A patient and I are walking in the hallway. I’m pushing his oxygen tank, he’s holding the foley catheter bag with one hand and hanging on to the railing on the wall with the other. He’s a very funny guy — in his 80’s, chronically ill but jovial and chatty.
Another staff member passes us in the hall. He hails her, and says, “Where the pie in this place? Isn’t there supposed to be pie?”
She says, “Well, if I had known you were going to be here today, I would have made some. I make a mean raspberry pie.”
He says, “Raspberry’s pretty good, but not my favorite.”
She follows along, kindly, and says, “What is your favorite, then?”
He says, “Banana creme with a graham cracker crust.”
“Here’s the thing,” he says, and stops walking for a moment so he can take a deep breath and tell his story. “My father used to beat us with whatever he could find — a belt, a chair, a book, his hand if nothing was around. There were fourteen of us, you know. But my mother, she was different. If we misbehaved around her, we were sent to our room without supper.
“But then, later in the evening, she’d call us all down to the kitchen, and there on the table would be a banana creme pie with graham cracker crust. And if you were the one who misbehaved, who didn’t get supper — you were the one who got the first slice. And it was always a little bigger than everyone else’s.”
The other staff member said, “But don’t you now associate that pie with misbehaviour and punishment?”
He thought for a moment, then shook his head. “No,” he replied gently, “To me, it means forgiveness.”