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So many lawyers, so little time...

"The prospect of hanging focuses the mind wonderfully"--Samuel Johnson

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Location: Louisville, KY, United States

Gastroenterologist, cyclist, cellist, Christian, husband, father, grandfather.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A dilemma

"Do I do a quick blog, or do I run upstairs and get dressed before my wife gets back and we go to Sunday brunch?"

"Why don't you do a quick blog about the dilemma of whether you should blog or get dressed?" my son-in-law suggests.

Good point. I've got to be quick.

Lest folks wonder about what my Zoloft levels have been these days, let me share with you one of my favorite passages, written by Frank Pittman, entitled TURNING TRAGEDY INTO COMEDY:

A young man named Jeff, who was dying from cancer that had metastasized to his lungs, was a patient of mine 30 years ago. His family cried and prayed over him and pretended he would recover, though they knew he knew better. I was initially called in to relieve Jeff's pain through hypnosis. That worked fine, but he was still lying in bed out of breath, bored, angry and resentful of the fact that his life was being cut short. He demanded to know why God was punishing him in this way. His family had offered him the Book of Job, but it proved to be no help. Jeff was left wondering why God went out of his way to torment innocent people.

As Jeff and I talked about how he could use his last few weeks, the idea came up of reading a great novel about life. Jeff had been an athlete with little patience for school and he had never read a book. He chose War and Peace, the longest novel we could find, and dedicated himself to reading it, determined that he would live until he had finished it. He was a slow reader, and he lived weeks longer than anyone thought possible. He refused all pain medicine that might cloud his brain, and each day we discussed what he had read and learned about life.

Jeff's favorite scene was the one of Nicholas unhorsed and knocked out on the battlefield, coming to and noticing the cloud formations and then the cloud of dust on the horizon. As he realizes that the dust was being kicked up by French soldiers on horseback coming to kill him, Nicholas wondered, "Why would anyone want to kill me, me whom everyone has always so loved?" The wonderful absurdity of Nicholas's sunny self-satisfaction in the face of death connected Jeff to all the rest of us who will one day meet our fate. Whether we deserve it or not, whether we embrace the world or shrink from it, whether we burst with self-esteem or shrivel with self-loathing, we're all going to die.

When Jeff died peacefully the night he finished the book, he no longer felt singled out by a cruel or capricious god. Instead, he knew he was sharing the human condition, a different part of the human condition than he expected to experience at his age, but nonetheless part of what is universal for humankind.

I hope that balances my last post a bit.


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