THE BLOG
08/28/2015 04:45 pm ET Updated Aug 27, 2016

Is This Life Really a School?

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Have you ever heard an elderly person ask, "Why am I still here? Life is a school."

Sylvia Bowne compares this life to high school with classes that we take, learning life's lessons. Sylvia reassures us that we don't have to "ace" these various classes; we merely need to get through them. The experience is where our growth lies.

In this "School of Life", we learn by either being the teacher or the student.

We are actually able to act in both roles, as teacher and student, sometimes not even knowing which part we are playing.

As teacher: My mother, 92 years old, resides in an assisted care facility. She wonders "why" am I still alive having put in many productive years of raising a wonderful family. "I can't see and can't hear, if I was a horse they would shoot me," mom observes. Her learning appears to be done. But perhaps her work as "teacher" continues.

Even with her physical abilities limited, mom gives us the opportunities for our lessons. We learn how to be patient, kind, and tolerant. We observe perseverance at work. From her walker, mom is still teaching us important life lessons.

As student: In my hospice training I learned of a man, a retired Army general, also in his nineties, pondering the same question, "why?" As he lay in his hospital bed nearing the end with cancer, he posed this question to our hospice psychologist, "I've commanded troops around the world having a complete and successful life. My work is done. Why doesn't God take me?"

Picking up on the man's strength of character, the hospice worker responded, "Well, general, all of your life you have given orders, maybe this is your time to learn to receive. You might learn to meditate, and be the recipient rather than the giver of the commands."

Without hesitation, in true military style, the general picked up the tablet of paper from his nightstand and began to write down his "orders", ready to attack death as he had life.

The next time the hospice staffer entered the general's room, he ecstatically greeted him, "Well, I did it. I let the nurses give me a bath this morning and I didn't tell them how to do it. I guess I can cross 'learn to receive' off my list!"

The following week, the hospice worker, was taken aback when he thought that the general had passed on when he looked comatose with his eyes rolled back and his mouth agape. As he was about to go for the nurse he noticed the general breathing.

The hospice doctor sat by his bedside waiting. "Oh, I was there...on the 'other side' and there is nothing to fear, just like you said", the general explained on his arrival back into consciousness. Guess I can check meditation off my list!"

The general's children all came to his hospital room to celebrate their father's 94th birthday. By this time he had deteriorated physically, so thin and weak that he couldn't even speak.

As his children stood at the foot of the bed, mustering all of his strength, he looked directly at each one, into their eyes and mouthed the words, "I LOVE YOU". Having addressed each of the four children, amidst all the Happy Birthday balloons tied to his bed, he peacefully closed his eyes and died.

The hard-core general recognized that, not only was he a teacher, but he also was a student.
We need to recognize that in each and every situation we are in school, learning the lessons of life that we are here to assimilate. We cannot avoid the school of hard knocks but we can pray that we learn our lessons quickly and easily. Here's to your successful graduation!

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