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“Six Months to Live”

I started volunteering last Friday at the hospital as a Candy Striper.  The tasks they have as do are very little, like give out ice water, change sheets, and do paper work.

All of that seems almost unimportant, compared to what the doctors and nurses do for the patients.  However, there was a time that made all the small things add up, and made me feel like I was being valuable:


I saw him.  He was a very frail, skinny old man.  I passed by his room many times but never bothered to go in since he was sleeping.  No one visited him the entire 4 hours that I was at that floor, except for the nurses. (Maybe some went later that day, I’m not sure).  Finally, I passed by one more time and found him awake, looking sad and weary.  I knocked and he let me come in.  I asked if he needed something, and he said that he wanted water, so I got him some.  Trying to break the ice, I asked, “How are you doing today, sir?”

His response was dim, “I’m dying.”

It was a depressing phrase, so I said cheerily, “No you’re not!”  Maybe I should have rephrased that differently.

 I thought that he was just another miserable man, thinking that he was dying.  That was shallow of me,  But everyone will eventually die, right?

His voice was rough, “They said I had 6 months to live.”

Boom.  I didn’t know what to say… I didn’t even say I’m sorry.  I just blanked out. 

Finally, I asked if he wanted a newspaper to read.  That seemed better than sitting down and doing nothing to him, so he said yes please.

I smiled, “I’ll be right back.”  I went downstairs to grab him one and came back up with the promised newspaper.  He seemed so happy to receive that newspaper, and I was glad that something that small could make a patient a little better.  I talked with him a little more.

He said something so small that I’ll never forget. “You’re a good girl.”  He didn’t just say it like that, but he said it in such a thankful, sincere way.  It’s as if the couple of minutes I spent with him was the best thing he got all day. 

Finally, I told him to have a nice day and he said (sincerely again), “I will now, thanks to you.”


I know it seems like that was nothing, but to me, it was something. That old man was so sad when I first saw him, and even though he’ll probably still be sad at times, that moment that I could share with him was awesome.  I know that it brightened up his day enough.  And even if he only has six months to live, I hope he knows that people still care about him, even complete strangers. 

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