Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Closer Grief

I encounter dying and death in the clinical setting pretty much every day, either in the specific context of my own patient assignments or in association with one or more of my colleagues.

But as the year draws to a close I'm thinking about three deaths of a more personal nature, one of which will be observed tomorrow with a visit to the funeral parlor and a burial on Thursday.

A brilliant fifth-year neurosurgical resident in our program was killed last June in a climbing accident on the West Rib of Denali, in Alaska. I've been carrying a longer and more well thought-out tribute in my head, and hope to get it onto these pages at some point, but for now I'll simply say that John was a remarkable person, and a trusted colleague.

My Aunt Theresa also died this past summer. She was the fourth-oldest of my mother's siblings, and the fourth to die. Aunt Theresa was developmentally disabled, but lived at the home she grew up in right to the end. She had a severe stroke, and went into hospice care for a brief period before she died. I'm not close to my family since my mother died, and didn't attend Aunt Theresa's funeral.

And now I've learned that Amy, the 20-year old daughter of longtime neighbors and friends, died suddenly just after Christmas day.

Amy was the youngest of 3 siblings, and I used to drive them, along with my own two kids, to school. We always had fun on those trips, like yelling "Kennedy! Yaaay!" and "Romney - boooooooo!" whenever we saw one or the other's campaign signs during the 1994 U.S. senate race. Amy was studying nursing in college.

This is what I wrote in the card our family sent yesterday -
dearest friends -

we cannot imagine the scope of your grief, the depth of your loss, your pain, your wondering.

we cannot find words or thoughts to convey, no ways to touch or hold, that could relieve or comfort you.

still, we will do whatever we can. we will stand with you and be witness. and we will remember amy.

jeanne, jerry, paul, and ahna