Dickens Gurney Dickens Gurney
When famous and not-so-famous people say words of wisdom, they clearly recall their pearls. Charles Dickens said, "A loving heart is the truest wisdom." One day, I was talking a good friend and administrator at the university where I teach. I told him that while I was in ICU, I had told Dr. Simaga, my neurologist, that the two most important things in my life were my family and my teaching at the university. I wanted my friend to know how fondly I thought of teaching for his school.

What was interesting about my comment was that I was the patient, and I had just had brain surgery as a result of a fall. I was in a minimal state of cognition. I recognized my wife and family and could readily have a normal conversation, but any deep thinking wasn't something that I even understood was possible for me. I had fallen off a ladder that caused bleeding within the brain, but I didn't accept that it was a reality. Yet, in my limited intellectual arena, I did know what the most important things in my life were: my family and teaching. Those words of wisdom, I told Dr. Simaga. Of course, I did not recall even being in ICU let alone any conversations that I had with my doctor or anyone. He told me of my comment after I had left the hospital.

After the university administrator and I had completed our work, I shared my comment that I had with my neurologist. We both understood and smiled. I left and drove home. At dinner, I shared with my wife about my conversation that I had at the university with my dear friend. I especially wanted my wife to know about my comment about my statement regarding about the importance of my family and teaching. I was certainly pleased that in my minimal mental state at the time that I was able to process the two most important things in my life. I was proud of it both as a husband and father but also as a professor.

My wife started to laugh, and it seemed it took her five hours to control herself. Perhaps it was only five minutes, but it was lengthy. Finally, I interrupted her with my disbelief. "My words of wisdom weren't Shakespearean, but nonetheless they were true. The most important things in my life are my family and teaching. Dr. Simaga told me that I said that when I was in ICU."

This time tears could be seen amassing in the corner of her eyes. Now, I was getting irritated. I asked what was so funny about my comment, because I didn't see anything funny about it. She wiped her eyes and said, "Your comment is fine. I believe you when you say that the most important things in your life are your family and teaching...and so does everyone that ever came into your room in ICU."

Now, I am befuddled. I could not figure out what is so funny. Then my wife has gotten a second wind and continued, "When anyone came into the room and asked how you were-whether it was a doctor, nurse, food service personnel, cleaning people, whoever, you would find some way of telling them about the importance of your family and teaching. Everyone whoever said hello to you in ICU knows that you love your family and teaching your college classes. Dr. Simaga is just one of a hundred people that have heard those words of wisdom from you."

Apparently, in my limited intellectual state in ICU, I spouted out my truthful words of wisdom to anyone and everyone that entered my medically intensive world. I was in critical condition, but I did know two things about my life...the most important. I loved my wife and family, and I loved my teaching at the university. It seems as if I wanted everyone to know this great truth of mine-my words of wisdom that I didn't remember.