The C2S blog draws on the arts, the social and biological sciences to explore the many meanings of health and "dis-ease." Designed to be a locus where patients, their families and professionals can meet on a level playing field, it is the natural off-shoot of the Cell 2 Soul Online Journal. We encourage the submission of ideas, essays, poems, stories, humor, and timely reviews relating to the humanities and health care.
Yesterday was the anniversary of my mom's death. On that day back in 2006, in the afternoon, my mom took her last breath, in her own bed, just as she had wanted, just as it should be. She was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia one year after my dad died. It was terminal.
I remember when I went to say the mourner's prayer for 11 months at synagogue. I met so many people in the same situation. They were of great comfort to me. This daily prayer and those people there helped me get out of bed every morning. It was there that I met one of my now dearest friends, out of my tragedy...
Dylan Thomas famously intoned. “After the first death there is no other” – but perhaps there are many types of “first deaths.” That of a child, that of a parent, a lover, sibling, and in Dr. Srivastava’s case – that of a beloved mentor and colleague.
“I marvel that in a hospital that routinely and efficiently deals with life, death, and all the intervening drama, the passing of our colleague has shattered the established structure for coping with loss."
"There seems to be an expiration date to grieving, a point when it becomes tedious to others.”
If you go to the pdf of " Download Srivastava Grief," you will need to scroll down on page one to get to the essay. NEJM does not make it easy to share its pieces.
I see human skulls in the leaf formations on the trees outside my bedroom window dangling craniums stark against the setting sun must be all this grief that I have been experiencing my own, and everyone’s
we try our best to keep it in check these losses that pile up personal set backs planetary horrors the global warnings that we are becoming undone there must be a silver lining which we can grasp onto
some wise people direct us to the moment if not silver, then maybe gold if not gold, then maybe oxygen hydrogen, sulfur, nitrogen the elements of life the persistent material that is, after all, spiritual
but I feel too shitty to embrace a cosmic solution for our collective pain at least not in this moment
The poet, Frank L. Meyskens, Jr., M.D., is a distinguished oncologist. His new book "Believing in Today" concerns loss, grief, and imagining one’s own death. Some of the poems deal with the poet’s own mortality and, such as the one featured below, were inspired by his father’s death. Others are reflections on aging and what looms ahead. The Final Song
Once again we rushed to be with you a long scary ride in the pouring rain, arriving at midnight ten hours later exhilarated and exhausted.
You had been failing badly for several days now gasping, eyes shut , becoming aware of our presence when my brother began to sing “You are my sunshine.”
Your eyes opened and in a strong voice you began to sing, song after song, and for an hour we sang with you, you correcting us when we didn’t get it right.
And then you returned to wherever you had been and for the next three days you said your goodbyes, one by one, as your friends and grandchildren called.
It has been nearly six weeks now since you sang yourself into the cosmos, never will I forget that divine moment, my chest then heaving, my heart now aching, my eyes glistening at the finality of that moment.
Last week a patient died. It
was not on my watch. And he was a hopeless alcoholic whose death was a long
time a comin'. Yet his death has unhinged me and many - most - of my
colleagues, from nurses to doctors to aides - in a way that no other death has
affected an Emergency Department staff in my 40 years of practice. I did what I ordinarily do
when an event intrudes upon and usurps my consciousness - I analyzed it from
the perspective of a writer whose assignment it was to understand it well
enough to convey to a reader what and how and why it meant what it did for us.
For I intuitively realized that only when I could write about it for a reader
who did not know Jamie (name changed) would I have achieved clarity of
comprehension for myself.
[In] minutes my world crashed around me. My husband had
a seizure while picking our daughter up from daycare... He was diagnosed with an
incurable brain tumour. My husband is going to die young. We are not going to grow
old together. The moment of diagnosis was the saddest and darkest time of my
life. Not where I expected to be at 32. Why?
Download Wilk Barankin
2.The Joy of Old Age (No kidding)by Oliver Sacks Eighty! I can hardly believe it. I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it is almost over. I feel glad to be alive — “I’m glad I’m not dead!” sometimes bursts out
of me when the weather is perfect. (This is in contrast to a story I
heard from a friend who, walking with Samuel Beckett in Paris on a
perfect spring morning, said to him, “Doesn’t a day like this make you
glad to be alive?” to which Beckett answered, “I wouldn’t go as far as
Download Sacks 80
When the wind died, there was a moment of silence for the wind. When the maple tree died, there was always a
place to find winter in its branches. When the roses died, I
respected the privacy of the vase. When the shoe factory died, I stopped listening at the back door to the glossolalia of machines. When the child died, the mother put a spoon in the blender. When the child died, the father dug a hole in his thigh and got in. When my dog died, I broke up with the woods. When the fog lived, I went into the valley to be held by water. The dead have no ears, no answering machines that we know of, still we call.
— BOB HICOK, the author of the forthcoming “Elegy Owed,” which includes this poem This appeared in the NY Times Sunday Review, December 16, 2012. It can be viewed better there.
He was the greatest companion a person could have. He was ideal company on long walks in the woods, and kept my feet warm at night. When I got scared or lonely, or felt the weight of the world bearing down, he stayed present with me, offering comfort and love in an endless and effortless way. Aussie looked at me as if I were the greatest human on earth.
If ever there was a true caregiver it was Austin. I think he felt his job in life was to love me. He couldn't have done a better job. A few days before he passed, I had the chance to thank him for the eleven years of love, comfort, and healing that he provided.
Here's what I learned from Austin. 1. We all need to seen, truly seen for who we are. We need to know that others are happy to see us. 2. We need to be trusted. Aussie always reminded me of my own inner goodness. 3. Caregivers go the extra mile. They show they care by going out of their way to do the right thing, not to prove anything but because it is a privilege to love. 4. Taking space when we need it is a good thing, it allows us to come back and be present, being present is the main ingredient of true caregiving. 5. Take lots of long walks, there is healing in the woods.
Mostly Aussie taught me this. Love is the essence of what we are, by loving him, I became more of who I am. What more is there to say? What more is there to do but pass it on.
Thanks, Aussie, I will never forget you, buddy.
Author Bio: Rebecca Walsh is a therapist and special education teacher living in Lenox, Massachusetts. She is the mother of two grown children and is looking forward to being a foster parent in the near future. Also a professional cook, and budding artist, Rebecca sees her work as an opportunity to pass on to others the abundance of well-being, healing and wisdom others have shown her. Rebecca's Email.
We stopped by the white outbuilding on our way home from walking the dog. Seemingly overnight, the garden had mushroomed. We stood marveling at the rows of green plants: Next to the line of marigolds A jungle of bushy tomato plants rose three feet high; Cabbage and kale, eggplant and peppers, Bushy basil and bouquets of parsley, Anise, cucumbers, pumpkin squash; All laid out in parallel rows rooted in the rich brown earth. I stooped to study the plants heavily laden with seed pods. What an assemblage of fruit, what a harvest of meticulous care! more»
Brian T. Maurer has practiced pediatrics as a Physician Assistant for 32 years. His "Marginal Notes" column appears periodically in the Cell2Soul Blog. The title "Marginal Notes" is taken from a quote by Henry David Thoreau: "I love a broad margin to my life."