The Other Side of the Couch – Seventeen Years

Seventeen years ago – two events took place.  The world knows all about one of those events.  The attack on the United States that began that morning culminated in the deaths of thousands, the desolation of the hearts of millions, and the eruption into world consciousness of religious fanaticism that was to go on to claim many more lives across these years.

The other event that took place that day was not marked by the world in any unusual fashion.  It passed quietly, was not newsworthy.  To me, however, this event paralleled the catastrophic loss of loved ones and of some sense of security in the world.

September 11, 2001 would have been my beloved father’s 81st birthday.

My dad, Dr. Glenn Hammonds, succumbed to a sudden illness on July 5, 2001.  He was taken ill, hospitalized, and died after two extensive surgeries that could not save his life.  A little more than two months later, the day of his birth, already a grief-filled marker, was forever joined with the national tragedy of the attack on our country.

My dad was a remarkable man – a young surgeon who served in WWII, a leader in his field, but most of all a beloved physician who is remembered to this day by patients he treated for his kind demeanor and listening ear.  I still encounter strangers who, on hearing my name, ask me if I am related to Dr. Hammonds and tell me stories of his care.

However, I am aware that the extraordinary amount of time and care that he gave to his patients sometimes made it difficult for him to be as available to his family as we wanted or as he wished.  This is a dilemma for all those who serve in care-giving roles.  As a child one knows that Daddy is doing something important, but one also knows that Daddy isn’t home and that when he is he is very tired.

I was blessed to have this caring, compassionate, intelligent man as a father.  I wish that I had had longer with him in his later years.  I wish that we had been able to talk about the role of being a care-giver, the toll it can take on personal relationships, and the great need for a focus on self-care.  On days like today, when I remember my dad with both sorrow and pride, I strengthen my own daily resolve to delight in this moment, to be grateful for the family, friends, and health that I enjoy.  So thank you, Dad, for the ongoing lessons and love that are forever a part of me – even the lessons that you probably didn’t know you were teaching.

Sometimes unintended lessons can be the most profound of all.  Do you have lessons that you didn’t know you were learning?  They could be ways in which you want to behave in a different way than that which you saw in your childhood home.  They could be experiences that cause you to wonder about your own choices?  Take a look – you may be surprised at what you find.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at

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