What is the Value of an Hour?

The Value of an Hour

It was almost midnight on an idle Tuesday and the hospital hallways were unusually calm.  I had just finished reading an old issue of Sports Illustrated from cover to cover.  “Waiting sucks,” I thought to myself.  “Why didn’t I bring a book?”

As I sat quietly with my eyes closed, I could vaguely hear the soft mumbles of a verbal plea going on in the hospital room beside me.  “You’ve kept him waiting long enough!  My grandson is here!  Oh please, let him in.”  More mumbling… “Please, please… nurse, bring him to me.”

A moment later the nurse stormed out of the room and looked startled to see me waiting in the hall.  “Oh, you’re here!” he yelped.  “I’m sorry.  I’m a hospice nurse and I’ve only been watching over your grandmother for the last 24 hours.  She insisted that you were coming to visit her last night too, so she had me scouring the hospital halls looking for you to no avail.  When she told me you were coming again this evening, I assumed her dementia was getting the best of her.”

“Well, I…”

He interrupted me.  “But I’m really glad you’re here.  I think she’s been holding on just so she could say goodbye to you.  It’s actually miraculous that she’s still able to speak, because her body is rapidly shutting down on her.  The doctor gave her 24 hours to live about 24 hours ago.”

“Jeez, that’s…”

He interrupted again.  “Sir, once more, I’m truly sorry.  I had no idea you were out here waiting.  Please follow me.”

I stood up and the nurse guided me into the room.  “You’re grandson is here,” he announced from the doorway.  The old woman’s eye’s lit up.  “Oh grace…  Oh joy!”  She looked right at me and smiled with all the might she had left in her weak body.  “I knew you’d come.”

I sat down at her bedside and placed my hand over hers, interlocking our fingers and squeezing ever so slightly in an attempt to show affection.  She squeezed back and tried to speak again, but she was too exhausted.  Instead, she stared directly into my eyes and held her smile for several minutes as we continued to hold hands.  Finally, she closed her eyes and rested.

For nearly an hour I didn’t move.  I sat there in silence as she maintained a soft grip on my hand.  Then slowly, her grip loosened and her breathing slowed.  For a moment I thought she was falling into a deeper sleep, but then her breathing stopped altogether.

I let go of her lifeless hand and used the emergency call button to summon the nurse.  The nurse hustled in, covered the body with a white sheet, recorded a few notes on his clipboard, and then began to offer his condolences…

“I’m really sorry for your loss,” he said.  “Have you made any funeral arrangements?”

“I don’t even know her name,” I replied.

“What do you mean?” he asked.  “She’s your grandmother.”

“No, she’s not,” I assured him.  “Prior to stepping foot in this room, I had never met her before in my life.  I’m here at the hospital waiting for my roommate who needs a few stitches on his chin.”

He looked confused.  “I don’t understand.  If you don’t know her, then why didn’t you say so?  And why did you sit beside her for the last hour?”

I smiled.  “Well, I knew immediately that she wasn’t my grandmother.  But when you informed me of her life expectancy, I also knew that her real grandson wasn’t going to make it in time.  So curiosity got the best of me and I followed you into the room.  Then when she saw me and smiled, I realized her vision was so bad that she actually thought I was her grandson.  And knowing how desperate she was to see him, I decided to play the part and spend the hour with her.”

We Determine the Value of Every Hour

Our lives are measured by the value we provide to others.  This value arises from the things we spend our time doing.  And since time is quantified in hours, the value of our lives is equivalent to the sum of every hour we spend.

Opportunities to provide value are everywhere.  Some of them are anticipated, while others blindside us at midnight on an idle Tuesday.  Whether or not we choose acknowledge these opportunities is up to us.

How have you spent the last hour of your life?

Photo by: Jah


  1. says

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately since I’ve started doing some consulting. Of course the way I was thinking of my hour was in terms of money. But it’s good to look at it in a different light too! :)

  2. says

    Incredibly inspiring. This made me stop and think. I had to think a lot about myself – which is a very good thing. This was a beautiful story and when people act like this they are acting the way human beings should act. This should be an everyday occurrence for those of us that inhabit this world. Thanks for the story.

  3. says

    @Nathalie and Stephen: Thanks for the inspiring feedback. I’m glad to hear my articles make you think. Getting my readers to think, after all, is my primary goal for writing.

  4. says

    This definitely hits home with me. I spent the last hour in rehearsal for my next dance show in april. I always wonder these things when I’m waiting as well. How do you bring meaning to few seconds when you are stuck somewhere not doing anything. You just remain present and enjoy the scenery! That’s what I’ve realized. Otherwise you are just wasting your own time being bored. :) thanks for the great read!

  5. says

    What a wonderful story, Marc!

    The hour you spent was a gift of kindness. It’s so easy to say respond with, “Oh, this is nothing to do with me.”

    But, really, everything has something to do with us!

  6. K says

    I’m sorry to be the debbie downer, but does anyone else see an ethical issue here? What of the ‘real’ grandson…what will he feel once he arrives at the hospital and the hospice nurse explains to him that some random person tricked his grandmother? What value did the ‘Good Samaritan’ add to the grandmother’s grandson’s life?

  7. says

    “And since time is quantified in hours, the value of our lives is equivalent to the sum of every hour we spend.”

    Good way of putting it. You’re right. One hour now is just as important as any hour later. Or the sum of many hours later.

    Good reminder.

  8. says

    To K: I think most people realize the possible ethical issue about this situation, but I’d personally like to think that the grandson would be happy to know that his grandmother died happy, believing that he was there. That thought would probably make him happier than the thought of his grandmother dying alone and sad because he didn’t make it in time…

    Beautiful story. Reading it made me really happy!

  9. says

    Imagine what would have happened had you not been patient enough to give up that one hour. Things like this always make me re-evaluate the importance of having time in perspective.

  10. says

    Man…. That was an amazing story. I sincerely feel that if I was the person in the story, I have fulfilled the purpose of my life.


    One request, don’t tell me that this is only a story, not a real incident.

  11. says

    Amazing testimony! I found your site through Teeni at Vtroom.

    I have spent the last several hours of my life registering and getting ready to make a difference for those suffering with blood cancers, Leukemia & Lymphoma in particular.

    I encourage all those able to help! :)

  12. says

    We are all called to be keepers of light. Some of us will have more opportunity to shine, but we must remember that it is our choice. We can either shine forth or put the light under a basket. God bless you for your inspirational teachings.

  13. Caz says

    I love all your articles. Perks me up in my gloomiest days. Puts a cheer to my face! thanks…. from the bottom of my heart!

  14. says

    With a recent company pay cuts and loss of some benefits, I felt little irritated this week. It’s so very easy to get lost in the material world and forget about all the little things to be appreciated in life.

    This powerful story helped me look back in the right dfirection. Thank you!

  15. Sahan says

    One of the most inspiring stories I have ever head. Thank you for sharing and hope to read more stories like this…

  16. Callum says

    Reading your material on a regular basis. I’m a script writing student from Australia… I might have to use this for a short film script (if that’s okay – I’d credit you guys).

    Looking forward to my next read!


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