Sacred Stories | The Colonel

“[the blind beggar shouted] “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said,”Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him,”Take heart; rise, he is calling you.”-Mark 10:49

“He’s sleeping,” I thought to myself as I peeked into the room. “Don’t bother him.” But I realized I was simply hesitant to go in. I had been told that this elderly gentleman didn’t respond much to others, and when he did, he was confused. So, what did I think I could accomplish?

“Mr. C.?” I asked quietly from the door. After a moment, I heard a soft, “Yes?”

I introduced myself, and the visit plodded along until Mr. C. shared that he had been in the military.

“What branch?” I asked.

“Army Air Corps,” he replied.

I responded with a smile, “World War II pilot?”

He nodded, looked up at me, and his stunning blue eyes were suddenly clear. “Bomber pilot.”

For the next half hour, Colonel C. came alive, sharing stories of air raids over Germany, including an incident in which his squadron was attacked by the Luftwaffe. All appeared to be lost as the smaller, faster German planes attacked the slow-moving bombers. Then, out of nowhere came the “Red Tails” —the Tuskegee Airmen—who saved the day.

Finally he paused and apologized, saying, “I’m sorry, you’re probably not interested in all that old stuff.”

“Oh, I am,” I said. “My father served in the Army in Burma during World War II. He just never wanted to talk about it.”

“Cavalry?” he asked. “All I know is that he was in ordnance,” I said. In the minutes that followed, I learned more about what my father did during the war than I had ever known before. The colonel explained the conditions my father worked in, the danger he faced, and the courage needed to do what he did: bomb disposal. It was as if the colonel knew my dad better than I did.

The colonel appeared to tire, so I reluctantly brought our visit to a close. “Thank you, Colonel. It was a pleasure and an honor to spend time with you,” I said. He began to cry, and when I expressed concern, he said, “Do you know how long it’s been since someone called me Colonel?”

As a chaplain, I know that visits are supposed to be about the patient. But that day, I think both patient and chaplain were blessed. I got to know my father better, and Mr. C. was Colonel C. again, at least for a little while.

Shared From the Sacred Stories Archive

Questions for Reflection

In what ways have you tried to establish rapport with those you serve? What was the effect on them when you were successful?

How can you get better at making a human connection with others?

About Sacred Stories

As CommonSpirit Health, we make the healing presence of God known in our world by improving the health of
the people we serve, especially those who are vulnerable, while we advance social justice for all.

Sacred Stories convey ways our mission is being lived out by the gifted people in our ministry. We invite you to
use these stories for inspiration, as a meeting reflection, or to encourage discussion with your team.