Moments in time: Part two

  • Published
  • By Col. Kathleen Dunn-Cane
  • 509th Medical Group commander
Editor's note: The following commentary is the second part of a two-part series.

Have you ever thought back to moments of time and reflected on how small moments of time have shaped your life? I have and can remember everything about the exact moment in time, what happened and how it affected me.

I remember my senior year in high school hearing the news that my best friend's father passed away suddenly. It was a cold January morning; the weather matched the mood of all of us when we heard the news. What do you say to someone when you are so young? It was the first time death affected me so closely. I remember being woken in college to the screams of my roommate who just found out her cousin, who was six months pregnant, had died in an apparent suicide. What despair affected this young women to take not only her life, but that of her unborn child? The effect to the entire extended family was devastating and long-lasting.

I remember coming home for my college Christmas vacation and wondering where my mother was when I was picked up at the airport. My father informed me, my grandfather was gravely ill and my mother had flown from San Antonio to Nebraska to be with him. He stayed behind to drive with me and my other siblings were meeting us there. They did not tell me he was sick before I came home because they didn't want it to affect my college exams. I also remember the next day at the half-way point of our drive, my father calling my grandparent's house and discovering he had passed away the past hour. There I sat in a pizza parlor crying as everyone around us celebrated the coming of the holidays.

I remember the birth of my first and later second child. What a miracle and blessing we had received with the births of two healthy boys.

I remember returning from a three- day weekend and being told about an incident one of my top Airmen was involved in. He had just gotten a line number for technical sergeant and was on the top of the world just the Friday before this incident. As he went through the first duty-day after the incident, he saw all the things he worked so hard for possibly going up in smoke, possibly losing the stripe, Article 15 action, etc. In a moment of desperation that night, he took his life leaving a devastated wife and three children. It shook the entire unit, because he was truly a stellar Airman in every way.

I remember applying for an AFIT assignment to go to school to become a nurse practitioner and not being selected. I thought my Air Force career was over because I didn't know how I could manage the shift-work while having young children at home. What I mostly remember is calling my parents crying trying to figure out what to do. My father later wrote me the one and only letter I have received from him. In the letter, he told me about events in his life he thought were devastating, but later turned out to be blessings. He said as one door closes another opens. One that we do not control or anticipate.

As I look back to my moments in time I see they each affected me in unanticipated ways. The sudden death of a friend's parent taught me compassion and how to speak words of comfort that were so difficult for me to form. The loss of a friend's pregnant cousin showed me how one moment of despair and giving in to the despair hurts the family and friends for a lifetime. The loss of my grandfather gave me made me much more appreciation of the frailty of life. Not to miss an opportunity with family however small it might be. The birth of my children, how they are a gift to us to treasure every day until they are off on their own. The loss of an active duty Airman, to suicide, taught me that no matter what disciplinary actions loom for the individual, we need and have to be there as the Wingman to help them get through troubling times. Take the time to listen to their concerns and help them seek assistance whether it be spiritually or medically, or just by being a friend.

Lastly, I learned that as my father promised as one door closed another opened. I have had so many different opportunities by not getting the one thing I thought I had to have in order to have a successful career and family. I needed to do my best in whatever job I was doing and let the rest fall into place. I did this by trusting myself, my family, my friends and bosses.

I know my moments in time have molded me to the person I am today no matter how large or small. How have your moments in time affected you? Did you choose to learn from the moment or spend it in despair and loss of hope? Are you to proud or embarrassed to ask for a helping-hand when needed? Or compassionate enough to insist on giving a helping hand when others can't form the request? I believe how we react to adversity and joy affects us and molds us to become the person we are today, and it changes us as time goes on.

My hope for all is that you have the will to accept your moments in time no matter how big or small and the ability to accept the lessons with the moments.