanked me profusely and I remember thinking at that moment: It’s never too late, even for forgiveness. The next morning I arrived at work to find out my patient had died. My doctors and nurses could not find a reasonable explanation for his death. His diagnosis was mainly: dementia. He was not a patient who any of us thought was going to pass. The last words I heard this man say were: “I am going to go be with your mother.” Many of my co-workers said he died of a broken heart. I do believe that. However, I also believe hearing his children say they forgive him let him find peace with himself enough to leave this earth.
I will never forget that day and that is a very true story. Not only did it make me believe in life after death but it also truly let me know that: It’s Never Too Late.