December 17, 2014

on the interview trail

     Even if there is not a good view, the hotel rooms are usually quite nice.  But interviewing is no vacation as my wife thought.  Even limiting my radius to Texas means quite a lot of traveling.  And living out of a suitcase gets old quite quickly.  After I found my top 3 picks and had enough back ups, I decided to cancel the rest.  This phase of residency searching is over.  Now it is wait until March for Match Day to find out where I go.

December 12, 2014

swamp juice

     An endless knot, no beginning, no end, everything intertwined.  As a wave of grief returns, my son's condition deteriorates.  I am so close to finishing medical school.  Why now?  Couldn't these things wait just one more month?  But why should I think that the end of school would be any easier than the rest?  Further more, why do I think that these episodes will end with the beginning of residency?  Foolish whims of an aging man weakened (or strengthened?) by unrelenting pain.  To survive, I must find meaning in it.  I must confront it again and again.  I must integrate it into who I am. 
     During this chaos of emotions, my sister-in-law gave me my brother's old juicer.  One of the many things he tried in his battle against cancer.  He called it "swamp juice" and hated the taste of it.  But still he did it.  The juicer sits gathering dust.  Eventually, an impetus from nowhere arises and I use it.  It doesn't taste that bad to me.  Am I doing it for health reason?  Do I think it will prevent cancer?  No.  I do it in remembrance of him, an intimate communion.

December 9, 2014

another wave of grief

     “For in grief nothing "stays put." One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?
     But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?
     How often -- will it be for always? -- how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, "I never realized my loss till this moment"? The same leg is cut off time after time.”
- A Grief Observed by CS Lewis

December 5, 2014

nature of God

     The sun rises slowly as my car moves just as slowly through traffic.  The music coming from my phone is interrupted by a telephone ring.  Even though it's interview season, I don't answer it because of the stop and go traffic.  Eventually, I find the location of my next rotation.  Hospice.  It's my first day and mixed feelings swirl together as I turn off the car.  I grab my phone and listen to the voice mail from the earlier call.  It's a tool company offering a demo of some new tool.  But it's not for me.  It's for my brother.  The first day of my hospice rotation and I get a voice mail for my dead brother.

     Why does this passage from A Grief Observed by CS Lewis immediately come to mind?
     “Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.” 

December 1, 2014

il faut d'abord durer

Three years ago to the day, I wrote these words:
il faut d'abord durer
     Hemingway was known to sign personal letters with the French phrase il faut d'abord durer.  Idiomatically, it translates as "first, to endure".  It's been my motto ever since my brother died.  And it's a hard axiom for me.  I always enjoyed excelling.  Being above average was fun for me.  In football, I played to win.  And you don't get into med school by being middle of the road.  So it's a hard pill to swallow to set my sights at this point on merely surviving.  It feels like I'm settling.  But with the trifecta of med school, death, and my dad's condition.....I remind myself that it's a lofty and noble goal at this point.  If I can just get through all of this intact, that's no small victory.  So entering into the next round of exams, woefully unprepared, I remind myself, "first, to endure."  Go easy on myself and let go of the notion of honors and be content to endure.
It seems fitting as I begin my final rotation of medical school.  Wisely, I have chosen Medical Humanities in an attempt to reflect upon everything.  Has anything changed?  No.  The pain is always there, especially with my son.  Besides, that was after only two tragedies, not three.  And yet, something has changed.  The depth of my understanding, perhaps.  I have endured.  At least until today, and I hope for each day after, as well.  In a short time, I will have those two little letters after my name.  But nothing magically changes on that day when I have earned the degree.  I am the same person before and after.  But speak to me of residency.  Forged in the crucible of soul crushing pain, an alchemical element begins to form.  The Greek element Fire.  Kindling.  Passion.  Change.  Destruction and Creation.  The wisdom of the Gods from whom Prometheus stole and gave to mankind.  The tiniest of candles, no bigger than the thin ones that sit atop a birthday cake, a flame burns ever so meekly.