Saying Hello

helloIf you have lived very long, you have had those whom you have loved to depart from life as we know it.  Many times, when there is the blessing of having time to do so, we struggle with trying to say goodbye, while sometimes it is instead like saying hello.  We typically say hello when greeting someone and especially if it is someone whom we have just met.  A lot of things that should have been said much earlier sometimes remain unspoken until the last moments of life.  It is wonderful when people do have the time to make clear what was muddy.

This last week a patient came in for a visit and took some time after we had addressed his medical concerns to talk about a discussion he had with his ill father recently.  The two had a history of disagreeing about many things over the years and their relationship had been strained continually.  The father had gotten older and the inevitable problems of aging had taken its toll on his health.  The son knew his father was ill and went to visit with him.  As they sat and talked, the son recounted the major areas of strife over the years with his father with what previously had been relationship shattering issues then becoming seemingly ever so minor.  An apology was offered from the son to the father.  The son was then surprised somewhat when his father slowly looked over at him and motioned with one of his arms an aw-don’t-worry-it gesture much like Bill Cosby used to do a lot on his program when brushing aside something that just was not important.  The father was telling his son that those issues didn’t matter anymore and that it was okay.  That wave of the arm and hand was signification of forgiveness and it touched the son’s heart so much that he had a small tear in his eye when relating the story. The son finally left after giving his father a hug and started heading back toward home.  An hour later, the call came that his father had passed away.  What had been a visit to say goodbye had become a visit to say hello, for what was old was gone and there was a newness that was granted by that father to his son.  There was no better way for them to depart from one another – although that is only temporary anyway for those who know Christ.

There are many health benefits seen in those who make forgiving others a way of life.  There are hundreds of studies which have linked forgiveness to improved physical and emotional well-being with researcher Robert Enright of the University of Wisconsin Madison stating, “Forgiveness works.”  Among those who practice forgiveness, there are fewer cardiovascular problems and stress-related conditions along with a general feeling of greater happiness.  In 2008, the journal Mental Health, Religion and Culture reported that people who forgave had decreased risk of depression.  A study involving 213 Vietnam veterans found that those who had trouble with forgiveness also had more problems with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Mayo Clinic reported in 2008 that holding grudges caused people to have increased blood pressure and heart rates.  A study of more than two thousand twins in Virginia showed that forgiveness was related to less nicotine dependence and drug abuse. That chip on the shoulder might sound like it is small, but it is one of the heaviest things you can carry.  For better health, it makes a lot of sense to say goodbye to those things of the past and say hello to what can be the new you that is found when you practice forgiveness.

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An estimated 47 lives and dozens of buildings were lost on July 6 when a train derailed in Quebec, Canada, and then exploded. The derailment and the explosion made headline news in most places, but there has not been much discussion regarding the details of this horrific tragedy that started when the train’s brakes reportedly didn’t work. What happened in the small town of Lac-Megantic could be repeated in the United States at an increasing chance of likelihood. The reason that this train derailment caused such damage was that it was an oil train and had 72 tank cars of oil it was hauling.

The fact that a train is carrying oil might not capture the attention of many people, but more and more trains are carrying oil now. Only about 500 carloads of oil per year were transported by Canadian railways just four years ago and now that number has sky rocketed to around 140,000 per year. There are estimates that this number is only going to continue to greatly increase over the years ahead and could increase by eight times the present amount by 2035.

The massive increase in crude oil being transported by Canadian railways is even more interesting now that the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, recently gave President Obama two choices, “His choice is to have it come down by a pipeline that he approves, or without his approval, it comes down on trains. That’s just the raw common sense of this thing, and we’ve been saying it for two years and we’ve been proven correct. At the end of the day, it’s trains or pipelines.” The final construction of the Keystone Pipeline has been held up for several years now due to President Obama’s objections over “environmental” concerns that have been proven to be not a real concern within the current map of the pipeline’s route. While the environmentalists have obviously gotten President Obama to agree with their desires, there are increasingly greater chances of train-caused disasters that are of much greater risk than any proposed pipeline risks. Any person with common sense should be able to understand these relative risks and come to a logical conclusion that the Keystone XL Pipeline should be approved for final construction and completion so that the risks of these train disasters are not at a higher chance of being repeated.