Moments in Time

  • Published
  • By Col. Kathleen Dunn-Cane
  • 509th Medical Group Commander
Have you ever thought back to moments of time and reflected on how small moments 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 had suddenly passed away. 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 6 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 on 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 arrived 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 my grandfather was sick ahead of time 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 grandparents house and discovering he had passed away within the last hour. There I sat in a pizza parlor crying as everyone around me celebrated the coming of the holidays.
I remember returning from a three-day weekend and being told about an incident one of my top troops was involved in. He had just received a line number for technical sergeant and was on the top of the world just the Friday before. As he went through the first duty day after the incident, he saw all the things he had worked so hard for going up in smoke, possibly losing the stripe, Article 15 action, etc. That night in a moment of desperation, he took his life leaving a devastated wife and three children behind. It shook the entire unit because he was truly a stellar Airman in every way. 

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 applying for an Air Force Institute of Technology 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 with young children at home. What I remember most is calling my parents, crying, and trying to figure out what to do. My father later wrote me the one and only letter I ever received from him. In the letter, he told me about events in his life that 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 on 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 family and friends for a lifetime. 

The loss of my grandfather gave me more appreciation of the frailty of life and taught me not to miss an opportunity with family however small it might be.
The loss of an active duty troop to suicide taught me that no matter what disciplinary actions loom for the individual, we must be there as Wingmen to help them get through troubling times. Take the time to listen to their concerns and help them seek assistance whether it is spiritually, medically or just by being a friend.
The birth of my children revealed how they are a gift for us to treasure every day and what an awesome responsibility we have to give them the moral foundation to help shape them into the adults they will later become. 

Lastly, I learned as my father promised when one door closed, another opened. By not getting the one thing I thought I needed for a successful career and family, many different opportunities have come my way. I merely needed to do my best in whatever job I had and let the rest fall into place. I did this by trusting myself, my family, my friends, my bosses and mostly God. 

I know my moments in time, no matter how large or small, have molded me to the person I am today. 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 too proud or embarrassed to ask for a helping hand when needed? Are you 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. I wish each and every one of you a happy and blessed holiday season. 

May you also 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.