DEAR ABBY: I recently went to visit a Marine from our reserve unit. He is receiving radiation treatments for an inoperable brain tumor. My objective was to comfort him.
I stood by his bed for 30 minutes. He squeezed my hand repeatedly to let me know he was still strong in will and determined to fight through anything as a true Marine. Then his wife came in. She gently rubbed his other arm and asked him if he needed anything. He looked her in the face, mustered his energy, and with a shine in his eyes replied, "You are all I will ever need."
At that moment, the comment appeared to be a nice retort. Five minutes later, it hit me between the eyes. Tears welled up inside me as I realized it had been far more than just an exchange of words -- it had been an exchange of love.
Here was a man suffering great pain from a tumor that had taken control of his body. He could have asked for more medication or to be fed or comforted. He could have asked for something to quench his thirst. But the only thing that made him feel good was something he had even before the tumor took control -- the devotion of a loving woman who now stood unselfishly by his side. She had been there through every day of their marriage, and her love did not fade in his hour of tragic illness.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Michael Bussiere became my "professor of life experience." Little did I realize when I went to visit him that he would teach me a lesson that would impact my life. However, without intending to, he challenged me to reorganize my priorities and forever change the way I look at the woman I wake up with daily. My task now is to not lose sight of the love he and his wife shared, and to never take for granted the love between my wife and me.
Thank you, Michael. -- MAJ. BRIAN SMALLWOOD, USMC
DEAR MAJ. SMALLWOOD AND DEAR READERS: Master Gunnery Sgt. Michael Bussiere passed away before this letter could be published. I extend my deepest sympathy to his family and to you at this sad time. The most precious gift we leave behind are the lessons we teach and the examples we set for others. Because of that, no matter how short the span, no life is wasted.