By Curtis Freed, MA, BCC, Harbor Hospice Spiritual Care Counselor.
All of us are aware of the power of words. We are fully aware that words can harm as well as heal. A kind word said at the right time has the power to bring about encouragement when things are not looking so good. All of us can remember when something hurtful was said at the wrong moment. Those painful memories can last a lifetime.
Ira Byock, M.D., in The Four Things That Matter Most (Free Press, 2004) explains that when it comes to broken relationships, just eleven words can bring about healing and restoration. Dr. Byock is a hospice and palliative care physician and author. He is also a nationally recognized leader in the field of hospice and palliative care medicine. He has appeared on national television and radio shows such as the NPR All Things Considered program, CBS News 60 Minutes, and Fox News Fox and Friends.
Dr. Byock, by his own admission, does not consider himself a man of faith. Still, in his book he gives us four axioms that truly matter when it comes to the human experience. All of us, Dr. Byock contends, should practice these four life-affirming phrases, as we go about our daily lives.
“The Four Things That Matter Most” are just four simple phrases that can make an impact on the relationships that are most important to us.
Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
I love you.
As a chaplain at Harbor Hospice, I found the “Four Things” to be extremely helpful as I work with patients and families at end of life. It reminds me of the 70-year old woman who called two people to ask forgiveness a couple of months before she passed away. There was the 21-year old young man who was at his mother’s bedside as she lay dying. She was a single parent who worked two jobs to provide for their family. This young man felt greatly relieved that he was able to tell her ‘thank you’ for all she did to make their lives easier. I can recall the former pastor, who said to his son, “I love you and am very proud of you.” This pastor had been estranged from his son for many years. Each of these references are people that I have come across in my work. In each of these instances, there was some form of reconciliation or healing that took place before a loved one passed away.
At end of life, the only thing that truly matters in life is relationships. It does not matter so much what we did or did not do in life (although what we accomplish is important). The most important thing is that nothing is left unsaid to the people that matter most. The brevity of life serves as a reminder that we need to keep our relationships current.
Please read The Four Things That Matter Most. The “Four Things” are what we should practice on a regular, consistent basis. If you enjoy a good, heartwarming read, you will not be disappointed with this book.
Article published in Senior Perspectives March-April 2018 Issue (distributed and published by Senior Resources)
About the author
Curtis Freed joined Harbor Hospice in January of 2017 as a Spiritual Care Counselor. He is a Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) with the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC). Prior to joining Harbor Hospice, he worked as a chaplain at Mercy VNS & Hospice for 3 years. In addition, he worked as a chaplain for Spectrum Health at Butterworth and Blodgett Hospitals for 8 years. He is a graduate of Liberty University (1987) and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary (1990).