Thank You For Your Service

2 min

A surgery leads Hanna Clements-Hart to consider how to regard something old and formerly reliable when it’s useful life is over.

My 87-year old father recently had his hip replaced. He had been in pain for awhile, and it finally got bad enough that he chose to have surgery. It posed a small, but real, risk.

The night before the operation, he sounded nervous. I tried to make him feel better, saying, “Tomorrow, you’ll have a brand-new, improved hip in place of your old, cranky one.” He reacted as if I had insulted his best friend, reminding me that his hip had served him well. He recalled playing street hockey in Queens in the 1940s on that hip. Over the years, he put countless miles walking the streets of New York and the sands of Lake Michigan. He biked the back roads of Connecticut, carried his four children on that hip and walked me down the aisle on it. He was grateful for all it had done. Rather than feeling annoyance or disdain for his arthritic bones, he wanted to pay tribute to this lifelong, faithful servant.

This got me thinking about times in my past, when I closed one chapter in my life, and didn’t take time to honor and appreciate what I was leaving behind. I preferred to cast off my former self like I would an old, dirty oil filter or a lousy boyfriend. Maybe that’s what happens when you wait until things get pretty bad before taking action  quitting your job, breaking up, or having the surgery  and by that time you’re in a lot of pain, frustrated, even angry. It seems easier just to say “good riddance.”

But my father chose to honor what his worn-out hip had done for him instead of treating it like damaged goods. This meant he was able to move forward in appreciation, grace and love. He headed into surgery saying, “Thank you.”

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I’m so grateful for all that my father’s miraculous hip made possible — from teaching me how to drive a stick shift to pushing my mother’s wheelchair — and I pray that his muscles and sinews welcome its titanium replacement, knit around it and carry him into many new days walking tall.

With a Perspective, I’m Hanna Clements-Hart.

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Hanna Clements-Hart is an executive coach. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and three children.

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