May 22, 2014

ave atque vale

Three years later, I have more thoughts on these words:

Through many countries and over many seas
I have come, Brother, to these melancholy rites,
To show this final honour to the dead,
And speak (to what purpose?) to your silent ashes,
Since now fate takes you, even you, from me.
Oh, Brother, ripped away from me so cruelly,
Now at least take these last offerings, blessed
By the tradition of our parents, gifts to the dead.
Accept, by custom, what a brother’s tears drown,
And, for eternity, Brother, ave atque vale
‘Hail and Farewell.’

     My healing of grief became interrupted.  Medically speaking, it would be called complex grief, at least it was in the old DSM IV.  My dad's illness was and still is a battle as evidenced by a recent trip to the ER.  My son's illness has taken an immense toll on me.  And all three of these are intimately tied to my career choice.  How does one even begin to unwind the different threads?  I'm not sure it's even wise to do that at this point.  Pull on a thread long enough and there may be nothing left.
     I was speaking with a faculty member more interested in the philosophy and humanity of being a physician that was offering me a sympathetic ear.  I gave him the abbreviated version.  He asked me, "how are you still here?  I mean, med school is stressful enough but what you've been through...."  I had no answer.  I still don't.  Though I promised him that if I ever figure it out, I'll let him know.  I do know the words above will always fill the space in my life with tears that my brother occupied.


Cary Reams said...

I lost the last text message he sent when I had to change phones. The date too, though I knew it was around my mom's birthday. There's a spot at the church, in front of the labyrinth, we call Josh's garden. Its not a memorial garden. Its simply the garden he planted out of a desire to improve the drive-up appeal. I likely told him he could plant anything he wanted - the "old chicken coop" was going to still look like a chicken coop. Didn't stop him from trying. He was like that.

Isaac van Sligtenhorst said...

Yes, he was. He fought his cancer right up to the bitter end.