Robert’s brother had a massive heart attack and lay in a coma in the hospital’s coronary intensive care unit. Tubes and wires hooked him to machines that kept him alive. A scope showed the wiggly lines of a faltering heartbeat. The only sound in his room was the rhythmical whoosh of the pump forcing air into his lungs. His wife stood by, helpless.
As a minister Robert had often been with families in similar situations. He had searched for the right words, the perfect scriptural passage, a phrase of hope, trying to comfort them. But this was a new experience to him.
During these difficult days, Robert and his sister-in-law were torn between hope and resignation. They appreciated every visitor. It was grateful for their stories of people who had snapped out of comas and returned to normal. They listened when those visitors talked knowledgeably about the stages of grief.
But many visitors came through the door talking, and kept talking. “Was that how I had dealt with my nervousness when I didn’t know what to say?” Robert thought.
Then a casual friend came to visit. He stood with them around the bed, looking at the body of Robert’s brother. There was a long silence. Suddenly overcome with emotion, he said, “I’m sorry.” There was another long pause.
Finally, he hugged Robert’s sister-in-law then turned to shake hand with Robert.
He held it a second longer than necessary and squeezed a little harder than usual. As he looked at Robert, tears came to his eyes. And then he left. One week later, Robert’s brother died.
Years have passed and Robert still remembers that visitor. Robert does not recall his name, but he’ll never forget how this visitor shared their grief, quietly and sincerely and without awkwardness. His few words spoke volumes.
For all the families involved in the tragic event in Connecticut, my heart and prayers go out to you all.