Two elderly men, both seriously ill, occupied the same bland and sterile hospital room. One man was allowed by his nurses to sit up in bed for one hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs which was an uncomfortable symptom caused by congestive heart failure. His bed was next to the room's only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back due to the recent surgery he had on his spine. The men passed the long days by talking for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service during the great war, and where they had been on vacations.
And every afternoon, without fail when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. He missed being outside and enjoyed remembering and imagining the world outside the hospital walls.
The window overlooked a park with a lovely clear blue lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst beautiful flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old willow and fir trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.
As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene and smile.
One warm summer afternoon the man by the window described a Fourth of July parade passing by. Although the other man couldn't hear the marching band - he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. The man by the window told of children waving little American flags and of patriotic floats decorated in banners and streamers rolling by. Everyone was decked out in red, white, and blue as they sat in the park by the lake enjoying their picnics and playing lawn games. Days and weeks passed.
One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the cold lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep during the night. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it for himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.
It faced a blank brick wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, "Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you…to get you through these difficult days and remind you what it means to live."