Saturday, July 25, 2009

A little Jimi thing

My annual Dave Matthews Band concert review:

We had a great time. We had no proximity issues with annoyingly trashed people, probably a first. There were plenty of annoying people, trashed people, and people we shared personal space with, but this year fortunately none that met all those criteria, at least at once.

When we arrived to tailgate, a thick summer storm was working it's way out of the area. By the time the concert started, it was cool, clear skies. Perfect.

Dave normally doesn't get real dressed up for anything. Last night, though, he really looked like he had just rolled out of bed. Maybe a quick shower next show?

The band played well. There were several great songs off of the new album, and several really fun older ones. I got to see a couple older ones (Jimi, #41) that I had been hoping for.

Best part of the show was where the drummer and the new saxophonist jammed together. Amazing. Readers may recall that the longstanding saxophone player with the band died accidentally last year. Jeff Coffin of Bella Fleck and the Flecktones stepped in. Though Leroi Moore was part of the history and soul of the band, Jeff's skills really outshine Leroi's. I really enjoyed him. The man can play two saxophones at the same time. Really. Two in his mouth. Fun.

A great tradition, a special night. This year we've booked another show to take the girls in another few weeks, give them a little Dave fever.


Not sad, when you're gone
But when your light’s still on
Your dreams wont let you fly
Don't be dead before you die
Hunger, till fed, give love instead
When it gets inside, watch the dead man squirm

Above all things
If kindness is your king
Then heaven will be yours before you reach your end

Friday, July 24, 2009


I saw him first, coming off the elevator with his N-95 mask on, dad in front, mom behind, and a cute blond next to him. It was the mask that grabbed me; if you could hover over it with a mouse a text box would pop up that said "I have cancer." He whipped it off, but I didn't recognize him. I had never seen his face before. But his parents I remembered.

They walked past us, and we stood awkwardly facing them until she made eye contact. Robbie's mom remembered me, we had spent a couple of late nights talking in the parent lounge, not believing either of us were really there. Robbie, a teenager, had been diagnosed very close to Henry, with leukemia. His stem cell transplant happened some time after Henry's, but their stay in off campus housing overlapped ours a little. That was the last I had seen them. It had been over a year.

Robbie's head of hair was evidence that he hadn't had chemo in some time. I had never seen him out of bed before. He had been so very sick. The cute blond next to him, his sister, made the head of hair admit that Robbie was only pretending to be healthy. His skin was a bit mottled, his hair thinned like a middle-aged man.

His mom and I chatted briefly about how he was doing, then she looked around and said, "Where's your son?" I thought it was so obvious, standing there with my red-rimmed eyes after a day of visiting Henry's old nurses at clinic to commemorate his birthday. But of course it wasn't. He could have been getting a transfusion, or having an MRI done, with us hanging out in the cafeteria until he woke from sedation.

I told her he was gone. She was surprised, horrified, but she looked at it. When you've lived it, like she has, you can look at it in a way that other people can't. She stood for a long time, searching my eyes. I could feel her questions. "How is it, there, where I thought I may have had to go?"

I cried again. We hugged, she whispered to me "I'll never forget you."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sympathy, Empathy

Family docs spend a lot of time listening to other people's problems. It's a valuable and important role we play in the physician/patient relationship. This is a lot of where I experience the "privilege" of being a physician; people reveal deep, personal, intimate details of their lives to me, often without blinking. It is a humbling experience to be trusted so.

Of course, some people will reveal those details to the schmuck next to them on the bus, but that's off topic.

I've found that my experience of this relationship has changed slowly since Henry's death. During the time he was in hospice care, and for my first several weeks back to work, it was hard to not quietly compare my patient's life angst to my own. Obviously, a great many paled in comparison. Many of my patient were exquisitely aware of this, and very embarassed to come in to see me and complain about their relationships, finances, stress levels, etc. Of course I reassured them it was fine, that my loss certainly didn't encompass the world.

Occasionally, I had negative emotions about this, mostly with insensitive, whiny patients. Honestly, that's not much different than I think it is with everyone.

But over the last several weeks, I feel myself healing. My loss is not as acute, at least some days. As anticipated, my experience of Henry's life and death has changed me.

I find myself more empathic. I feel I connect more to the experiences people are having: the losses, the stresses, the disappointments of life. Cliche, yes, but I can feel their pain. I have lived it.

And I find myself less sympathetic. My view of life has shifted such that I no longer expect or anticipate perfection. The fairytale is over. And it's ok, really. It is what it is. But for so many people, it isn't. There is such angst over what isn't. The perfect job, the ideal family, the best vacation, good health until you drop dead of an MI at the age of 97. For so many people anything less is a disappointment.

I'm not angry at people for feeling this way, or judgemental. I too was there. But my world view has a different perspective. Like a third-world missionary who returns home to find our excesses despicable, my life landscape has shifted. I don't feel sorry for people anymore. It is what it is.

I hesitate posting this. I have several friends and family who read this blog, and I don't want at all for people to feel that I don't care about their hardships. I do. I guess I just expect them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Second Political Post

A followup to my First Political Post.

Thank you, President Obama. Our Surgeon General Nominee is a family doctor!

I don't know Dr. Benjamin from Adam, but I'm way more into her as Surgeon General than Dr. Gupta.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I'm feeling really good right now. Not sure why. My grief seems to travel according to it's own schedule. Strangely, it has nothing to do with my mood. It's like I've grown a new emotional capacity called grief, separate, of course linked, but separate from the ones I already had. I'm adjusting to it.

Henry's fifth birthday is next week.

I'm not in serious grieving mode, but every time I think of it I all but burst into tears.

I don't expect it to be a pleasant day. Maybe we'll be able to spend it in happy memories, but I kinda doubt it.

poign ant, adv.
a. Profoundly moving; touching: a poignant memory.
b. Physically painful.
c. Keenly distressing to the mind or feelings.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


The sadness seems to come and go, in cycles at least a week at a time. A few weeks ago was a very difficult time for me. I was completely crushed by the fact that Henry had never chased and caught fireflies. Every time I saw one all of the things that he never got to do started to line up, one after another after another until I forced myself to break the train of thought.

There's a lot he never got to do.

For the Fourth of July, we went to watch our local fireworks display. As the four of us waited for the sky to darken, the fireflies began their dance.

I remembered that Henry had seen fireworks, twice. We had been to our minor league baseball stadium the summer before his diagnosis, and he watched them then. He really loved them. And, when we were on his Wish trip to Disney we watched them one night. He liked them briefly, but wasn't feeling well and on so many medications that he didn't remember it later. But I had a real sense of calm that he had seen them.

I thought a lot about that as we watched the fireworks that night. I can't measure every event in my life on the measuring stick of whether or not Henry got to. Clearly the stick is too short.

And isn't it for all of us? Even in a full, blessed life in these modern times and with modern amenities, there is so much that life has to offer, we can never do all we want to do.


I keep coming back to this, and wanting to write about it, but struggling with how.

The desire for what isn't can torture. The acceptance of what is soothes. There is pain, and grief, and hurt, along with the wonderful memories I have of him. But I don't need to add to it.