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Thursday, July 31, 2014
The Will to LivePosted Tuesday, July 7, 2009, at 8:46 AM
It happened about a year ago.
I was in Evansville visiting my parents at the nursing home where they live. It was early evening and several storms were blowing through the area.
In fact, the local stations carried live coverage of the five tornadoes clearly identified on Doppler Radar. One of those tornadoes was on a path that would lead it straight to our location.
The staff at the nursing home was well prepared. With nearly one hundred patients, they knew which ones would understand the situation and could help themselves. One nurse gave me charge of my parents, told me to take them to the internal hallway away from the windows if the tornado hit us, and went on to the rooms where patients had no family or friends visiting at that time.
The air was filled with excitement and fear.
What I saw that evening still causes me to reflect. I could tell which patients wanted to be in safety and which patients were hoping this was their chance to escape! I could also tell which patients wanted to live.
About forty of the patients were wheeled in their wheelchairs to a secure, no windows inner washroom where they awaited the storm's passing. Some started rolling themselves away from this crowd and back into the hallways. Others were desperate to be in the safest location they could find.
The tornado veered away from us, the lights came back on, and soon all the patients were back to their usual activities of sleeping, watching television, or roaming the hallways one wheelchair push at a time. The Alzheimer patients went back to the Alzheimer ward, the dementia patients went back to their own little worlds, and the cognitively aware patients lost interest in the excitement of the evening and drifted to their rooms for early bedtime.
Yet, I saw something that night that gave me new insight about the human spirit.
I saw which patients still had the will to live.
Many of the Alzheimer patients did everything in their power to get to a safe place, somehow knowing they were in potential danger. Even patients that hadn't spoken or recognized anyone for the last year struggled to get to a place of safety. Others who seemed healthier than the rest wanted to be in unsafe places during the storm. One sixty-five year old gentleman with a clear mind but a body destroyed by a stroke tried his best to position himself by a window. He had lost the will to live; his efforts simply illustrated what was an unspoken position about his future.
The will to live has nothing to do with our physical shape or our psychological condition. The will to live has nothing to do with our emotional state. The will to live has everything to do with our spiritual understanding of the world and our place in it.
I'm becoming a believer that we can be facing all sorts of problems and issues and, if our will to live is strong, we'll attempt to make life better and overcome whatever is in our way.
If we've lost that will to live ...
P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.