An old story that really speaks the value of forgiveness.
My favorite author, Sue Monk Kidd related a true story in a 1979 issue of Guideposts.
The hospital was unusually quiet that January evening, quiet and still. I stood in the
nurses' station on the 7th floor and glanced at the clock. It was 9 p.m. I threw a
stethoscope around my neck and headed for room 712. It had a new patient, Mr. Williams. A
man alone. A man strangely silent about his family. As I entered, Mr. Williams looked up
eagerly, but dropped his eyes when he saw it was only me, his nurse. I pressed the
stethoscope to his chest and listened. Strong, slow, even beating. Just what I wanted to
hear. There seemed little indication he had suffered a slight heart attack a few hours
He looked up from his bed. "Nurse, would you," He hesitated, tears filling
his eyes. Once before he had started to ask a question, but had changed his mind. I
touched his hand, waiting. He brushed away a tear. "Would you call my daughter? Tell
her I've had a heart attack. A slight one. You see, I live alone and she is the only
family I have." His respiration suddenly speeded up. I turned his nasal oxygen up to
eight liters a minute. "Of course I'll call her," I said, studying his face. He
gripped the sheets and pulled himself forward, his face tense with urgency. "Will you
call her right away, as soon as you can?" He was breathing fast, too fast. "I'll
call her the very first thing," I said, patting his shoulder. I flipped off the
light. He closed his eyes, such young blue eyes in his 50-year-old face. Room 712 was dark
except for a faint night light under the sink. Oxygen gurgled in the green tubes above his
Reluctant to leave, I moved through the shadowy silence to the window. The panes were
cold. Below a foggy mist curled through the hospital parking lot. "Nurse," he
called, "could you get me a pencil and paper?" I dug a scrap of yellow paper and
a pen from my pocket and set it on the bedside table. I walked back to the nurses' station
and sat in a squeaky swivel chair by the phone. Mr. Williams daughter was listed on his
chart as the next of kin. I got her number from information and dialed. Her soft voice
answered. "Janie, this is Sue Kidd, a registered nurse at the hospital. I'm calling
about your father. He was admitted tonight with a slight heart attack and,"
"No!" she screamed into the phone, startling me. "He's not dying is
he?" "His condition is stable at the moment," I said, trying hard to sound
convincing. Silence. I bit my lip. "You must not let him die!" she said. Her
voice was so utterly compelling my hand trembled. "Hes getting the very best
care." "You don't understand," she pleaded. "My daddy and I haven't
spoken in almost a year. We had a terrible argument on my 21st birthday, over my
boyfriend. I ran out of the house. I. . .I haven't been back. All these months I've wanted
to go to him for forgiveness. The last thing I said to him was, 'I hate you.'" Her
voice cracked and I heard her heave great agonizing sobs.
I sat, listening, tears burning my eyes. A father and a daughter, so lost to each
other. Then I was thinking of my father, many miles away. It has been so long since I had
said, "I love you."
As Janie struggled to control her tears, I breathed a prayer. "Please, God, let
this daughter find forgiveness." "I'm coming. Now! I'll be there in 30
minutes," she said. Click. She had hung up. I tried to busy myself with a stack of
charts on the desk. I couldn't concentrate. Room 712. I knew I had to get back to 712. I
hurried down the hall nearly in a run. I opened the door. Mr. Williams lay unmoving. I
reached for his pulse. there was none. "Code 99. Room 712. Code 99. Stat." The
alert was shooting through the hospital within seconds. Mr. Williams had had a cardiac
arrest. With lightning speed I leveled the bed and bent over his mouth, breathing air into
his lungs. I positioned my hands over his chest and compressed. One, two, three. I tried
to count. At 15 I moved back to his mouth and breathed as deeply as I could.
Where was help? Again I compressed and breathed. Compressed and breathed. He could not
die! "O God," I prayed. "His daughter is coming. Don't let it end this
way." The door burst open. Doctors and nurses poured into the room pushing emergency
equipment. A doctor took over the CPR. A tube was inserted through his mouth as an airway.
Nurses plunged syringes of medicine into the intravenous tubing. I connected the heart
monitor. Nothing. Not a beat. My own heart pounded. "God, don't let it end like this.
Not in bitterness and hatred. His daughter is coming. Let her find peace."
"Stand back," cried a doctor. I handed him the paddles for the electrical shock
to the heart. He placed them on Mr. William's chest. Over and over we tried. But nothing.
No response. Mr. Williams was dead. A nurse unplugged the oxygen. The gurgling stopped.
One by one they left, grim and silent.
How could this happen? How? I stood by his bed, stunned. A cold wind rattled the
window, pelting the panes with snow. Outside seemed a bed of blackness, cold and dark. How
could I face his daughter? When I left the room, I saw her against the wall by a water
fountain. A doctor who had been inside 712 only moments before, stood at her side, talking
to her, gripping her elbow. Then he moved on, leaving her slumped against the wall. Such
pathetic hurt was reflected from her face. Such wounded eyes. She knew. The doctor had
told her that her father was gone. I took her hand and led her into the nurses' lounge. We
sat on little green stools, neither saying a word. She stared straight ahead at a
pharmaceutical calendar, glass-faced, almost breakable-looking. "Janie, I'm so
sorry," I said. It was pitifully inadequate.
"I never hated him, you know. I loved him," she said. God, please help her, I
thought. Suddenly she whirled toward me. "I want to see him." My first thought
was, Why put yourself through more pain? Seeing him will only make it worse. But I got up
and wrapped my arm around her. We walked slowly down the corridor. Outside his door I
squeezed her hand, wishing she would change her mind about going inside. She pushed open
the door. We moved to the bed, huddled together, taking small steps in unison. Janie
leaned over the bed and buried her face in the sheets. I tried not to look at this sad,
I backed against the bedside table. My hand fell upon a scrap of yellow paper. I picked
it up. It read: My dearest Janie, I forgive you. I pray you will also forgive me. I know
that you love me. I love you too. Daddy" The note was shaking in my hands as I thrust
it toward Janie. She read it once. Then twice. Her tormented face grew radiant. Peace
began to glisten in her eyes. She hugged the scrap of paper to her breast. "Thank
You, God," I whispered, looking up at the window. A few crystal stars blinked through
the blackness. A snowflake hit the window and melted away, gone forever. Life seemed as
fragile as a snowflake on the window. But thank You, God, that relationships, sometimes
fragile as snowflakes, can be mended together again. But there is not a moment to spare. I
crept from the room and hurried to the phone. I would call my father. I would say, "I