Compassion on Christmas Eve

When Norman Vincent Peale died, he was surrounded by love, family and a very special doctor.

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Posted in , Dec 14, 2015

A granddaughter remembers Norman Vincent Peale's compassionate family doctor on Christmas Eve.

The week before my grandpa Norman Vincent Peale’s death, family members surrounded him, at bedside, in his Pawling, New York, home. His room was peaceful and filled with the love all who visited. I remember so clearly how we cousins took turns staying the night in his room as his days on this earth winded down.

We would drift in and out of a light sleep, keeping our ears open to the rhythm of his breathing and allowing our minds to re-explore the life we had shared with him. We, as his grandchildren, were given the gift of being in his presence and caring for him during those incredibly meaningful days.

Grandma and Grandpa’s physician was Pawling’s second-generation family doctor. They trusted him and had great faith in his mind and instincts. They called him a friend. On Christmas Eve, 1993, the doctor came to check on Grandpa (remember house calls?). We, as a family, stood around Grandpa’s bed. Grandma sat at his side holding his hand.

The doctor said, calmly yet clearly, “Mrs. Peale, he is taking some of his final breaths.” We knew this time was inevitable, but still, we felt a sense of disbelief when those words were spoken. Grandpa took his last breath in his own time, with our family and the doctor giving him comfort and love as he left the life, and the people, he loved deeply.

Grandma and Grandpa spent their lives doing everything they could to help people the world round feel valued. They cared deeply about others. On that Christmas Eve night in 1993, they were blessed by the care, compassion and loyalty of a small-town doctor who dedicated his life to helping others. When it comes down to it, there is no simpler, more powerful act than that of such compassion.

Grandpa wrote, “Do you feel in your heart that you have compassion? What does it mean? Passion compounded maybe. Passion—love in depth—for human beings. People who have it are so wonderful that you never forget them.”

Every year for 20 years, until the doctor died, my mother, Elizabeth Peale Allen, called him on Christmas Eve to let him know that we would never forget the care and compassion he’d always shared with Grandpa, Grandma and the rest of our family, especially on that Christmas Eve night.

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